Broadband consortium bid ‘still stands’ Taoiseach tells Dáil

Varadkar says bidder changed during process ‘but it is not a new consortium’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was speaking in the wake of the publication of the report of the independent assessor Peter Smyth, who found that the process had not been compromised. Photograph: PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was speaking in the wake of the publication of the report of the independent assessor Peter Smyth, who found that the process had not been compromised. Photograph: PA Wire

 

The remaining consortium in the tender process for the National Broadband Plan has changed but it is not a new consortium, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted.

Mr Varadkar has told the Dáil that “the bid still stands”.

He added that the resignation of former minister for communications Denis Naughten meant that any concerns about his involvement or his relationship with the lead bidder “no longer affect this process”.

Mr Varadkar was speaking in the wake of the publication of the report of the independent assessor Peter Smyth, who found that the process had not been compromised.

Mr Naughten resigned amid controversy over contacts he had with American businessman David McCourt, of the Granahan McCourt Capital consortium which is the sole remaining bidder for the plan to provide broadband to some 500,000 homes and businesses without high speed broadband access.

Mr Varadkar ordered a review to establish whether the process had been contaminated by Mr Naughten’s interactions with the bidder.

Dinners

The report found Mr Naughten did not influence or seek to influence the conduct of the tender process in favour of Granahan McCourt Capital.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who raised the issue in the Dáil, pointed to the report’s note that Mr Naughten had 18 meetings, nine phones calls and five dinners with the businessman.

He said the then minister and the bidder were talking about the level of subsidy that should be paid, with some estimates putting it at €3 billion.

Mr Martin noted that the change in the make-up of the consortium was outside the remit of the independent assessor’s report but he said this was a “crucial” and fundamental issue in the process and it had to be examined.

He also asked if the Taoiseach accepted that the “canvassing will disqualify” guidelines had been breached.

Mr Varadkar said that “there have been changes in the consortium bidding - that’s well-known and well-aired but the bid still stands”.

He said the make-up of the bidder changed during the process “but it is not a new consortium”.

There would be two assessments of the bid, one by one of the so-called “big four” consultancy firms and the second by an international panel of experts.

They would assess all aspects of the process and once these assessments had been received and considered they would decide if the bid could continue and assess the likely cost.