Varadkar says ‘boat may have sailed’ on State ownership of broadband

Denis Naughten resigned from Cabinet amid controversy over dinner head with a bidder for contract

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wanted to make sure the plan was done  at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer.  Photograph:Tom Honan/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he wanted to make sure the plan was done at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. Photograph:Tom Honan/PA Wire

 

‘Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the “boat may have sailed” on the State owning Ireland’s national broadband plan.

Mr Vardakar said two auditors, including KPMG, were evaluating the final consortium bid.

His comments come a month after a report into the procurement process for the country’s broadband plan found it had not been influenced by former communications minister Denis Naughten or businessman David McCourt.

The review by independent assessor Peter Smyth said it was satisfied that neither of the men influenced the tender process after it emerged they had held a number of private meetings and dinners.

Mr Naughten resigned his Cabinet seat in October amid the controversy over dinners he held with the head of the last remaining bidder for the multimillion-euro state contract for the rollout of high-speed broadband.

Asked whether he was considering revising the terms of the contract so the State would own the broadband infrastructure, Mr Varadkar said: “I’m not sure we can do that at this stage. I’ll have to check that with Richard (Bruton, Communications Minister). The boat may have sailed on that.

“The evaluation is under way now on the broadband tender.

“That’s being done by KPMG, and also by an external group, so we want to make sure it’s value for money.

“We want to make sure that the contractor can deliver. We’ll make a decision, I would anticipate, in the first two months of the new year as to whether we sign that broadband contract or not.

“But it is something I’m committed to delivering. We’ve up to 75 per cent coverage across the country when it comes to high-speed broadband.”

He said the remaining 25 per cent of the public feel “even more left behind”.

“So I really want to get this done,” he said.

“I want to make sure that we do it at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer and that secondly, that we have confidence that the contractor can deliver and will actually be able to get the job done.

“We’ll have to make a decision, of course, on broadband, which will be one of the big calls the Government has to make in the first two months of next year.”– PA