No Cause For Concern


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with David McCourt at  Science Foundation Ireland Event at the US Institute for Peace in Washington last March; McCourt with former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten

RTÉ News understands that a review of the procurement process for the National Broadband Plan does not find that it was undermined by contacts between former minister for communications Denis Naughten and the businessman leading the only remaining consortium bidding for the strategy…

The review by Independent Auditor Peter Smyth has been given to Minister for Communications Richard Bruton and is expected to be published within days.

It was requested by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in October after details emerged of a number of contacts between Mr Naughten and businessman David McCourt while the procurement process was continuing.

Broadband review not expected to find process undermined (RTÉ)

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said:

“Whilst the report hasn’t been made available publicly, the leaks from Government to the media suggest that this report will find that a Minister wining and dining with a bidder for a major state contract, on a number of occasions, is not cause for concern. I wonder do the other bidders in the process see it like that?

I also question why bother having a communications protocol in place if it so easily breached and apparently breached without consequence.

I’ll be interested to see if the report finds that all bidders enjoyed the same access to the Minister and Government Buildings that Mr McCourt appeared to enjoy. I seriously doubt it and in that context it is difficult to see how the review could have found that the process was as robust as possible and has not been compromised in some way.

“The requirement for a robust NBP cannot be overstated and while many people and businesses are desperate for the roll-out of such a vital service, the State must guarantee that a contract of this enormity is awarded in a manner which leaves no room for questions and is above reproach. I am not convinced that is the case here and I’d like to hear now how other bidders in the process saw things.”

Yesterday: Loading

Previously: Courting David


Economics lecturer at the Kemmy Business School in the University of Limerick Donal Palcic has noted the following…

Via Donal Palcic

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19 thoughts on “No Cause For Concern

  1. Fact Checker

    It would be great if the national broadcaster (and every other media organisation) used the following boilerplate language in such cases:

    “XYZ news agency is in receipt of confidential information from an anonymous source, and the provision of this confidential information is implicitly contingent on the presentation of the contents in a certain fashion”

  2. Eoin

    “The review by Independent Auditor Peter Smyth has been given to….” [RTE]

    “Independent Auditor”?

    Peter Smyth isn’t a financial auditor, is he? That would be someone who’s typically an accountant who signs off on a company’s accounts, confirming they show a true and fair view of the company’s finances.
    Isn’t Peter what is informally called a “process auditor” [small “p”, small “a”] so he will ensure a process follows rules and procedures. Procurement for any large project requires such rules and procedures.
    Hasn’t Peter been engaged by the Department of Communications for some time now as a process auditor on the National Broadband Plan, I thought I read he had been doing it for years. He is a well-regarded consultant who runs his own consultancy business and I am sure he is an expert in procurement matters.
    However, on what basis is he “Independent”?
    If he has been paid handsomely by the government for some time to keep the National Broadband Plan procurement on the straight and narrow, isn’t he innately conflicted now in being asked to give the procurement process a clean bill of health after the revelations of secret meetings between minister and lead bidder?
    If he produced a report which said the whole process has been compromised, how likely is it he would be employed by the government again. We’ve repeatedly seen that government doesn’t like troublemakers, be they whistleblowers or critics.
    And if he produced a report which said the whole process has been compromised, what does that say about his process auditor role for the National Broadband Plan? Did he not do enough to make sure everyone, ministers and their staff, knew they couldn’t have secret meetings with the leading bidder? Isn’t he being asked partly to audit his own role?

    The government needs to shelf Peter Smyth’s report and get the Comptroller and Auditor General to do the review. The CAG is indeed “Independent” and has certainly shown himself to be independent, remember his contribution in support of Maurice McCabe at the Charleton Tribunal. The CAG has shown he can disagree with government, he criticised Nama for example in the face of fierce opposition from the Department of Finance and his criticism led to an investigation by the public accounts committee [which backed up the CAG] and a Commission of Investigation. The Comptroller is the epitome of “Independent Auditor”.

    In my opinion, Peter Smyth is not “Independent”, he’s barely what I would call an “auditor”.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      I hear ya on your concerns of independence of the auditor. But calling the meetings “secret” when these meetings were after all other bidders dropped out, and with one at a dinner event in New York and another in Leinster House in full view of those in the Dail bar, don’t you think “secret” is hyperbolic to say the least, yeah… no? Curious…

      1. Eoin

        I would say some of the meetings were “secret”. Remember, it took Denis Naughten 10 days to reveal to the Taoiseach the number of meetings he had with the lead bidder, and whether it was a midnight phonecall or a call first thing on the Thursday, Leo was not impressed and withdrew his confidence in the minister, suggesting Naughten move to another department. Naughten resigned hours later.

        Even when there was only one bidder left in the process, there were negotiation issues. For example, in July 2018, Naughten gave the greenlight to the leading bidder to swap out SSE and Laing and to bring in Denis O’Brien’s Siteserv.

        So (1) yes, they were “secret” and not revealed by the minister to the Taoiseach and (2) they involved issues that were significant to the contract. They shouldn’t have happened. Did they compromise the process? Looks shady to me, but that’s why there was a need for an “independent” review.

    2. curmudgeon

      This. Hell of a difference between being private sector sector and being independent. He who pays the piper calls the tune…

    3. Fred

      And dee forbes worked for discovery before landing Rte
      Guess who owned that one
      Mc court
      So there you are

  3. Leopold Gloom

    Nothing to see here, move along, tribunal in 5-10 years time when it will be revealed pay offs were made etc etc, no one gets in trouble, everyone gets a little richer and everyone else gets shafted

  4. Termagant

    Who cares at this point, efficient use of taxpayer money is off the table either way. Pay over the odds for a rural broadband plan or we spend millions on legal costs and years of delays to find that someone did something untoward and presumably end up with no broadband plan. If you didn’t want things to be this way you should have voted for…. um….

      1. missred

        It’s the whitening, far too American for our liking. We need a dirtier set of gnashers on a man for reassurance

      2. Rich Uncle Skeleton

        He looks exactly like one of Tom Cruise’s face mask disguises from one of the Mission Impossible movies. The first one I think.

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