Minister for Communications Richard Bruton (above) defends overruling civil servants who warned against the National Broadband Plan to Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin (top) and others.
It follows the publication of documents this afternoon showing that the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure last month called for the procurement process to be cancelled.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe (left) and Robert Watt, Secretary General at the Department of Public Expenditure
Documents released this afternoon show that Robert Watt [Secretary General at the Department of Public Expenditure] went so far as to call for the [National Broadband Plan] procurement process to be cancelled.
On 1 April, Robert Watt wrote a note to Paschal Donohoe in advance of the minister’s meeting with the Taoiseach some days later.
He strongly recommended against the plan on grounds of affordability, risk and value for money.
Mr Watt wrote:
“In relation to value for money, we do not believe that the cost-benefit analysis has been undertaken.
“The justification for spending €3billion on broadband has not been presented and we believe this involves excessive costs and risks for the Irish taxpayer, with questionable benefits, incremental improvements in broadband based on National Development Plan investment are more affordable and sustainable from a risk perspective.
“This alternative course of action should be pursued and the procurement process cancelled.”
Claire Byrne on RTÉ’s News at One interviewed the minister and asked if he had “wrestled” with the decision to go ahead with the project.
Mr Donohoe paused for a number of seconds before answering.
“Deeply,” he said.
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The Plan: Save Denis
We knew R Watt & DPER officials warned strongly against this plan but I’ve never read govt documents like this.
— Peter O’ Dwyer (@peterodwyer1) May 8, 2019
— Róisín Burke (@roisinmburke) May 8, 2019