South Dublin city centre.
Mick Cauil tweetz:
Whatever the protest Denis makes money …
Earlier: “Here We Are Again”
From top: Denis O’Brien, Actavo, David McCourt, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil if he was satisfied with the bidding process for the contract for the National Broadband Plan.
There is only one bidder up for the contract – a consortium which includes Denis O’Brien-owned Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv.
The consortium is led by a private investment firm called Granahan McCourt.
This morning, Peter O’Dwyer, in The Times Ireland edition, reported that David McCourt, of Granahan McCourt, met with the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten in New York last July.
Mr O’Dwyer reported that, during this meeting, Mr McCourt informed Mr Naughten that the British company SSE may withdraw from the consortium which it eventually did.
Mr O’Dwyer reported:
SSE pulled out of the consortium at the end of July in what was regarded as a significant setback for the state-backed scheme, which aims to provide high-speed broadband to 543,000 rural homes and businesses.
Mr Naughten told the Oireachtas communications committee yesterday: “Mr McCourt made the point at that discussion that there may be a request put into the Department [of Communications] for an evaluation in relation to a change to the consortium, but that’s not a matter for me. I would have no direct input or role in relation to that and that was a matter for the procurement process.”
Timmy Dooley, Fianna Fáil communications spokesman, described the meeting as bizarre and questioned why the minister would meet a bidder if he had no role in the procurement process.
Further to this…
Ms Murphy released a statement in which she recalled the controversy over how Mr Naughten spoke with Heneghan PR official Eoghan Ó Neachtain, who was representing INM at the time, on either November 10 or 11, 2016, about the proposed takeover of the Celtic Media Group by INM.
Ms Murphy, in her statement, said:
“At the time of the revelations regarding the Minister’s inappropriate contact with representatives of INM, both the Minister and the Taoiseach were forced to concede that there had been a bad error of judgement from the Minister when he knowingly engaged with a party involved in a transaction directly under the remit of his department.
“Yet here we are again with the same Minister taking a private meeting with the head of a consortium containing some of the same personnel involved in the INM deal.
“The Minister acknowledges that details of the bid and the consortium were raised at the meeting therefore the question must be asked; is this yet another grave error of judgement from the same Minister?”
“Surely the Minister, and indeed the Taoiseach, must see the problem in the fact that yet again Minister Naughten potentially compromised a process under the remit of his Department and most certainly did not act in the manner in which he should have as the Minister in charge.
“Are we to once again accept the paltry explanation that the Minister was acting in a personal capacity rather than Ministerial?
“Either way, this meeting was wholly inappropriate and raises even more concerns regarding the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan – a process which already has some serious questions hanging over it.”
Previously: A ‘Robust’ Tendering Process
“It gets sleazier. Comms minister Denis Naughten says he had “a number of meetings” with the person leading the bidding consortium which includes Denis O’Brien’s Sitserv. Unless that “number of meetings” is one, there’s more to come from this.”
Read yesterday’s debate at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications here
From top: Denis O’Brien; logo for Avctavo, formerly Siteserv; Minister for Communications Denis Naughten in the Dáil yesterday
In the Dáil.
Minister for Communications Denis Naughten confirmed that, earlier that morning, the remaining bidder in the national broadband plan procurement process had submitted its final tender to his department.
This is the only bidder left in the process.
Mr Naughten told the Dáil:
“Bidders wishing to participate in the ongoing NBP procurement process had to pre-qualify in order to participate in that process. Only those bidders that could demonstrate they had the necessary economic and financial standing, together with the required technical and professional capability, were allowed to participate in the procurement.
“A single bidder scenario does not change this and the remaining bidding consortium has had to meet the relevant thresholds set out for the procurement process.
“Up until the point where the procurement was about to enter its finals stages, there was a competitive process.”
Further to this confirmation, Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley told Mr Naughten:
The Minister has only one bidder left in the process. He has no plan B… Earlier this year, Professor John FitzGerald, speaking in respect of State contracts, stated: “If there is no queue of suppliers there will be no savings for the State.”
I told the Minister a year ago that if one was going to the market to sell a calf, a bullock or anything else, if there was only one buyer, one would be better off turning around and bringing the bullock back home. The Minister knows that is the case, as someone who is living in a rural area.
Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley asked Mr Naughten to confirm the identity of the bidder, as, he said, other bidders – including Eir, Vodafone, the ESB, SSE and John Laing Group – had in recent months pulled out of the process.
Mr Naughten confirmed the bidder is a Granahan McCourt Capital-led consortium.
Mr Naughten told the Dáil:
The 543,000 families and businesses do not care what name is on the side of the van. They want and deserve high-speed broadband and I am determined to ensure they get it.
Further to this, Granahan McCourt Capital yesterday released a statement, saying businessman Denis O’Brien-owned Actavo, formerly Siteserv, is a member of the consortium making the bid.
Previously: ‘Why I’m Apologising To The House’