Chief Executive of the BAI Michael O’Keeffe
In The Sunday Times.
Colin Coyle reported:
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has spent almost €15,000 over nine years on negotiating a contract with its chief executive Michael O’Keeffe.
O’Keeffe, 61, finally signed a contract on February 13, nine years after approval for his appointment was granted.
In 2018 he was paid €127,623 — up from €116,078 in 2017 — and received a €20,866 pension contribution.
The regulator’s 2018 report notes that legal fees of €1,474 were incurred in relation to the impasse that year
. The sum of fees associated with negotiating the contract since 2010 is €14,980.
The reason why O’Keeffe had refused to sign is unknown. Neither he nor the BAI would comment.
St Kevin’s National School, Wicklow.
The National Broadband Plan contract being signed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister Richard Bruton and National Broadband Ireland’s David McCourt among St Kevin’s sixth class students.
Pics: Merrion Street
From top: Denis O’Brien; Minister for Communications Richard Bruton; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with David McCourt; McCourt with former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten; Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy
It’s expected that the Minister for Communications Richard Bruton will bring a memo to Cabinet this morning, recommending that the contract from the National Broadband Plan is signed.
Further to this…
The Social Democrats is calling for a Dáil vote before the contract is signed.
TD Catherine Murphy, co-founder of the Social Democrats, writes:
“The National Broadband Plan carries an unprecedented risk for the State where the Government will hand over a huge amount of public funding, following a flawed process, to a private company for an asset that the State won’t own, with no guarantees in regard to value for money.
“Signing the contract could put the State in financial jeopardy.
“It is essential that the Dáil get to see the precise detail of what the Government is signing up to, and vote on it, prior to the Government giving away so much of the public money for what seems to be so little in the long term.
“How can the Government, on behalf of taxpayers, heavily subsidise infrastructure only to hand it over to private entity, who’s only concern will be profit margins.
“What will the eventual cost be to those who need broadband? To the State in subsidies?
“The broadband network is a vital national asset that will underpin our economy for the future. It is imperative that all people and businesses have access to reliable, high-speed broadband.
“But when the UK and Australia talk about re-nationalising their broadband networks in order to ensure that it is a public good accessible by everyone, surely it’s time to shout stop, and assess how we go about it properly here in Ireland.”
Hugh O’Connell, in the Irish Independent reports:
Fianna Fáil is set to effectively drop its opposition to the controversial €3bn National Broadband Plan (NBP) that will leave thousands of homes and businesses in rural Ireland waiting up to seven years for high-speed internet.
The opposition party has admitted that once Fine Gael signs the broadband contract, it may cost taxpayers even more by attempting to break it. The plan is being given final approval by ministers at a special early-morning Cabinet meeting today after it cleared the final regulatory hurdle with the European Commission last week.
National Broadband Ireland (NBI) has told the Government it will take an estimated seven years to roll out broadband to the 540,000 homes and businesses.
Previously: No Cause For Concern
Richard Bruton tweetz:
Today is a historic day for rural Ireland. The government are signing the national broadband contract, which will bring high-speed broadband to the 1.1M people across Ireland who can’t get access.
This is the biggest investment in rural Ireland since rural electrification. It will ensure rural communities will not be left behind and will be guaranteed the same opportunities as urban areas.
File photo of worker at Western Building Systems’ site; former Minister for Education Richard Bruton at an Oireachtas committee meeting in September 2017
RTÉ’s Education Correspondent Emma O’Kelly is reporting that the HSE awarded a €14million contract to Tyrone-based Western Building Systems to build a new 60-bed ward at University Hospital Limerick – with the contract signed in May.
It follows Ms O’Kelly reporting last week that engineers had found structural flaws in 17 schools buildings – despite initial assessments carried out last October finding that there were no safety concerns.
These schools were in addition to 22 other schools that were found to have defects last year, while all of the schools affected were built by Western Building Systems.
The Department of Education is suing the company.
On September 26, 2017…
At a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills, the then Minister for Education Richard Bruton answered questions put to him by members of the committee about Western Building Systems.
At the time, Mr Bruton announced that 31 schools across Ireland were to be audited for fire safety standards after five then recently built schools were found to be in breach of regulations.
Mr Bruton told the committee:
“We are now doing a full audit of all of the WBS [Western Building Systems] schools. It is important for me to say this is not based on a concern that we have. We believe that the premises have been to the highest standards but we just want to make doubly sure.”
During the meeting, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett told the minister: “It [Western Building Systems] should never get a public contract again.”
Mr Boyd Barrett added:
“Can the Minister tell us how many schools this company is currently building? How many other schools has it built? We also know that it is involved in the Poppintree project for rapid-build. Are these units being audited for fire safety?
“It built the extension to Beaumont Hospital. Has that been fire-safety audited? I believe it did work in Temple Street hospital. Has that been fire-safety audited?
“Can the Minister tell us today that if Western Building Systems was guilty of multiple breaches of basic fire safety regulations? Will it be banned forever and a day from ever getting a public contract? It absolutely should be.
“Can the Minister also confirm whether the Whitehall College of Further Education was also built by Western Building Systems in 2008?
“It has been sitting empty to this day because issues were also identified there, initially by the National Standards Authority and because a case subsequently taken by the Office of Public Works over breaches of regulations and building controls. That building is sitting there empty.”
Mr Bruton responded that yes, Western Building Systems could tender for other projects.
“Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked whether Western Building Systems was eligible to apply for further contracts. It can.
“The rules under which tendering occurs are very strict as to when an individual or a contractor can be disallowed from participating in the process.
“They include where someone has committed offences or undertaken activities involving misrepresentation, undue influence on procurement procedures, grave professional misconduct or agreements to distort competition or demonstrated significant or persistent deficiencies in the performance of a public contract which led to its early termination.
“The situations in which one can or cannot exclude a builder from a particular application process are very clear.
“It is true that although we are carrying out an audit of every building constructed by Western Building Systems, the Department is confident that they are being built to the highest standards.
“All of the new protections which have been in place since 2014 in terms of certification are in place in respect of those buildings.
“We want to make sure there is no question of anything which is not up to the highest standards being missed.
“That is why we are undertaking a 100% audit of the schools built by Western Building Systems since 2003.”
Committee transcript via Kildarestreet.com
Watch the committee meeting back here