Tag Archives: Denis Naughten

From top: Peter Smyth; Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley, People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, Green Party TD Eamon Ryan, Senator Michael McDowell and Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley

Peter Smyth, who reviewed communications between the former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and businessman David McCourt of Granahan McCourt, took questions from members of an Oireachtas committee.

The purpose of the procurement process auditor’s review was to see if the communications between Mr Naughten and Mr McCourt tainted the NBP procurement process.

At the outset of yesterday’s meeting, Mr Smyth stated:

“I am satisfied that the process itself is safe…I do believe the process is untainted by the meetings between the former minister and Mr McCourt.”

But as questions were put to Mr Smyth by several TDs and Senators – including Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley, People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, Green Party TD Eamon Ryan and Senator Michael McDowell – Mr Smyth faltered.

It emerged that Mr Smyth did not hold any face-to-face meetings with any of the people with whom he discussed these meetings.

Instead, he conducted his review, over four weeks, via phone calls, texts and emails.

The people with whom Mr Smyth spoke to did not give him sworn statements.

He explained his process doesn’t require him to ask people to make sworn statements.

In his review, Mr Smyth said he could only take Mr Naughten and Mr McCourt’s word for what was discussed at two one-on-one meetings and one phone call – communications for which there are no minutes, notes or no third party to verify what was or wasn’t discussed.

Mr Smyth also told the committee that, as a process auditor who has carried out many process examinations during his career, he’s never made a finding against any process.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley first raised the department’s own communications protocol for the procurement process or “rules of engagement” and asked if the rules were broken.

Specifically, he asked about the rule that says direct or indirect “canvassing” by a bidder is prohibited.

He pointed out that if a bidder was found to have been canvassing the department, the bidder would be immediately disqualified from the process.

Mr Smyth said:

I formed the view that the meetings don’t amount to canvassing.”

Mr Dooley raised the dinner meeting in Clare, on September 16, 2017, between Mr Naughten and Mr McCourt, which was also attended by Minister for State Pat Breen, who set up the meeting, at Mr McCourt’s home in Clare.

At this point, in September 2017,  there were two other bidders seeking the contract for the NBP.

In his review, Mr Smyth found that this meeting took place outside the procurement process.

Mr Dooley said to Mr Smyth:

“The average punter on the street cannot accept, absolutely, think that, you and everybody else believe in fairytales if you think that, at no time, during that kind of encounter that there was no discussion whatsoever about the NBP.”

If the NBP was discussed, at that particular point… would you accept that that would have given considerable rise to concern while there were two other bidders in the race?

Mr Smyth said he would accept that.

Mr Dooley also raised the meeting between the two men in New York, on July 16, 2018, which was set up by Mr McCourt, where they did discuss the NBP procurement process when no member of the NBP process was present.

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This afternoon.

Peter Smyth (top) is appearing before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment – streaming LIVE above.

Mr Smyth examined the interactions between the former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and businessman David McCourt, founder and chairman of Granahan McCourt – the last remaining consortium bidding for the National Broadband Plan – as a means to decipher if the engagements undermined the NBP procurement process.

Mr Smyth found that the fact Mr Naughten met with Mr McCourt, or representatives of the other bidders “outside of the process is not in and of itself a basis for finding that the procurement process has been tainted”.

Mr Smyth has already told the committee that he never met Mr Naughten or Mr McCourt face to face during his investigation.

He told deputies that he did not regard their encounters as evidence of ‘canvassing’, but was unable to define what he meant by ‘canvassing’.

In his investigation, Mr Smyth found, as he had to take Mr Naughten and Mr McCourt’s word for what was discussed at two one-to-one meetings and one telephone call:

“I cannot unequivocally state that the State-led intervention under the NBP was not discussed at the meetings between the former minister and Mr McCourt outside of the procurement process.”

Mr Smyth also found Mr Naughten’s decision to resign largely allowed for the process to go ahead as his stepping down “insulates the process from any apparent bias created by his engagements with Mr McCourt”.

Oireachtas webcasting is provided by the Houses of the Oireachtas Service, in association with HEAnet, Ireland’s National Educational and Research Network

Previously: Faulty Leakage

From top: National broadband consortium leader David McCourt, former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten; Pat Leahy, of The Irish Times, and Mary Regan, of RTÉ News

A fortnight ago, leaks concerning the then pending review by auditor Peter Smyth into the National Broadband Plan procurement process were given to selected journalists.

Mr Smyth was tasked with examining the interactions between the former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and businessman David McCourt, founder and chairman of Granahan McCourt – the last remaining consortium bidding for the National Broadband Plan.

The purpose of the review was to see if their interactions undermined the integrity of the procurement process.

The leaks gave the impression that Mr Smyth found that the procurement process was wholly untainted by the meetings, with RTÉ reporting:

“RTÉ News understands that a review of the procurement process for the National Broadband Plan will state that it was not undermined by contacts between the former Communications Minister Denis Naughten and the businessman [David McCourt]…”

But Mr Smyth actually found:

“…the fact that the former Minister met with Mr McCourt (or representatives of the other bidders) outside of the process is not in and of itself a basis for finding that the procurement process has been tainted.”

He also said that, as he has to take Mr Naughten and Mr McCourt’s word for what was discussed at two one-to-one meetings and one telephone call:

“I cannot unequivocally state that the State-led intervention under the NBP was not discussed at the meetings between the former minister and Mr McCourt outside of the procurement process.”

On Tuesday, November 20, 2018.Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed to the Dáil that the review by Peter Smyth into the National Broadband Plan procurement process had been received by the Government.

He also confirmed it had gone to the Attorney General and that anyone named in the report may be be sent a copy of the report, to give them a chance to respond to the report’s findings.

However, he ultimately anticipated the review would be published in a matter of days.

During that same day, RTÉ’s Business Editor Will Goodbody reported this and added that the review had not been discussed at that morning’s Cabinet meeting.

Later that evening, on the Six One News, Mr Goodbody reported:

As for what it [the review] says, well everyone is remaining tight-lipped in Government circles about that today. Certainly though, it’s contents will determine the future of this plan, as it stands at the moment and it will certainly have a big impact on how soon it is that people around the country, who are still waiting for high-speed broadband service, will get it.”

A few hours later, on RTÉ’s Nine News, Mary Regan, formerly of the Sunday Business Post but now with RTÉ’s political staff, reported to presenter Eileen Dunne about the contents of the review based on speaking to “a number of Government sources”.

Ms Dunne introduced the news item saying:

RTÉ News understands that a review of the procurement process for the National Broadband Plan will state that it was not undermined by contacts between the former Communications Minister Denis Naughten and the businessman leading the only remaining consortium for the plan.”

Ms Regan then told presenter Eileen Dunne:

I understand, from speaking to a number of Government sources this evening that it does not find that those contacts undermined the process in any way. So essentially what it means is that the Government can proceed with the normal evaluation process that would take place for any tendering process which the Government has previously said would happen by Christmas.

There had been some fear that this report might stop the procurement process in its tracks but that now doesn’t seem to be the case and that report is expected to be published in the coming days.”

Similarly, the following morning, on Wednesday, November 21, 2018, on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Regan reported the same to presenter Bryan Dobson.

Mr Dobson, in a similar fashion to Ms Dunne the night before, introduced the item saying:

A review ordered by the Taoiseach last month, into the integrity of the National Broadband [Plan] process will state that it was not undermined by contacts between the former Communications Minister Denis Naughten and the businessman leading the only remaining consortium for the plan.”

During her report, Ms Regan then told Mr Dobson:

I understand, speaking to a number of sources in Government, that he [Smyth] does not have any findings to indicate that this process was undermined by the meetings that took place. And what Government sources are interpreting this as meaning, is that the procurement process and the assessment of it can go ahead.

“So, essentially, that means a legal assessment that would normally be taking place is now proceeding and the Government has previously said it wants that process to be finished by Christmas.”

“…My understanding, speaking to a number of sources is that this particular issue is not cause for halting the process.”

“…The Government will be hoping that this stumbling block, at least, is out of the way in terms of proceeding ahead with this plan.”

That same morning, on Wednesday, November 21, 2018, Pat Leahy, in The Irish Times also reported on the review based on his contacts with “high-level sources” and “sources in Government”.

Mr Leahy’s article was published on page six of the newspaper but was also flagged on the front page of that morning’s edition.

He reported that the review “is expected to find that the process has not been fatally damaged by meetings between the sole remaining bidder and the former minister for communications Denis Naughten, high-level sources say”.

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Last night.

On RTÉ’s Six One News.

Journalist Paul Cunningham interviewed former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten about Peter Smyth’s report into the National Broadband Plan procurement process and Mr Naughten’s engagements with David McCourt.

Watch back in full here

Naughten met with bidder to ‘keep them at the table’ (RTE)

Previously: Breaking His Own Rules

Cleared

‘David Already There’

Whatsapp messages released to Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy under the Freedom of Information Act gives further details on the New York meeting between former minister for communications Denis Naughten (top left) and businessman David McCourt, which led to Mr Naughten’s resignation

This morning.

Via The Irish Examiner:

Social democrat TD Catherine Murphy, said it was only through her persistence that the thread of messages, many of which are punctuated with emoji, were released.

“In recent months I submitted a large volume of different and very specific freedom of information requests on various aspects of the former minister’s conduct throughout the National Broadband Plan process,” she said.

With the exception of a handful, they have all either been declined, sent back for rewording, or have asked for what are already narrow timeframes to be narrowed further.

“Every obstacle in the FoI Act has been put in front of me regarding getting access to basic information, such as the former minister and his official’s interactions with David McCourt, Granahan McCourt, and Enet.”

In declining to grant access to some of the conversation, Murphy was told that “pictures on the WhatsApp messages [such as] refreshments, individuals, and minors” had been removed.

Murphy said she has now been left with more questions than answers.

“I am also anxious to understand if I have been left short of screenshots of the group on the day in question,” she said.

So what happened in the Big Apple, Denis? (Daniel McConnell, Irish Examiner)

Denis Naughten FoI details show US meeting (Irish Examiner)

Previously: ‘Cleared’

Former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten

Following the resignation of the former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten in October…

And the announcement of a review by Peter Smyth of interactions between Mr Naughten and businessman David McCourt, founder and chairman of Granahan McCourt – which is leading the last remaining consortium bidding for the National Broadband Plan…

To see if these interactions undermined the integrity of the procurement process…

Last night it was reported that Mr Smyth’s review has been given to the Government.

Further to this…

Will Goodbody, of RTE, reports:

The Attorney General has advised that the review of the National Broadband Plan procurement process by its Independent Auditor should be sent to the individuals named in the document before being published.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communications said it would be published shortly, but could not say specifically when.

The spokesperson also could not say whether those individuals named would be given an opportunity to respond to the report’s findings before it is published.

The report, which was received by Minister for Communications Richard Bruton yesterday, was not discussed at this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

It is expected to be presented at Cabinet next week.

Broadband review may be sent to individuals before publication (RTE)

Previously: National Broadband Plan on Broadsheet

Courting David

Rollingnews

From top: David McCourt with Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection Pat Breen; Fianna Fail leader Mícheál Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

 

This afternoon.

Further to the resignation of former Communications Minister Denis Naughten last week after it emerged he held several meetings with David McCourt of Granahan McCourt Capital – a consortium which is the final bidder in the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan contract, the State’s largest ever communications project.

And it emerging that Clare Fine Gael TD Pat Breen facilitated one of these meetings.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin, who mentioned this article published in the Silicon Republic in September 2017, asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if he had spoken to Mr Breen about the meeting he facilitated between Mr McCourt and Mr Naughten.

The Taoiseach told Mr Martin that he had spoken with Mr Breen and that Mr Breen told him that Mr McCourt asked him to pass on an invitation to Mr Naughten, for dinner in his house, Mr Naughten accepted the invitation and this dinner took place.

Mr Varadkar said Mr Breen told him the National Broadband Plan wasn’t discussed during this dinner.

After further questions from Mr Martin, Mr Varadkar said:

“While we may all agree that passing on that invitation was unwise, I don’t think it’s a resigning matter.”

Previously: Courting David

From top: David McCourt with, from top: Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection Pat Breen, former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy

On Friday, May 11, 2018.

David McCourt was interviewed by Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ Radio One, during which he spoke about his father, his career and his book Total Rethink: Why entrepreneurs should act like revolutionaries.

Mr McCourt, who has a house in Newmarket, Co Clare, and also bases himself in Dublin, London and New York, is the founder and chairman of Granahan McCourt Capital.

Granahan McCourt Capital is leading a consortium which is the final bidder in the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan contract, the State’s largest ever communications project.

Yesterday, the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten resigned after it emerged he had several meetings with Mr McCourt.

He met Mr McCourt in New York in July and he facilitated a birthday lunch for Mr McCourt and his daughter in Leinster House on April 18, a lunch Mr Naughten didn’t attend.

He also met Mr McCourt on June 26.

Mr Naughten also had multiple more private dinners with Mr McCourt – with one of them facilitated by Clare Fine Gael TD Pat Breen who has met Mr McCourt on a number of occasions, and who last night released a statement saying:

“Mr McCourt’s home is about 10 miles from my home in Co Clare. I have gotten to know Mr McCourt on a personal basis, have visited his Co Clare home several times and met him on other occasions in a private capacity.

“Last year, on the request of Mr McCourt, I asked Denis Naughten, then Minister for Communications, if he would like to come to a dinner in Mr McCourt’s house. Mr McCourt’s wife also attended the dinner. To my knowledge, the National Broadband Plan was not discussed at the dinner.”

Further to this…

Back in May, Mr Tubridy and Mr McCourt had the following exchange…

Ryan Tubridy: “If I could ask you a little bit about Ireland and broadband. And are you…”

David McCourt: “Surprised you’re gonna ask about that…”

Tubridy: “Well tell me about that. What…Are you the guy? Or how did? I mean we know that Eir were the last, or you’re the last people standing? For people who are sitting there, trying to get their laptop working or their, whatever they’re trying to get working, broadband wise and can’t get it. What are you going to do? What can you say to them?”

McCourt: “Well, first of all, the National Broadband Plan that’s, you know, been getting a lot of flak, is because it’s taking so long. But you gotta remember Ryan this is a very audacious, aggressive programme that the Government has put forward. And my hat goes off to them for trying to do it. And they will succeed. Every man, woman and child will get wired in this country. It’ll start in September.

“I know the press keeps on saying eNet is the last man standing but I’d like to think that it’s because everybody else lost. It’s not that we’re the last man standing, you know…”

Tubridy: “You won.”

McCourt: “We won. And everybody else lost.”

Tubridy: “Right. And do you think it’s realisable?”

McCourt: “100 per cent realisable.”

Tubridy: “Right. And is there a timeframe?”

McCourt: “Yeah, the Government issued a timeframe. It’s going to start in the Fall and every time I talk to the Government, they say, ‘I want you to go faster’. ‘Faster, faster, faster, faster’.”

Tubridy: “And are you in a position to answer that request with a positive?”

McCourt: “Absolutely and I’ll be in front of the Government on Tuesday for our monthly meeting. And the Secretary General and the Minister [Denis Naughten] will say ‘I want you to go faster, faster, faster’.”

Tubridy: “So all eyes on you then for the next few years?”

McCourt: “Well, look. I’m happy for that to be the case. We’ll do a very, very good job.”

Good times.

Related: Right To Know and the eNet saga: A Timeline (Gavin Sheridan, TheStory.ie)

Meanwhile: What happens when meet you Leo and you’re not a bug-eyed billionaire? Watch here.

Earlier: Pat Answers

Previously: More Dinners

Picking Up The Tab

Listen back in full here

Meanwhile…

Hmm.

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and Denis Naughten; Pat Breen, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection

This evening.

Further to the resignation of the Minister for Communications. Denis Naughten…

Mr Varadkar said he was informed late last night by Mr Naughten of a private dinner he had attended at Mr McCourt’s home in 2017.

This dinner was organised by Minister for State Pat Breen, who was also at the dinner.

This morning, Mr Naughten told Mr Varadkar that he had had at least three further private dinners with Mr McCourt. No officials were present and no minutes of the meetings were taken.

Mr Varadkar also informed the Dáil that he had met Mr McCourt last March in the US at a public event but th ebroadband plan was not discussed.

Taoiseach reveals further dinners with Naughten and broadband bidder (RTÊ)

Earlier: Picking Up The Tab

UPDATE: More Dinners

Earlier: He’s To Come Back With A few More Answers