Tag Archives: National Broadband Plan

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: Regina Doherty; Pat Breen

Following the resignation yesterday of the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten focus has turned on junior minister Pat Breen.

Mr Breen,  Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, was mentioned in the Dail yesterday as having organised a dinner attended by Mr Naughten at broadband bidder David McCourt’s home in 2014.

On RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland this morning, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty defended her colleague:

Ms Doherty said:

Pat Breen does not have any responsibility for the National Broadband Plan. He does not sit at Cabinet, so therefore collectively will not be responsible for making a decision who gets awarded a contract.

[He] is a minister in the Department of Business. It’s his job to meet businesses and potential investors in Ireland, which is what he does on a weekly basis….

By all accounts he’s become friends with this gentleman because they live up the road from each other…

Good times.

Listen back here.

Yesterday: More Dinners

Peter McCarthy, new CEO of Enet

A long-time associate of businessman Denis O’Brien has been appointed as the new chief executive of Enet, the Limerick-based telecoms group which is part of the consortium bidding for the Government’s National Broadband Plan (NBP).

Peter McCarthy, a former senior executive at Mr O’Brien’s engineering services group Actavo, replaces Enet’s Bartley McElroy, who has only been in the top job for several months.

Mr McCarthy’s association with Mr O’Brien stretches back to 1997 when he worked as the head of procurement for Esat, the telecoms firm that Mr O’Brien set up in the early 1990s, which went on to secure the State’s second mobile phone licence.

Good times.

Denis O’Brien associate appointed new head of broadband bidder Enet (Irish Times)

Yesterday: The Birthday Party


From top: Minister for Communications Denis Naughten; broadband consortium bid leader David McCourt; a document containing communication protocols between bidders and the Department of Communications

This morning.

Via The Times Ireland Edition:

A copy of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) communication protocol obtained by The Times has prompted accusations that the exchange between Mr Naughten, his officials and Mr McCourt contravened rules set down to protect the integrity of the procurement process in areas relating to the handling of bidder queries and officials’ permission to discuss the plan.

The internal department protocol said all queries from qualified bidders must be made through the eTenders procurement website and all responses must be made through the same system.

Minutes of the dinner released last week showed that Mr McCourt raised issues relating to the bid’s leadership team, the importance of meeting an impending deadline, the need for the bid team to have finalised its financing arrangements, and its internal decision-making process.

Denis Naughten ‘broke rules over dinner with bidder’ (Peter Dwyer, Times Ireland Edition)

Meanwhile…

Previously: McCourt In The Act

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten, and minutes of a meeting between Mr Naughten and David McCourt

This morning.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has called for time to be allocated in the Dáil this week to allow for the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten to make a statement and answer questions about the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan contract.

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.

Last week it emerged that David McCourt, of Granahan McCourt, met with the Mr Naughten in New York last July.

During this meeting, Mr McCourt informed Mr Naughten that the British company SSE may withdraw from the consortium which it eventually did.

Mr Naughten also told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications last week that he had “a number of discussions with David McCourt about this project”.

In a statement this morning, Ms Murphy said:

“We know that the Minister met Mr McCourt in New York yet the version of events he gave during the Oireachtas Communications Committee hearing does not tally with the version detailed in the minutes of the meeting released by his Department late on Thursday evening last.

“Apart from that glaring variation of events, the Minister, in the committee testimony, refers to having met with Mr McCourt on the issue of the NBP on ‘a number of occasions’.

“I urgently want clarity on the nature of these discussions – particularly given the revelations of how other bidders feel they were treated during the process.”

“With the Budget consuming a lot of time and attention this week I feel it is hugely important that this vital issue is not allowed to fall of the political radar.

“We are dealing with one of the most important State contracts that will ever be awarded and any sniff of impropriety or bad governance must be met with significant urgency and robust questioning until we are satisfied the process to date has been as it should be.

“That is why I have formally requested that the Government Chief Whip provide time this week for the minister to address the Dáil and take questions – as he did last April when similar concerns were raised about his interaction with key stakeholders in a business decision his department had a role in.”

Related: State broadband bidder Granahan McCourt sued for contract breach (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times)

Previously: “Here We Are Again”

McCourt In The Act

A ‘Robust’ Tendering Process

Minutes of a private meeting between Minister for Communications Denis Naughten (top) and David McCourt, head of the last consortium to bid for the National Broadband tender.

Details of the dinner hosted by David McCourt, the head of Granahan McCourt, show that a far more wide-ranging discussion than was outlined by the minister took place, with at least four issues relating to the plan having been discussed at the gathering in New York in July.

…This week the communications minister said he had a discussion with Mr McCourt during which the “only issue” raised was that of potential changes to the bidding consortium.

…The document shows that Mr McCourt reassured officials who were accompanying the minister that an individual had been selected to take a role within the consortium which the department had requested be filled by a “permanent, Irish-based” executive.

Fresh doubts over Denis Naughten’s account of dinner with bid chief (The Times Ireland Edition)

Previously: ‘Here We Are Again’

Meanwhile…

Um.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and David McCourt, of Granahan McCourt Capital, during a Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) ceremony in Washington, USA last March.

Just a fabulous coincidence.

Good times.

David McCourt Awarded SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Technology and Innovation (BusinessWire)

 

From top: Denis O’Brien, Actavo, David McCourt, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy

Yesterday.

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.

Naughten ‘must explain’ meeting with bidder (Peter O’Dwyer, Times Ireland edition)

Further to this…

This afternoon…

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

‘543,000 Families And Businesses Do Not Care What Name Is On The Side Of The Van’

“I Sincerely Regret Expressing My Opinion…I Said Nothing Wrong”

UPDATE:

Namawinelake tweetz:

“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; Catherine Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy raised the National Broadband Plan with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and claimed there will be no competitive tendering for the plan as there is only one bidder up for the contract – a consortium which includes Denis O’Brien-owned Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv.

Ms Murphy didn’t name Mr O’Brien.

But she reminded Mr Varadkar how it was a Fine Gael Government which awarded Siteserv a contract in respect of Irish Water – with the sale of Siteserv from IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, to Mr O’Brien now the subject of a commission of investigation.

And she reminded him how it was a Fine Gael Government which awarded a mobile phone licence to Denis O’Brien’s Esat in the 1990s – a matter which became the subject of the subsequent Moriarty Tribunal.

Mr Varadkar said it wasn’t true to say there was no competitive tendering for the contract, saying there were many bidders but that it’s now down to one.

He said due diligence will be carried out.

He went on to speak about the importance of the National Broadband Plan but didn’t respond directly to Ms Murphy’s comments about Fine Gael.

She said:

“Just last week the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission was scathing about the potential monopoly within the waste sector. Yet, here we are, in this process, with only one bidder.

“And even that one remaining bidding consortium has changed so fundamentally from the initial bid, it’s almost unrecognisable from the entity which first entered the process. We had Eir and Siro exit the process while Enet remained on as the leader of the remaining consortium.

“In July of this year, SSE pulled out of the consortium. Enet replaced SSE with a State-backed Irish infrastructure fund. Yet, the consortium continued to morph and just last month, it emerged that Enet is no longer leading the consortium but is a partner, alongside other companies including Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv.

So Enet, the original bidder, is now only part of the consortium which is now led by a private investment firm called Granahan McCourt.

Taoiseach, surely you have concerns regarding the process and a substantial changes that have occurred within the bidding process since it was first launched.

You must surely be concerned with the links that will inevitably be drawn between previous controversial contracts being awarded and some of the same personnel involved in this consortium.

After all, it was Fine Gael in Government, when the Irish Water contracts were awarded to a subsidiary of Siteserv which is now the subject to a commission of investigation.

“It was Fine Gael who were in Government when the second mobile phone licence was awarded to Esat which then became the subject of the Moriarty Tribunal.

And it is looking like Fine Gael will be in Government when the National Broadband Plan contract is awarded to a consortium within which the same high-profile business people are involved.

Taoiseach it is vital that this process, for awarding the tender, is above reproach. Would it not be better and more pertinent to ask the questions now before any contract is awarded to make sure that there is absolute public confidence in both the process and the outcome.

My questions are: are you satisfied that the bidding process, where there’s only one bidder involved, it will deliver broadband and best value for money?

Do you have concerns regarding the sustainability of the remaining consortium given that it has changed so much since it entered the process and who’s stable will that be into the future.

And are you satisfied that the money spent thus far, in the process have achieved the desired outcomes?”

Mr Varadkar said he was satisfied that the tendering process had been “robust”.

Previously: ‘Too Often In Ireland We Ask The Pertinent Questions After The Fact’

Previously: ‘543,000 Families And Businesses Do Not Care What Name Is On The Side Of The Van’

From top: Logo for Actavo, formerly Siteserv, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten

Last week Minister for Communications Denis Naughten revealed that Denis O’Brien’s Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv, was part of the final consortium bidding for the national broadband plan (NBP)

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has accepted a request to quiz Department of Communications officials on the tendering of the contract, following an appeal from Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy.

Ms Murphy has asked the public spending watchdog to ‘consider why some companies exited the tender process and also to review the circumstances which preceded the opening of the tender process’.

Ms Murphy said:

“It is absolutely fair to point out that the entire tendering process has substantially changed since it first began.

We now find ourselves in a situation where some parties have exited the process leaving only one party vying for the lucrative contract. In addition, the one remaining consortium has itself changed substantially since it first entered the process.

I also think we need explanations about the circumstances which preceded the process, including the contract for the MAN’s and how that might have affected the valuation of Enet & the State’s subsequent purchase of a large portion of Enet.

The roll-out of the NBP is the next vital piece of communications infrastructure in this country and it is vital that when the contract is awarded there are no questions left hanging regarding the robustness of the process.

Too often in Ireland we ask the pertinent questions after the fact and end up dealing with legacy issues so this time I am asking that we address those questions before the contract is awarded.”

Previously: ‘543,000 Families And Businesses Do Not Care What Name Is On The Side Of The Van’

From top: Denis O’Brien; logo for Avctavo, formerly Siteserv; Minister for Communications Denis Naughten in the Dáil yesterday

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.

Good times.

O’Brien’s Actavo joins bid for €1bn broadband contract (Peter O’Dwyer, Times Ireland edition)

Previously: ‘Why I’m Apologising To The House’