Tag Archives: National Broadband Plan

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; David McCourt and Denis Naughten; tweet from Government official Fergal Mulligan responding to a Sunday Business Post article on the National Broadband Plan bidding process;

The Dáil heard statements last night on Peter Smyth’s report into the National Broadband Plan procurement process.

Several TDs raised tweets posted by a Fergal Mulligan in response to an article in the Sunday Business Post.

Mr Mulligan called the story “a lot of theoretical nonsense” and that “we” had “dropped 20 million getting the right advice” on what was the “only game in town”.

Yesterday, The Times Ireland edition reported that Mr Mulligan is a senior government official and programme director for the National Broadband Plan.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley was the first yesterday to raise the matter:

Timmy Dooley: “The account in question has, I understand, tweeted around five times since it was created. The communications protocol I outlined earlier states that, as a general matter, members of the NBP team shall not discuss or communicate in any way matters relating to the procurement outside of the NBP team.

…It goes on to state that where communications with a third party takes place, whether oral or written, involving a member of the NBP team, the NBP team member will state that they cannot discuss any matters relating to the procurement process. Can the Minister confirm that this person is in fact who he says he is on Twitter?

“Has he carried out any investigation to establish that? Does he believe it is appropriate for the programme director to engage in this kind of communication at this stage of the process? Why did the programme director take it upon himself to make these unsolicited comments?”

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From top: Former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten, David McCourt, journalist Justine McCarthy

Tomorrow.

In the Dáil.

Statements about Peter Smyth’s review of the National Broadband Plan procurement process are scheduled to be made by TDs from 6.05pm.

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 – which is leading the last remaining consortium bidding for the National Broadband Plan.

The purpose of the review was to see if their interactions, many of which were over meals, undermined the integrity of the procurement process.

The review found they didn’t.

Further to this.

Yesterday, in The Sunday Times

Justine McCarthy, in an opinion column, wrote that there was a “confusing tone to Smyth’s report” given that Mr Smyth didn’t name the six people who dined with Mr McCourt and Mr Naughten – even though the Department of Communications named them two months ago.

They were ministerial officials Leslie Carberry and Seána Geraghty, and special advisers Suzanne Coogan and Jean Andrews. Mr McCourt’s brother Frank and daughter Alexandra accompanied Mr McCourt.

Ms McCarthy asked:

“How much will the plan cost the public? Is it €500m, €1bn or €3bn, as have been variously reported?

“Who conducted the reappraisal of the process earlier this year, giving it the all-clear after the other bidders withdrew? (The department has refused a freedom of information request by The Sunday Times for details of the reappraisal.)

“Smyth concluded that Naughten’s resignation as minister in October militated against any tainting of the process but, as Fianna Fail’s Timmy Dooley has pointed out, McCourt was also bound by the rules and he remains in the process. How can that be reconciled?

“Naughten says he informed Varadkar about all his meetings with McCourt on the Sunday night before he resigned from the cabinet. The taoiseach disputes this. Now Smyth’s report reveals nine phone conversations between Naughten and McCourt which had not previously been disclosed to the public. Is there anything else we have not been told?

“According to Smyth’s report, there was a phone call between the two men on August 8 this year, following a meeting of process participants that day. McCourt was seeking “confirmation of the government’s ongoing commitment to [its] completion”. Why did he need reassurance? Had what transpired at the meeting caused doubt?

“On February 28 this year, McCourt met the secretary general of Naughten’s department to discuss his consortium’s commitment to the process after rival bidder Eir pulled out. That night McCourt, Naughten and his press adviser dined together in Dublin. Smyth’s report says they discussed a media studio in Trinity College. What else did they talk about?”

Justine McCarthy: Lack of communication over broadband contract shows poor connection (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times)

Rollingnews

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’



Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton speaking at Government Buildings after Peter Smyth’s Report on his review into the procurement process for the National Broadband Plans was published; Soc Dem co-leader Catherine Murphy talks to media after the announcement.

Demanding a special Dáil debate next Tuesday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the findings do not “stack up”, Labour’s Brendan Howlin that it would be “reckless” to push ahead, and Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said questions remain unanswered.

In his first public comments since he was forced to resign last month, Mr Naughten yesterday said he has been vindicated.

Noting the report said he “did not influence or seek to influence” the tender process”, he urged the Government to push ahead with the “not tainted” high-speed broadband roll-out plan.

However, a spokesperson for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he “considers it a partial or qualified vindication”.

Asked if Mr Naughten could return to Cabinet, he said: “There is no vacancy.”

Opposition: Broadband bid review a whitewash (Irish Examiner)

Yesterday: ‘Cleared’

Rollingnews

Former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

The Cabinet will today consider a report from independent auditor Peter Smyth into the tender process for the State’s rural broadband scheme.

…Sources said the report has found that Mr Naughten did not influence or seek to influence the conduct of the tender process in favour of Granahan McCourt Capital, or otherwise. It is also understood to make a similar finding with regard to Granahan McCourt chairman David McCourt and his meetings with Mr Naughten.

Naughten did not influence broadband tender process, auditor finds (Irish Times)

Eoin writes:

And who was responsible for auditing procurement guidelines for the National Broadband Plan over the past few years, including the period in which the secret meetings between the minister Denis Naughten and the remaining bidder? Step forward, Mr Peter Smyth!

Good times.

Previously: Courting David

Meanwhile…

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said:

“Given that the report finds that the plan has not been compromised then the very obvious question is simply: why have specific rules for the process when it now transpires that flagrant disregard for those rules and repeated breaches supposedly make no difference whatsoever to the process.

I think we can all see the ridiculousness of that contradiction and therefore it is impossible to view the findings of the Smyth report as anything other than a superficial exercise which chose to gloss over the issue.

“The Taoiseach, and indeed many other Government Deputies, when they learned of Mister Naughten’s repeated meetings with David McCourt, accepted his actions were inappropriate and had an impact on the NBP process. For the report to find different is ridiculous.”

Rollingnews

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with David McCourt at  Science Foundation Ireland Event at the US Institute for Peace in Washington last March; McCourt with former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten

RTÉ News understands that a review of the procurement process for the National Broadband Plan does not find that it was undermined by contacts between former minister for communications Denis Naughten and the businessman leading the only remaining consortium bidding for the strategy…

The review by Independent Auditor Peter Smyth has been given to Minister for Communications Richard Bruton and is expected to be published within days.

It was requested by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in October after details emerged of a number of contacts between Mr Naughten and businessman David McCourt while the procurement process was continuing.

Broadband review not expected to find process undermined (RTÉ)

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said:

“Whilst the report hasn’t been made available publicly, the leaks from Government to the media suggest that this report will find that a Minister wining and dining with a bidder for a major state contract, on a number of occasions, is not cause for concern. I wonder do the other bidders in the process see it like that?

I also question why bother having a communications protocol in place if it so easily breached and apparently breached without consequence.

I’ll be interested to see if the report finds that all bidders enjoyed the same access to the Minister and Government Buildings that Mr McCourt appeared to enjoy. I seriously doubt it and in that context it is difficult to see how the review could have found that the process was as robust as possible and has not been compromised in some way.

“The requirement for a robust NBP cannot be overstated and while many people and businesses are desperate for the roll-out of such a vital service, the State must guarantee that a contract of this enormity is awarded in a manner which leaves no room for questions and is above reproach. I am not convinced that is the case here and I’d like to hear now how other bidders in the process saw things.”

Yesterday: Loading

Previously: Courting David

Meanwhile…

Economics lecturer at the Kemmy Business School in the University of Limerick Donal Palcic has noted the following…

Via Donal Palcic

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