“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.”

Social Democrats Co-Leader Catherine Murphy has said she finds it curious that the Smyth report into the National Broadband Plan has reportedly concluded that the process was not compromised despite the former Communications Minister Denis Naughten, and indeed the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, conceding that repeated contacts between Mr Naughten and the last remaining bidder throughout the tendering process had been inappropriate.

She pointed out that a very clear Communications Protocol for the process had been put in place and the terms of that protocol had, without doubt, been breached.

Catherine Murphy had previously questioned the wisdom of allowing the review to be conducted by Mr Peter Smyth considering he had been the process auditor in charge throughout the NBP tendering process and therefore was being asked to review a process that he had been involved in from the start.

Deputy 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.”

ENDS

21st November 2018