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Report due in three weeks on whether Naughten meetings undermined procurement process

The review follows the resignation of Denis Naughten as Communications Minister over his dinners with David McCourt.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS requested a report to be compiled in three weeks on whether meetings former Minister Denis Naughten had undermined the integrity of the procurement process for the National Broadband Plan.

Last week Naughten resigned as Communications Minister following revelations about a dinner he had with David McCourt, the head of the only group bidding for the National Broadband Plan contract.

Naughten has admitted to attending four dinners with McCourt. It also emerged that he facilitated a lunch in the Dail for McCourt’s daughter in April this year – and the former minister paid for it. 

He told the Dáil that he felt that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had no confidence in me and that he had been left in a difficult position.

Do I wait for that decision myself, to resign, or do I wait for someone else to make that decision for me?

He said the outcome “is more about opinion polls than telephone polls. It’s more about optics than fibre optics”. Following Naughten’s departure, Varadkar said he would request a report to look at whether the process has been undermined by the former minister’s actions. 

Following a mini-reshuffle of his Cabinet, the Taoiseach nominated Richard Bruton as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. 

Today the terms of reference for the review by independent process auditor for the plan, Peter Smyth, were published. According to these terms, his report will:

  • Take account of his ongoing work as process auditor, and his detailed knowledge of the procurement process to date;
  • Consider any implications for the procurement process of the meetings between the former Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, and representatives of the remaining tendering consortium, and
  • Allow the government to assess whether or not the integrity of the procurement process has been undermined by these meetings.

The government said Smyth will be free to review all relevant documentation held by the department and to seek written or oral inputs from any relevant parties.

“He is not being asked, as part of this report, to consider any substantive issues relating to the bid submitted which is the subject of ongoing evaluation by the department’s evaluation team.”

Smyth has been asked to submit his report to the Taoiseach and Minister Bruton within three weeks.

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