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'It is not our job to hide our views': Top civil servant who warned against broadband plan stands over his opinion

Watt caused controversy recently when documents warning the government against proceeding with the NBP were published.

Image: Leah Farrell

SECRETARY GENERAL of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Robert Watt has stood over his advice to government in relation to the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

Watt caused controversy recently when documents warning the government against proceeding with the NBP were published. In the documentation, he told Finance and Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe that other projects could be at risk if the project was given the green light.

Speaking to reporters at the MacGill Summer School in Donegal, Watt stood by his previous remarks and advice: “The government have approved the broadband plan, that is going ahead. And the minister said he is going to be negotiating the contract to sign in the autumn.

“The government have decided our policy, so that is it. We have nothing left to say on it.”

When asked if had changed his mind at all, he said: “I’ve said my piece on broadband and I’m not saying anymore about it.

The views are on the record. Those are the views of myself and my colleagues. It is our job to give our views. It is not our job to hide our views. But it is government policy, the government have decided they are going to proceed.
And that is what they are going to do. From my perspective, from my broader involvement, that is the end of it. It is our job to give advice, the government decided and decided to push ahead. So we are all working hard now to ensure that the project is now delivered, that is the priority.
As early as September last year, Finance and Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe questioned a decision to grant ownership of the plan to the winning bidder, after it emerged that the Government would pay €2.9 billion for the project over 25 years.
The project, which will see the rollout of a State-subsidised broadband service across the country, has been beset by delays since it was first announced in 2012.
The plan has been an ongoing source of controversy, following a number of rejected proposals, plans for the proposed ownership of the network, and a Ministerial resignation last year.
Several bidders pulled out of contention for the tender for the project, which was awarded to the Granahan McCourt consortium in May, while the escalating cost of the subsidy the government will provide for the plan has also been criticised.  

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