Belfast Telegraph

No decision on National Broadband Plan at Cabinet this week, says Bruton

Communications Minister Richard Bruton said there was no intention to drag out the tender process.

Richard Bruton there was no intention to drag out the process (Tom Honan/PA)
Richard Bruton there was no intention to drag out the process (Tom Honan/PA)

A decision on the future of the National Broadband Plan will not be made at Cabinet this week, a Government minister has confirmed.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton said the Government would not be making a recommendation on the awarding of the multimillion euro contract on Tuesday.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had previously said a decision on the matter could be made before Easter.

There is a determination to reach a decision in a timely way but it is an important decision and it is one that we're determined to get right Richard Bruton

“It is not going to Government tomorrow,” Mr Bruton said.

“But I can assure you that there’s no intention to drag out this process. There is a determination to reach a decision in a timely way but it is an important decision and it is one that we’re determined to get right.”

Only one bidder remains in the process for the contract to roll out high-speed broadband to more than 500,000 homes across the country.

It is almost four years since the tender process started.

Mr Bruton said due diligence was being carried out on the bid and that the process was “close to completion” but that more time was needed to give the matter further consideration.

“The Taoiseach has made it clear he is not proposing that this will be delayed for any significant period,” he said.

The cost of the project was originally estimated at between 355 million and 512 million euro, but early this year Mr Varadkar said the cost may end up being “many multiples” of what was budgeted.

Mr Bruton said the Government now had to determine whether it was an investment they were willing to make.

“It’s been acknowledged that this isn’t a cheap investment and Government have to make a decision whether this is an investment that we’re willing to make,” he said.

Former communications minister Denis Naughten stepped down in October amid controversy over the rural broadband plan after it came to light that he held previously undisclosed meetings with the head of the last remaining bidder for the contract.

But a report into the procurement process found it had not been influenced by Mr Naughten, or businessman David McCourt, who is part of a consortium bidding for the contract.

PA

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