I value the independent and strong advice of the officials in both of my Departments. It is for this reason that the advice provided by officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the National Broadband Plan was made public on 8 May 2019.
However, on this occasion, I formed a different view to that of my Department. As I have previously stated, this is for two main reasons. Firstly, there are an array of benefits not captured in the Cost Benefit Analysis, with immense value for citizens and the economy in the future. Secondly, having looked at the other options provided, none would deliver against the objective of achieving 100% coverage while guaranteeing lower cost.
Rolling out a form of technology like this across the country is an inherently complex activity and therefore one which must involve risk. While I accept that there is complexity and risk involved in the decision taken by Government, I believe that on balance, the National Broadband Plan will provide value for money.
Regarding the question of the Cost Benefit Analysis, the Public Spending Code requires that Sponsoring Agencies prepare an economic appraisal such as a cost benefit analysis or a cost effectiveness analysis for projects with an estimated cost in excess of €20 million before the relevant Sanctioning Authority makes a decision on whether to approve the project. The Public Spending Code further requires that this project appraisal is continually updated as the procurement process evolves and as actual tender costs (as opposed to cost estimates) become available. Responsibility for complying with all of the requirements of the Public Spending Code is a matter for each Sponsoring Agency and Sanctioning Authority.
In the case of the National Broadband Plan, the Department of Communications Climate Action and Environment has conducted a cost benefit analysis and updated it on a number of occasions. Taking account of that analysis and the cascade of further future benefits that I believe will flow from the project, I am convinced that the project is justified.