I propose to take Questions Nos. 190, 191, 193 and 195 together.
The Government is committed to delivering high speed broadband to every home, farm, business and school in Ireland. It is vital that we ensure that people of rural Ireland have the same opportunities as people in our towns and cities.
The fundamental building blocks of the project, which is designed to bring fibre to the home to over 1.1 million people in the intervention area, have not changed since the procurement process commenced. The project is led by Granahan McCourt, supported by key subcontractors enet and the Kelly Group, with Nokia as the provider of electronic equipment.
After appointment as the preferred bidder, the sponsors were required to finalise a number of steps before a contract could be signed. The Department was also required to carry out the necessary due diligence.
These steps included:
- Closing out contracts with infrastructure access providers (eir and enet), civil engineering companies and equipment providers;
- concluding the contractual provision in the 3,000 page contract and
- finalisation of the committed equity documents with the shareholders of the new company, National Broadband Ireland.
As is standard in large projects, including PPPs, the final mix of shareholders to the project is concluded where all contractual documents have been finalised. The NBP process has been no different in this regard.
The bidder proposed for contract award that McCourt Global LLC be replaced by Oak Hill. The proposed bidder change was submitted to the Department on 11 November 2019. The entity referred to by the Deputy submitted documentation, as a bidder member, as part of the submission by the lead bidder (Granahan McCourt). The due diligence was carried out against the conditions set out in the assessment process and was approved. The procurement process for the National Broadband Plan contract includes a mechanism for the Department to assess and approve, or reject, changes to the membership of bidders. This assessment is carried out by ring fenced teams with similar make up to the teams that carried out the evaluation of the final tender, and overseen by a review panel and the Procurement Board. I have no role in the assessment.
The Project Information Memorandum (PIM) dated December 2015 sets out the procurement process for the NBP. Relevant documents are published on my Department’s website.
As part of the assessment of a change, the relevant bidder is required to demonstrate that it continued to meet the economic and financial standing, together with technical and professional capacity, set out in the original pre-qualification criteria. The Department could not approve a change in bidder composition unless the relevant bidder met those criteria.
The fact that any modifications to shareholding made after Final Tender would be reviewed by the Department in advance of Contract Award, was set out in information provided to the Oireachtas after the appointment of NBI as preferred Bidder and this information is included in the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action and Environment in relation to the NBP.
The funding commitments of National Broadband Ireland (NBI), including the equity investment commitments, have been contractualised as part of the contract award.
The NBP contract with NBI is very detailed and comprehensive, setting out targets for delivery and implications for under performance. The Department as the contracting authority will manage all of the elements of contract governance. The Department has a core existing team of experts, which will be augmented by specialist external services to effectively manage the contract, including technical issues, financial advisory, business consultancy, economic diversity, quality assurance, environmental and legal services.
A suitably redacted version of the contract will be made available on my Department’s website in the coming weeks.