Donohoe defends decision to overrule concerns over €3bn National Broadband Plan cost

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has defended his decision to overrule concerns expressed by his senior officials over the cost of the €3bn National Broadband Plan.

He said on balance it is appropriate to proceed with the plan notwithstanding the concerns raised.

Mr Donohoe said he had to consider the cost of the project versus the cost of scrapping it and starting again and said it was best to proceed.

He said he "deeply" wrestled with this decision saying he has been at the heart of the decision for many months.

Cabinet ministers were warned by senior spending officials that proceeding with the National Broadband Plan would constitute a “breach of the public spending code”.

In memos, given to ministers in advance of their decision to approve the €3 billion plan, officials warned that the project failed a value for money examination and it represented a potential threat to the financial well-being of the State.

Written observations included in a confidential cabinet memo shared with ministers, senior department officials warned that other public capital projects, including roads and social housing would have to be postponed or cancelled to pay for the costs of the broadband plan.

The warnings were sent by senior officials in Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe's department, including its secretary general Robert Watt.

The documents also show that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe's ministerial colleagues were also told that cheaper alternatives were available.

Ultimately, Mr Donohoe disagreed with those concerns and recommended that the Government go ahead with the project.

On balance, the decision I have made to on balance to go ahead with the project relates to the many issues I have touched upon about the future of our economy.

Earlier this morning the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure Robert Watt declined to comment on his advice about the plan at a public event.

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