Government spends more than €14m on consultancy fees for Broadband Plan

The Government has spent more than €14m on reports from consultancy firms about the National Broadband Plan.

Major consultancy firms PwC and KPMG have been paid €2.41m and €11.6m respectively, the Department of Communications confirmed in written correspondence seen by the Press Association.

The Government has come under sustained criticism in the weeks since announcing the plan, which it says is value for money despite the project costing around €5bn, and the fact the State will have no ownership of the project.

Minister for Communications Richard Bruton confirmed that in February 2015, his department appointed KPMG to provide advisory services in relation to the plan.

The 2015 and 2018 reports form part of “the overall advice and support provided by KPMG to the Department”, he wrote.

Total payments to KPMG for its services since its appointment in 2015 to date amount to €11.6m, including VAT.

Also in February 2015, the same department appointed PwC to provide “strategy development, economic analysis and State Aid advice”.

Total payments to PwC for its services since its appointment in 2015 to date amount to €2.41m, including VAT.

Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien claims the expenditure raises questions around the influence these consultancy firms have over the Government.

“It won’t be lost on anyone that it was KPMG that audited the banks before the financial crash, or that these firms often audit companies that are involved in scandals and are then paid by Government to investigate those scandals,” the Cork TD said.

“Regarding the National Broadband Plan, it was KPMG and PwC that recommended the privatisation model that is now due to cost the taxpayer three billion euro for infrastructure the State won’t even own, with serious issues around affordability and the capacity for delivery.

“Since then, we have found out that they have been paid a combined €14m in pursuit of this flawed plan.

“PwC and KPMG are driving the wrong policies with the Government nodding without question.

“We have been advocating for a State-led model using the semi-state enterprise ESB, with the infrastructure remaining in public ownership.

“The Government has called on Sinn Fein to provide detailed costings of our own plan.

“We in the opposition are limited in our resources, but if we had €14m and the civil service behind us, I’m sure we would do a better job.

“We are calling on Government to use the resources they are privileged to have to undertake a detailed analysis of a public model using ESB while there is time left.”

Likewise, Fianna Fáil has called for an Oireachtas investigation to be conducted into the bidding process behind the National Broadband Plan.

The party’s communications spokesman, Timmy Dooley, proposed that the Communications Committee initiate an investigation into the multimillion-euro project amid sustained criticism of the plan from opposition parties.

Documentation released by the Government last week showed that Secretary-General Robert Watt and his officials had strongly recommended against the Government appointing the preferred bidder, Granahan McCourt, on grounds of affordability, risk and value for money.

The top civil servant in the Department of Public Expenditure warned that the plan poses great financial risk and called for the procurement process to be cancelled.

It was the only remaining bidder for the contract to deliver high-speed broadband to more than 540,000 homes and businesses.

The roll-out of the scheme, which will bring fibre broadband to 1.1 million people across the country, will begin at the end of the year.

It is expected to take seven years to complete.

The Department of Communications has been contacted for comment.

- Press Association

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