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National Broadband Plan facing ‘catastrophic failure in first year of contract’ says Laois TD

Laois TD Brian Stanley says that National Broadband Ireland is facing a ‘catastrophic failure in the first year of its contract’ as they are way behind in the number of connections completed.

The Sinn Fein deputy has uncovered through a parliamentary question that only 4,000 homes are ready for connection in 2021 despite a target of 115,000.

Mr Stanley said: “The response that we have received from the Minister in the Dáil is truly shocking.

“Only 4,000 of the targeted 115,000 connections are ready so far in 2021 – just 3.4% of the target 6 months into the year.

“This is a project which we were told is expected to connect 544,000 premises, 90% of them by 2025.

“It is incredibly difficult to see how that could now be achieved considering this slow start.

“It would be fair to put some of this delay down to Covid-19 and all of the issues that arise out of the pandemic. However, we need to know whether this has been the only stumbling block or are there other reasons to be concerned.

“During the NBP procurement process, on behalf of Sinn Féin I relentlessly outlined the flaws and risks associated with the PPP model chosen by the Department and the procurement process itself which only had one remaining bidder after some calamitous mistakes by previous Ministers.

“We need to know whether the NBP is still a viable project, when can we expect to see a substantial increase in connections made, and what oversight is available to the state to ensure taxpayers money is not wasted.”

The Minister with responsibility for this area, Ossian Smyth, also confirmed there are no penalties contained within the contract for failure to deliver on time.

Mr Stanley continued: “Perhaps most alarmingly, Minister Ossian Smyth told me in the Dáil that he was not aware of any penalties in the contract that the state can avail of in order to clawback investment if milestones are missed.

“This is in direct conflict with what we were told in the Dáil by Minister Bruton on the 23rd of October 2019 when he said that there were “stringent penalties” and a “40% clawback” in the contract to protect the taxpayer if targets were not met.

“Minister Smyth, in his reply, also mentioned that there would be a ‘new contract that will define’ new targets for the NBP. This is all confusing matters, is there a fresh NBP contract coming down the line?

“The response that I received from the Minister raises a lot of questions and many concerns that need to be urgently addressed.”

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