Caught Lying – Dept of Comms lie to RTE’s Prime Time and more

So I did more FOI requests and found yet more interesting stuff. Ironically after mentioning before what one can find on the DCENR website, the Irish Times scooped me to my scoop and have an article about the info in the docs today.

In summary:

  • The DCENR deliberately misled Prime Time about the resources for the National Broadband Scheme for their investigation on Feb 14th.
  • Until Feb 2008 there was no fulltimer in DCENR assigned to the National Broadband Tender.
  • One of the only two people working on it left and was replaced in February by an existing DCENR staffer, all that experience and knowledge is gone.
  • For the tender to actually work from July onwards, there needs to be 3 more staff which it seems have not been hired.
  • If you go through these documents (which cost me around €150 btw, so much for Freedom of Information!) you can see this as a story of a few REALLY GOOD people in the Department of Communications doing their best to actually get something done in regards to broadband and massive stupidity and bureaucracy are getting in the way.

    So Prime Time asked the DCENR about lack of resources for the NBS, this is what the Dept sent to them:
    On page 3 of this pdf:

    Dated 14th Feb 2008

    NBS Steering Committee

    The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) is led by a ten person Steering Committee, charied by DCENR’s Asst Secretary, Mr. Peter O’Neill who had overall responsibility for Communications Policy within the Department.

    It yammers on about other stuff about the Committee and makes it out like a lot of people are involved but further down we see that a Dept. official points out two non Department staff ARE the NBS.

    NBS Working Group
    The NBS Working Group (WG) is chaired by Mr. Ken Spratt, Principal, Communications Development Divison, DCENR. The WG also includes Dr. Yvonne McCarthy, Analyst DECNR, and Mr. Eric Tomkins, ComReg. Both Dr. McCarthy and Mr. Tomkins are full-time members of the Working Group.

    The WG is advised by Analysis Mason Group on the technical, economic and commercial aspects

    We now take a jump back in time to when a new guy took over the section and tried to get stuff done:
    Page 5:

    03 August 2006:

    Staffing issues are all tied up in decentralisation programme – in essence we cannot get staff from outside unless they sign up to go to Cavan and there are simply little or no volunteers for that. We are fast approaching major difficulties throughout the department and will be reaising these matters with finance in near future”

    18 months later, has much changed? No.

    Page 16 and Page 17

    Dated January 11th 2008
    1. Various recent developments have given rise to extreme pressure on existing staff within my area. Additionally, new divisional objectives for 2008 will require additional resources. Accordingly, I request (i) the filling of existing vacancies, with suitably competent staff, as soon as possible and (ii) the timely assignment of additional resources to attend to new work items. Requested:
    2 competent AOs and 1 competent EO immediately;
    May 2008 onwards: 1 competent EO, 1 competent CO plus additional resources required to implement any recommendations arising from the Next Generation Broadband Policy Paper.

    Recent Developments
    2. General: The existing bar on recruitment of new resources to the Department gave rise to staffing difficulties during 2007. In order to deliver on commitments, I had to resort to hiring consultants to fill two key AO roles ((i) Digital Hub/National Digital Research Centre and (ii) National Broadband Scheme.) I also had to use a Stagiaire in an EO role.

    5. NBS: Again, due to the existing bar on recruitment of new resources to the Department, I have no civil servant working on the National Broadband Scheme. (this was bolded by him) The work is being done by an AP level Analyst on secondment from ComReg and a former Stagiaire hired as a consultant (the hiring of the Stagiaire has given rise to an FOI request from the PSEU) The Analyst is due to take [REMOVED] in February and has been [REMOVED] she is unlikely to return before [REMOVED] begins. Her absence is requiring significant additional input to the NBS by me. A suitable replacement (with project management and telecoms experience) is required but is not available within the Department. The role will need to be filled as a matter of urgency.

    7. Anticpated developments with the National Broadband scheme
    A contract for the provision on broadband services under the National Broadband Scheme is expected to be signed in June 2008. Once a service provider has been appointed and begins to roll out services, the attention of the NBS section (Analyst on secondment and Consultant) will turn to monitoring the contract. [removed]
    The section will also need to handle matters that are relevant to the Department e.g. NBS customer queries, complaints, reps, PQs, briefing etc

    8. It is likely that the level of work will be quite intensive until such time as the scheme is completely rolled out (July 2008 to December 2009) and then begin to fall off from 2010 onwards. The section will require 1 AP (role will be filled by the Analyst until end 2009) and AO [removed], 1 EO and 1 CO

    On Page 49:

    I summarise below the staff changes which have impacted on my side since the end of 2007 –

    1 Niall bishop, who was working more than half of his time on the NDRC left the Department at the end of 2007 and I have not been assigned a replacement – this post was lost.

    2. Garry Purcell, who was working was the HEO in this area in 2007, was assigned out of this area to the NBS at the end of February 2008.

    3. While Roisin Garland, HEO, was assigned in Garry’s place in early March [REMOVED] and she was re-assigned to PAD in April 2008.

    End of Feb 2008 means after the Prime Time report. So what we have is the Dept telling Prime Time they are very well staffed for NBS when the reality was there were only two people and one of them was gone at the end of Feb and a new resource was only appointed later. That’s not fudging, that’s lying to Prime Time.

12 Responses to “Caught Lying – Dept of Comms lie to RTE’s Prime Time and more”

  1. Thanks for that expense and work Damien.


  2. tipster says:

    Hmm … €150. The introduction of that fee by Charlie McCreevy was designed to disuade people from making applications like yours, while allowing the government (permanent and political) to strut proudly around Europe that we do have an effective FoI.

    Tipster wonders if Damien will become an FoI activist now!

  3. Damien says:

    @Keith – cheers

    @Tipster – The cost of this turned out to be €2 per page, if you looked at it that way. It’s a joke. Yes, I might start making more noises. My next request is going to cost the same I’ve been told.

  4. Justin Mason says:

    fucking brilliant results there Damien! is a friend’s site that might prove useful — it’s a low-cost way to run a “tip jar” for specific campaigns using Paypal. for example you could put one up to recoup that EUR150 cost. unfortunately it seems to be down today…

  5. FairPlay says:

    Fair play! Great work! Pity that kind of thing has to cost so much. Keep chipping away man.

  6. […] in response to Damien Mulley’s request, which are quite interesting. Damien has posted some of the most interesting bits, and the Irish Times ran a story […]

  7. As a simple gesture, Eamon Ryan should pay for your next overnight in Dublin because many Dublin hotel rooms cost about what you paid to read documents prepared by his staff.

  8. amused... says:

    ah but Damien, do you not see the irony of them being overstretched yet you only adding to it with superfluous FOI requests. If they were free they’d never get any work done becuase they’d spend their days photocopying for you : )
    Just a thought bud !

  9. Damien says:

    @amused Superfluous is subjective. It’s a shame that an FOI request has to be done to find out factual information from the Department. Anyway, all they have to do is make every document public and they don’t have to do any work for me. 🙂

  10. […] the National Broadband Scheme – this information was obtained by the Irish Times and also Damien Mulley using Fredom Of […]

  11. What strikes me most about these documents is the repeated use of the word ‘competent’ on pages 16-17 (11 January 2008), when referring to staff requirements.

    It would seem to indicate that there also exists in the Department a body of ‘incompetent’ staff?

  12. amused... says:

    No, it means with staff with the appropriate skills for the area in question, and not mere generalists.