Following the broadband money

Questions the NAO might prefer to ignore

with 9 comments

Conservative Technology Forum CEO Philip Virgo has posted a number of questions the National Audit Office may prefer to ignore in its investigation of whether the BDUK process will deliver value for the £1.8bn at risk.

I suspect that Virgo’s questions are slightly misdirected; the Public Accounts Committee is, I believe, the right forum to raise these issues.

Culture secretary Maria Miller is already apparently fighting for her political life, given the number of strenuously denied reports that DCMS is going be shut. She may be seeking an elegant way out of the swamp her civil servants have landed her in.

If so, she could ask the European Commission’s DG Competition to take an urgent look at the BDUK guidance to local authorities on how to deal with RCBF bids. She could confidently expect a verdict that finds the guidelines might lead to an uncompetitive market in the Final 10%.

That would give her an excuse to clean house, get BT to say what it will deliver openly and upfront in its taxpayer funded roll-out, provide a stick with which to beat BT if it doesn’t deliver on time and on budget, and garner some credibility to get fresh investors into the market, and pin the blame for any delays on Europe.

Best of all, it could save her and communications minister Ed Vaizey’s face, although Ed’s will have egg all over it.


Written by Br0kenTeleph0n3

2013/06/15 at 18:20

9 Responses

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  1. Timms couldn’t do it, and he’s very clever. Hunt couldn’t do it. Vaizey couldn’t do it. Lets hope Maria has some grit and CanDoIT. Its time somebody sorted out this monopoly and stopped our funding going to protect obsolete assets. That funding was meant to build next generation access for those who can’t get it, not patch up old copper phone lines and still leave millions on the wrong side of the digital divide.


    2013/06/15 at 18:28

    • Just to be clear, why is FTTC not an acceptable solution for the amount of funding available? You should be saying the funding is not enough for full FTTP across the UK instead of soundbites.


      2013/06/17 at 08:12

  2. I post on “When IT Meets Politics” in my personal capacity not as Chairman of the Conservative Technology Forum. There were only two potential questions I suggested, tongue in cheek, that the NAO might wish to ignore. Both concern matters of policy that are outside the usual remit. I also raised a number of others, en passant, that are also outside their remit.

    The National Audit Office reports to the Public Accounts Committee although it produces many more reports than the PAC has time to discuss. It is, however, rumoured (on other blogs) that it intends to discuss this report and has already warned at least two witnesses that they may be summoned to give evidence.

    The problem with simply seeking some-one to blame is that DCMS would have been in far more trouble, far more quickly, had ministers and senior officials not given absolute priority to making a success of the Olympics. The “blame”, if any, should lie with those who exploited that situation.

    The task now is to ensure that the NAO report is used to not only help prevent such matters happening again but to also help bring about a policy that better serves UK plc.

    The former is a role for the NAO.

    The latter is not.

    The former raises serious questions with regard to the selection and use of consultants to do what used to be done by civil servants or left to local government and with regard to claims of commercial confidentiality where public spending is involved. In that context you own questions as to who gave what legal advice are indeed apposite.

    The latter needs to be handled politically. I am well known for personally believing that we should return to the market driven, competitive infrastructure policies followed by the last Conservative government and scrap the recreation of a regulated monopoly infrastructure provider that was implicit in the policy progressed under the Labour government. That view is not, howver, necessarily shared by all members of Conservative Technology Forum and any policy papers we draft are likely to be far more nuanced than the sometimes fiery comments in my blog.

    Philip Virgo

    2013/06/15 at 18:51

    • Fair do, Philip. Sorry to out your position in the CTF. But you should be aware of what weight people attach to your words. Indeed, they betray qualities of leadership that were glimpsed when the present government inherited the mess Labour left, but since which have been totally absent in this space.


      2013/06/15 at 18:57

    • re your last paragraph, what might this mean for UK telecomms?


      2013/06/17 at 08:17

  3. So for the typos – I hope the meaning is still apparent.

    Philip Virgo

    2013/06/15 at 18:53

  4. This software has a mind of its own. Dropping letters. You will, of course, say that is the surveillance software clicking in.

    Philip Virgo

    2013/06/15 at 18:54

  5. Applicable to Nigeria, isn’t it?

    University of Nigeria

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