Dáil Éireann - Volume 608 - 26 October, 2005
Written Answers. - Telecommunications Services.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
 163. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Finance the value of the contract for the provision of broadband or other telecommunication services to the public sector; when the contract was last offered by public tender; if it is expected to offer this contract for public tender in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31010/05]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Mr. Cowen: The Government’s virtual private network, VPN, contract was awarded on foot of an open EU procurement exercise to a consortium comprising Eircom and Vodafone Ireland in May 2002 for five years. The contract provides for a range of voice and data telecommunications services, including secure interconnectivity between public bodies. It was procured by a cross-sectoral procurement working group, comprising Departments and offices, and the health, local authority and education sectors. The procurement exercise aggregated all of the civil and non-commercial public sector telecommunications demand because that approach ensures that the public service receives maximum value for money and substantial savings in its telecommunications expenditure as a result of the significant discounts available from such an approach. As part of its management process, the contract has built-in reviews and roll-over procedures that are now conducted on an annual basis by a programme board comprising the same entities that operated the initial procurement exercise.
The contract established a drawdown facility that allows Departments and offices and public bodies to drawdown services at their discretion and does not preclude them from operating public procurement exercises for telecommunications services at any time. Many of them do this with the aid of telecommunications specialists in my Department. Additionally, my Department has ensured that all other major telecommunications service providers can connect to the Government VPN to allow for the maximum competition in the provision of these services to public bodies. As the contract is a drawdown facility and because each public body has a great deal of discretion in its procurement of telecommunications services, my Department does not have detailed knowledge of the extent of usage or value of the services available under the VPN contract. My Department does, however, aid individual public bodies in ensuring that they get best value for money in their telecommunications expenditure either under the VPN contract or through separate procurements.
It is not intended to take this contract, in this shape, to public tender again. Recent changes in EU procurement law and the emergence of enhanced competition in the Irish marketplace  now facilitate the use of frameworks involving multiple competing providers. In this context, it is intended to operate a series of such framework procurement exercises over the coming 12 to 18 months. This series of procurements will, over time, deal with all aspects of telecommunications services provision to the public sector. Strategies for these procurements are being worked out at present and it is intended to complete the first of these exercises in early 2006.
Dáil Éireann 608 Written Answers. Telecommunications Services.