Conroy: NBN RFP was worth doing


Communciations Minister Stephen Conroy has responded to the release of a somewhat critical audit report into the first, terminated National Broadband Network request for proposals process, saying the process was valuable.

The auditor’s report, released Wednesday afternoon, found Conroy’s department had canvassed options to deal with the failure of the first, $4.7 billion NBN RFP process as early as August 2008, and that the RFP in general was well-run but unconventional and lacked some clarity for applications.

The report led Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith to brand Conroy “the master of disaster”, saying the report showed the first RFP was a “fatally flawed and costly process”, taking $30 million out of Federal Government Coffers.

But yesterday Conroy issued a statement saying the RFP was “valuable”, because it had allowed the Government to test the market for building a NBN and understand exactly what the respondents to the process were capable of building.

“I am pleased to note that the [Australian National Audit Office] considers that the process was conducted well and in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines,” said Conroy, pointing out the auditor had not made any formal recommendations to improve departmental work.

“The ANAO report also noted in its report the impact of the global financial crisis and concluded that this factor significantly reduced the prospect of a successful outcome to the Request for Proposals (RFP) process.”

“The ANAO report shows that the department responded quickly and provided timely advice to assist the Government to deliver on its commitment.”

Conroy also noted that the report had stated that both the initial NBN panel of experts and the national competition regulator had advised that fibre to the premises technology — as opposed to fibre to roadside cabinets, or “nodes”, was preferable technology.

The initial RFP had focused on fibre to the node technology, but in April 2009 the Federal Government terminated the process and announced it would roll out its own NBN with fibre all the way to the premises.

Image credit: Office of Stephen Conroy