Saturday 22 July 2017

Adviser contradicts civil servants' evidence

Sam Smyth

A key adviser to the Government in the awarding of the second mobile phone licence yesterday contradicted evidence to the Moriarty Tribunal from two senior civil servants.

Danish consultant Michael Andersen said he had no recollection of a meeting detailed by the civil servants in their earlier evidence to the tribunal.

In his second day giving evidence in Dublin Castle, Professor Andersen said that no meeting such as that described by the civil servants took place.

Michael McDowell, senior counsel for the Moriarty Tribunal, questioned Prof Andersen about the process used to choose the winner for the competition.

Senior civil servants Martin Brennan and Fintan Towey gave evidence to the tribunal about visiting Prof Andersen's office in Copenhagen in September 1995.

It had been planned to make a quantitative assessment of the competitors' scores in numbers but they were later converted to letters of the alphabet, according to evidence given by Mr Brennan.

Mr Brennan, a senior official in the Department of Communications, who was chairman of the panel choosing the winner, said in his evidence that flipcharts were used during the meeting.

But in evidence yesterday Prof Andersen said that no such meeting took place.

Although he did not object to the change from numbers to letters on the process to award the licence, Prof Andersen was unhappy because it "distorted" the qualitative assessment.

The Danish consultant said that he recalled taking part in a conference phone call with Mr Brennan, Mr Towey and a Danish colleague.

Prof Andersen said that the final result of the competition was decided at a meeting earlier in September when a number of Irish civil servants involved in the process visited Copenhagen.

The competition for the second mobile phone licence was won by East Digifone, the consortium headed by billionaire telecoms tycoon Denis O'Brien.

Prof Andersen will continue to give evidence to the tribunal today.

At the opening of the tribunal yesterday morning, the chairman Mr Justice Moriarty said he did not have time to respond to objections the day before that Michael McDowell had a conflict of interest because of his former role in public life.

The chairman said that the tribunal would only use Mr McDowell for the purpose of examining Prof Andersen and after Prof Andersen has finished giving evidence, Mr McDowell would have no role in its deliberative process.

Irish Independent

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