Discreet nature of bidding 'breached by officials'
Published 23/03/2011 | 05:00
CIVIL servants were yesterday criticised for breaching the confidentiality of the process to award the second mobile phone licence -- and for giving information to then minister Michael Lowry.
Mr Justice Michael Moriarty also censured the department responsible for awarding the second mobile phone licence for not properly co-operating with the tribunal.
But Mr Justice Moriarty cast the disgraced former minister as the villain and laid the blame at Mr Lowry's feet.
"Greater precautions should have been taken, as a matter of policy, to segregate those conducting the evaluation from their political master (Mr Lowry), to whom they were ultimately accountable," he said.
One of the senior officials -- unnamed in the report -- "unwittingly lost sight of the single most important feature distinguishing it from any previously undertaken by the depart- ment", Mr Justice Moriarty said.
He continued: "Namely, that it was intended to be an independent adjudicative process to be conducted in a technically appropriate, robust and objective manner, by a group of departmental officials, each of whom, for good reason, was to have a role in the decision making."
He said: "Those officials, with whom he interacted, and principally the chairman, had no means of knowing that Mr Lowry was conveying information to Mr O'Brien or any other interested party, and had no reason to suspect Mr Lowry's motives."
Although the commitment and engagement of the civil servants could not be faulted, Mr Justice Moriarty went on to criticise the Department of Communications.
It was "understandable but nonetheless regrettable" that the tribunal did not receive the cooperation it should have and "with notable exceptions", their degree of engagement "fell significantly short of what should be forthcoming".
Mr Justice Moriarty said it was undoubtedly the case that the tribunal's investigations were personally and professionally discomforting for the civil servants. "Through no fault of their own, (they) found themselves at the intersection of an irregular and improper relationship between politics and business," he said.