The Auditor General says that the Welsh Government’s procurement and management of the Superfast Cymru contract has been generally effective
The Auditor General has today reported that the Welsh Government’s Superfast Cymru contract, signed with BT in 2012 and supported by up to £205 million of public funding, is ‘making reasonable progress’ in rolling out access to next generation broadband services. The contract aims to provide access for around 700,000 premises across Wales where there is no planned commercial rollout. Work to promote exploitation of the benefits of this and other investment in next generation broadband infrastructure is now under way.
The report, which focuses on various aspects of the Superfast Cymru agreement and its delivery, found that the Welsh Government is now expecting all business and residential premises to be able to access next generation broadband services by the end of 2016.
Auditor General for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas said:
I am pleased to see that the Superfast Cymru project is making reasonable progress. Delivering this project on time is fundamental to the successful achievement of the Welsh Government’s Digital Wales initiative. I, however, encourage the Government to do more to communicate the rollout of access to next generation broadband to the wider public and to promote the benefits available.
The Auditor General’s report found that despite the constraint of having only one final bidder, the contract in place between the Welsh Government and BT includes appropriate controls to manage costs and delivery and that the contractual costs are within the range of other UK public sector next generation broadband contracts with BT.
The report also says that access was made available to just over half of the target premises by the end of 2014 and although many of the difficult-to-connect premises still remain, the improvement in delivery since early 2014 provides some confidence that the overall coverage targets will be met. The report also found that:
- there were initial weaknesses in the programme and project management but the Welsh Government now has clear and appropriate arrangements in place;
- some local authorities, businesses and residents have not been satisfied with the communication about the Superfast Cymru rollout;
- take-up of next generation broadband is rising, but there are no take-up targets in place;
- the Superfast Cymru contract has already achieved most of the expected direct benefits related to jobs, apprenticeships and work experience opportunities; and
- although arrangements to support and measure the wider benefits from the public investment in digital infrastructure have been weak, the Welsh Government is now developing a national project for the exploitation of next generation broadband by businesses and a plan for public sector exploitation.
The report makes a number of recommendations, which include:
- improving communication about the local rollout of Superfast Cymru;
- ensuring that 40 per cent of premises in the intervention area are capable of receiving download speeds of 100 Mbps or more; and
- monitoring and supporting the take-up of next generation broadband; and improving the delivery of the full benefits of the public investment.