Govt details NBN advisor needs

The Federal Government yesterday kicked off its search for a lead adviser to deliver the nine-month implementation study that will map out the future of its $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) project.
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor

The Federal Government yesterday kicked off its search for a lead adviser to deliver the nine-month implementation study that will map out the future of its $43 billion National Broadband Network (NBN) project.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) issued a request for expressions of interest document on Friday calling for interested consultants to make an initial pitch for the work, which will culminate in the delivery of the landmark document in February 2010.

Interested parties have only 19 May to respond to the document with no more than 20 pages detailing their capacity to provide the services, with short-listed respondents being notified in the week commencing 25 May, and the winning bidder to start delivering services from the week commencing 6 July, following a more formal request for tender process.

Like some other documents associated with the NBN process, the second stage RFT documents will be confidential, with short-listed bidders being required to sign a deed of confidentiality to get access to them.

The EOI documents outlined what it acknowledged were "tight time frames" for some of the implementation study work to be delivered, noting that while the full NBN implementation report would be due in February 2010, one or more interim reports on specific aspects of the project would need to be available just weeks after the work commenced — from August 2009.

The documents reiterate Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's belief that the NBN project will be the "single largest nation-building infrastructure project in Australian history".

The implementation study, according to the documents, will determine the operating arrangements for the state-owned company to manage the NBN as well as detailing network design and financial details such as attracting private sector investment. It will also examine how procurement opportunities can be made available to "local businesses", although the documents did not stipulate if that specifically meant Australian companies.

The selected consultancy may need to engage sub-contractors at need (the documents set the date for such appointments as late July), as the implementation study will examine commercial, technical, regulatory and legal aspects of the planned network.

Strong qualifications
DBCDE laid down specific attributes it expected applicants to demonstrate, noting that it believed potential respondents might include financial, commercial, project management, civil engineering and strategic consulting firms:

"The lead adviser will be expected to have demonstrated expertise and [a] wide range of experience in relation to investment in, financing of, project management of, and commercial and other aspects of large scale complex infrastructure projects, preferably with a multi-billion dollar value, and preferable experience with telecommunications projects and preferably in Australian context."

A number of other details in the documents provided some insight into the government's requirements for the implementation study. Although Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has put the project's worth at a total of $43 billion, the advisor will be required to provide advice on the "overall funding requirements" for the network beyond the government's initial $4.7 billion investment.

In addition, the advisor will be required to develop strategies to maximise the scope for private sector investment in the NBN company, while also examining ownership restrictions and terms and conditions for private sector investment to occur, as well as how appropriate any foreign ownership controls might be.

The EOI document released yesterday mentions that DBCDE has set up a dedicated internal NBN Implementation Division; however, the department has not as yet disclosed which staff lead that division, or how large it is.

Construction of the Tasmanian portion of the network is due to commence in mid-2009, more than six months before the implementation study is to be delivered; the study will be required to take into account how the state-based project can be integrated into the wider national roll-out.

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