34,456 premises had been passed by the National Broadband Plan by the end of January, according to the latest report from the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG).

That was 58% of the revised target set for the company rolling out the infrastructure, National Broadband Ireland (NBI), and just 30% of the original target that had been set for that date.

Originally the rollout target for the end of January had been set under the contract at 115,000, but this was reduced to 60,000 in May 2021 because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

However, the C&AG's report also says the take-up rate for the service by those premises that have been passed is higher than was originally anticipated.

By the end of August this year, 75,590 premises had been passed, reducing the gap between the revised target and the outturn.

In total around 562,000 premises are due to be passed by high-speed broadband under the plan.

The C&AG’s analysis also reveals that the performance report covering February to April last year was the first where the Department of Communications determined that financial sanctions should apply, reducing future subsidy payments.

It followed the receipt of performance monitoring reports for the third and fourth quarters of 2020 which did not report six incidents which were notifiable events to the Department under the contract.

The C&AG’s report says that while the Department had agreed to a reduction in rollout targets due to the impact of the pandemic, it did impose sanctions for 3.5 months of delays which it concluded were not directly linked to Covid-19 and related to issues within NBI’s control.

These included challenges with the mobilisation of key contractors due to restrictions on operations, supply chain and logistic delays.

It also included the recruitment of key personnel as NBI and its contractors scaled up, including associated challenges with on-boarding and training people.

The report says delay sanctions have been applicable under the contract since February 1 of this year.

It says that up to August, delay sanctions totalling €134,800 have been imposed in relation to build-related milestones for delays in passing deployment areas.

"However, this is refundable if (or when) NBI achieves other build milestones ahead of its target," it says.

The Department told the C&AG that NBI had raised concerns around the proportionality of the sanctions that are likely to accrue under the current key performance indicator (KPI) regime.

"The Department also stated that it agreed, as provided for in the contract, to undertake a review of the KPIs and to assess whether it would be appropriate to modify the KPIs considered to be disproportionate," the report says.

A joint performance subgroup was set up in November last year to carry out that review and it was completed in July, with the minister briefed on its findings.

"The operation of the KPI related sanctions mechanism had been put on hold pending the outcome of the review," the report states.

The report also said that by the end of last year, the State had paid out just 48% or €177.2m in subsidy payments provided for up to that point to NBI.