The Government is to put in place independent external reviews to strengthen the process for formally authorising major infrastructure projects which are likely to cost more than €100 million.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath on Monday approved the publication of the request for tenders (RFT) for the new external assurance process (EAP).
The Department of Public Expenditure said that as part of the national development plan review it had committed to strengthening the scrutiny of major public investment proposals. It said international evidence suggested that the single most effective guard against major project failure was the incorporation of an independent external review prior to project commencement.
It said public investment proposals over €100million required Government approval at key decision gates in line with the public spending code. It said the current process involved assurance by the funding department while the Department of Public Expenditure had a scrutiny and challenge role through business case technical reviews. While this has proven useful, it said the ability to robustly challenge on substantive delivery issues such as scrutiny of costings, feasibility of delivery plans, and appropriateness of procurement strategies, needed to be strengthened.
Mr McGrath said: “The public have a very strong desire for realistic and timely delivery of major capital projects and I want to ensure these expectations are met. I am acutely aware of the pitfalls that have arisen in the past which have delayed projects or given rise to additional costs and I am taking immediate actions to address weaknesses in the process. In particular we need a strong challenge function at key stages in the process to ensure risks are identified and fully addressed.”
“The panel of external experts will add to the depth of knowledge within my own Department in delivering complex, multi-year major capital projects. The pandemic has shown us that harnessing additional skill sets leads to better results overall for the public and I am determined that we bring new thinking to bear in how we meet the very obvious infrastructure needs we have as a country.”
The EAP will involve independent expert reviews at two key stages of major infrastruce projects – before approval in principle and pre-tender.