The Government has put in place a series of reform measures to ensure none of the major projects in the €165 billion National Development Plan (NDP) run over budget, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath has said.
Mr McGrath said that issue of improving governance and oversight of delivery of major projects was an important part of the revised NDP and he was confident that the new measures would ensure that the taxpayer gets value for money on any major project.
Speaking at the launch of the NDP at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Mr McGrath said that major public investment projects are those with an estimated project cost in excess of €100 million and there were over 50 such projects in the Exchequer-funded element of the NDP.
He said that a detailed analysis by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s National Investment Office had concluded that two new elements are needed to provide more structured scrutiny of major public investment projects.
One of these elements was the introduction of an independent external review of projects over €100 million at two critical junctures – when the preferred delivery option for the project is chosen and before a decision is taken as to whether or not to approve a project to go to tender, he said.
“We have a panel of external experts that will oversee that process where the concept is being developed and before it goes to tender and will advise the line department, the responsible body, on the pitfalls to make sure that they are avoided over the period ahead,” he said.
"I am also putting in place a new Major Projects Advisory Group which will directly advise my department and the process of putting together that group has commenced, again through an open competitive process to get members of the public with appropriate expertise."
Mr McGrath said that progress had been made in oversight and governance in recent years with the Public Spending Code having been strengthened to put in place greater oversight, while he was also adding five external members to the Project Ireland Delivery Board.
“We have fantastic civil servants serving on Project Ireland Delivery Board – we believe there is a need to complement that expertise with people with other expertise, people who have been involved in the private sector, who have been involved in delivering infrastructures internationally.”
Mr McGrath said that the process to recruit people with such expertise had just commenced but he was confident that the reform measures he had introduced would ensure that the days of huge overruns on public projects were very much in the past.
“I recognise when we are seeing an increase in the scale of public investment we are providing, we also have to change our approach – we have to make sure we are getting value for money and that the various projects are delivered on time and on budget as the vast majority of them are.
“Where there have been issues and where there have been challenges, we will learn from that and the reforms that I have put in place on the Major Projects Advisory Group, I believe give us the best possible chance of avoiding those pitfalls in the future.”