New measures aim to strengthen oversight of major State projects

Michael McGrath says addition of external experts, advisory group will help reduce possibility of delays and cost over-runs

 Michael McGrath: New measures will strengthen oversight of State projects. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Michael McGrath: New measures will strengthen oversight of State projects. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

New measures to strengthen oversight of projects to be developed under the State’s €10.8 billion capital budget are to be put in place, the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has said.

Additional external expertise is to be added to the delivery board for the State’s overall capital investment programme, Project Ireland 2040, while a new major projects advisory group is also to be established.

Speaking on Sunday, the Minister suggested the Government wanted to boost jobs and economic activity through investment in capital project as the country emerged from the pandemic but at the same time avoid delays and cost overruns that have been experienced in some areas in the past.

“As the economic effects of the pandemic began to bite, it was apparent that we needed to redouble our commitment to capital investment. Investing in public capital projects can have a significant ’multiplier effect’, creating jobs and increasing economic activity,” Mr McGrath said.

“I want to maximise the impact from this expenditure and avoid the pitfalls that have arisen in the past which have delayed project delivery or given rise to additional costs. While steady progress has been made in the implementation of Project Ireland 2040, the ongoing National Development Plan review means it is timely to enhance governance and assurance structures.

“ In this regard, I will be appointing four new members to the Project Ireland 2040 delivery board to give it additional external expertise ensuring regional perspectives are heard and there is an enhanced ‘challenge function’,” the Minister said.

Mr McGrath also said his department would put in place “a framework of external experts in major infrastructure delivery to provide advice at two key decision gates – when the business case for the project has been developed and before it goes to tender”.

“ The purpose is to support the funding department and Government at these decision gates with additional insight on the consideration of risks, delivery feasibility, robustness of costings, governance and procurement.

“In addition, a major projects advisory group will be established to support my department’s role within the overall project assurance process and assist in skills development and capacity building in the National Investment Office.

Taken together, the Minister said, the external experts and advisory group “will help mitigate the risk of positivity bias when it comes to major capital projects and in turn reduce the possibility of delays and cost over-runs”.