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Draft Programme for Government 2008-11 and Draft Investment Strategy 2008-2018

Room 419
Parliament Buildings
Stormont
BELFAST
BT4 3XX

Tel No: 028 90521843
Fax No: 028 90520360
E-mail: committee.finance&personnel@niassembly.gov.uk

28 November 2007

Danny Kennedy MLA 
Chairperson 
Committee for First Minister and Deputy First Minister

Dear Mr Kennedy

Draft Programme for Government 2008-11 and Draft Investment Strategy 2008-2018

Introduction

  • The Committee for Finance and Personnel heard evidence from Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) officials on 14 November 2007 in relation to the Department’s contribution to the draft Programme for Government (PfG) and Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland (ISNI). Following the evidence session, members requested and received a written response to further issues on which the Committee required clarification.
  • The key issues for DFP in the draft PfG are the implementation of the NI Direct programme, which will see a single telephone number point of contact being taken forward over the PfG period, and delivering the wider Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) reform programme. In addition, the Workplace 2010 programme is expected to contribute an estimated £175m to ISNI. These issues are reflected in the following Committee response which was considered and agreed at the Committee’s meeting on 28 November 2007.

Draft Programme for Government 2008 – 2011

Strategic Priorities

Priority: Deliver Modern High Quality and Efficient Public Services

  • Reference is made under this priority to the NICS reform programme, which is being co-ordinated by DFP, realising significant savings which will be redirected to delivering key services. The Committee requested quantification of the savings to be generated by the reform programme over the 3-year budgetary period. In response, DFP explained that delivery of benefits across all 11 departments, both financial and non-financial, from the reform programme, including shared services, will take time and will be measured by a series of key performance indicators, which will be integrated within departmental business planning.
  • The Department is currently developing a benefits realisation framework which will address the delivery of both quantitative and qualitative benefits in respect of the reform programmes/projects being implemented within DFP. The Committee will wish to undertake regular reviews of progress against this benefits realisation framework and considers that the finalised framework should be placed in the public domain. Moreover, the Committee considers that the Department should outline the anticipated efficiency savings to accrue across all 11 departments from the various reform programmes.
  • The Committee believes that the significant savings from the reform programmes are an important part of the Executive’s Draft Budget and will play a key role in the delivery of the Programme for Government. Given that the savings from reform programmes are specifically referred to in the draft PfG under this priority, the Committee considers that the revised PfG would be enhanced by these savings being quantified.

Key Goals

  • The key goals for DFP come under the priority to deliver modern, high quality and efficient public services and relate to the delivery of efficiency savings; the generation of additional capital realisations and the consolidation of public sector websites. The Committee’s views on these goals are included in the following section on Public Service Agreements.

Public Service Agreements (PSAs)

PSA 11 - Driving Investment and Sustainable Development

Objective 4 – Support the wider public sector in taking account of sustainable development principles when procuring works, supplies and services

  • The Committee has concerns that the target for considering sustainable development principles in capital investment decisions will take 3 years to achieve and sought further clarification from the Department. DFP has indicated that this target could be accelerated and will review this matter. The Committee therefore looks forward to the target for implementation being brought forward in the revised PfG.
  • Under this objective, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) are to be given opportunities to do business with public sector organisations by September 2008. When considering the draft PfG, the Committee was unclear on what this process involves and indeed, on why such opportunities are not already in place. It requested and received further information from DFP explaining that, whilst access to public sector business is currently available to SMEs, a sustainable action plan is being drafted to develop systems by September 2008 to allow both SMEs and Social Economy Enterprises (SEEs) to have improved access to doing business directly with the public sector and with prime contractors on major targets. The Committee believes that suitable measurement arrangements need to be put in place to determine the success of this policy and to enable progress to be reported to the Assembly.
  • The Committee considers that the sustainable development implementation plan for 2008 – 2011 has a major role to play in the achievement of this objective. The Committee acknowledges that OFMDFM leads on sustainable development, including co-ordination of the implementation plan, but believes that the finalised plan should include a clear statement on the departments responsible for implementation and that this should be placed in the public domain. Scrutiny of progress against targets could then be a regular agenda item for meetings of the appropriate statutory committees.
  • DFP also has a central role to promote sustainability in the procurement, operation and maintenance of buildings and the procurement of sustainable supplies and services. It is also responsible for regulating building standards and promoting energy efficiency across the public sector. The Department has informed the Committee that it is soon to finalise its own action plan in relation to sustainable development and the Committee has already requested quarterly updates.
  • Finally in relation to sustainable development, the Committee believes that the target for trained professional practitioners applying sustainable procurement principles within the public procurement process should have a timescale for delivery.

PSA 20 - Improving Public Services

Objective 1 – Deliver a programme of Civil Service reform

  • Target dates for the various NICS reform programmes are included under this objective. The Committee sought clarification from DFP that these targets are for the full implementation of the various programmes, as opposed to piloting the programmes and also requested a comparison of these targets with the original implementation plans. Having considered further information from DFP, the Committee agrees that the target for implementation of the various reform programmes should be amended to emphasise that these targets are for the programmes to be implemented in full.
  • A notable exception here is the target for Workplace 2010, as the Committee was informed that the target date of 30 November 2008 reflects only partial implementation. The Committee considers that the revised PfG should clarify this point and include a target date for full implementation of the Workplace 2010 programme. Whilst the target dates in the draft PfG represent some slippage in original plans across a number of programmes, the Committee has been assured that the programmes are currently on track for delivery by the target dates included in the draft PfG.
  • The targets for the various reform programmes also refer to realisation of the benefits from the various programmes and the Committee had some concerns as to whether the benefits arising from the reform programmes will be fully realised by the target dates for implementation. Again, it sought further clarification on this matter. The Committee was informed that, whilst benefits will commence during the draft PfG period, they will be on a phased basis and full realisation will take place over the lifespan of the individual programmes. The Committee therefore considers that the target dates for implementation and realisation of the benefits from the various reform programmes is potentially confusing, as the benefits will take some time to be realised following implementation.
  • The Committee also queried how the reform programmes contribution to the improvement in the quality and cost effectiveness of public services could be measured. The Department has explained that the benefits realisation framework, which it is developing, will provide a basis for monitoring the quality and efficiency of service delivery. In addition, projects and programmes will be subject to a post project evaluation and an independent evaluation through the Office of Government Commerce Gateway Review process. These are an important part of the reform process as the Committee considers that it is vital that the various reform programmes meet their objectives in terms of quality and efficiency if the PfG is to be delivered successfully. The Committee will take a keen interest in the post evaluation stages.

Objective 4 – Promote and improve access to public services and information in Northern Ireland

  • Under this objective, a single telephone number point of contact for selected public services is to be in place by December 2008. The Committee has learned that four NICS organisations have been selected for this first phase: DARD; DFP’s Land and Property Services agency; the General Register Office and the Planning Service. DFP will then be working to define a roadmap for the majority of citizen facing services and, whilst a timeframe has yet to be agreed for the inclusion of these services, rollout is expected to start in 2009/10.
  • Whilst the Committee welcomes this project, it has the potential to be high profile and must therefore work effectively from the outset. The Committee therefore believes that the following information should be included in relation to this target in the revised PfG:
  • the proportion of public services to be covered by a single telephone number point of contactwhen the first phase is introduced in December 2008;
  • further detail on subsequent rollout within the timeframe of the draft PfG i.e. 2008 – 2011 and
  • a specific target to deal effectively with x% of calls at the first point of contact. (The Committee has been informed that a target for a percentage of ‘one and done’ calls to be handled at first point of contact is currently under consideration).
  • A target has also been stipulated for consolidating 70% of NICS and agency websites into a single web presence by March 2009. The Committee made enquiries as to what would happen with the remaining websites and was informed that these have been excluded either because they are large transactional sites or due to existing contract arrangements which would be costly or difficult to terminate. The sites not included in the initial consolidation will be monitored for subsequent inclusion, at an appropriate time such as the end of the contract period. Members also sought further information on the potential efficiencies resulting from this consolidation and were informed that efficiencies resulting from a reduction in external hosting costs would not be realised until the end of such contracts.
  • Finally under this objective, the Committee obtained further detail on the digital inclusion programme, due to concerns at the absence of a target date for delivery. The programme addresses access to, and exploitation of, modern technology and computing to enhance the quality of life in Northern Ireland society, and includes a range of projects scheduled for completion by the end of 2009. The Committee agreed that the end of 2009 should therefore be included as a target date for programme delivery.

PSA 21 - Enabling Efficient Government

Objective 1 – Support the First and deputy First Minister in leading the Executive

  • The Committee notes that there is a target of January 2009 for the first review of the Budget for 2008 – 2011. The Committee considers that an annual timetable for budget setting and review, which builds in sufficient time for the effective involvement of the Assembly’s statutory committees needs to be published by DFP as soon as possible and the Committee will be working with the Department to achieve this.

Objective 2 – Build the capacity of the Civil Service to deliver the Government’s priorities by improving leadership, skills, professionalism, diversity and equality

  • The Committee has been briefed on the actions to be taken by DFP to encourage applications to the NICS from under-represented groups and on new research to be undertaken into perceived barriers to employment in the NICS. The Committee looks forward to considering the outcome of this research and notes the absence of a timescale for the NICS to be reflective of the diversity of NI society. This should be addressed in the revised PfG as the Committee has received specific diversity targets from DFP to be achieved by 2008.
  • The Committee also highlighted to DFP the absence of timescales for the delivery of the target to ensure that NICS has the right skills and expertise to deliver effective services to the people of Northern Ireland. The Committee has received further information on the annual training and development process co-ordinated by DFP but considers that achievement of this target may prove difficult to measure.

Objective 3 – To ensure public expenditure is managed effectively to deliver best value for the people of Northern Ireland

  • A target has been included under this objective to ensure that public spending delivers value for money. The Committee requests that more detail be included as to how the delivery of value for money in public spending is to be measured objectively. The Committee understands that departmental efficiency delivery plans will be published alongside the final Budget document and will therefore be available to statutory committees for scrutiny.
  • The Committee has been briefed on the role of the Performance Efficiency Delivery Unit and plans to monitor the outputs from the Unit in driving higher levels of savings.

Objective 5 – Deliver value for money gains in Government procurement

  • The Committee requested further detail on the structure of Centres of Procurement Expertise (CoPEs) which are to deliver value for money gains in Government procurement. In addition to DFP’s Central Procurement Directorate, seven other CoPEs exist to provide a more integrated procurement service to public bodies throughout the public sector. The Committee wishes to see dates for delivery against the following targets included under this objective:
  • 3% value-for-money gains on procurement spend;
  • Independent assessment of the capability of Centres of Procurement Expertise (CoPEs); and
  • Reduction of non-CoPE procurement by 25% year-on-year.

The Committee has been informed that these targets are currently under discussion and therefore expects to see implementation dates in the revised PfG.

  • The Committee also considers that, in the interests of transparency, the starting point against which the 3% value-for-money gains on procurement spend and the annual reduction of non-CoPE procurement are to be measured should be included in the revised PfG.

Draft Investment Strategy 2008 – 2018

General

  • DFP’s capital bids and its proposed distribution of the indicative allocation made in the draft ISNI have been annexed to this response. The Department bid for approximately £94.2m over the three financial years from 2008 – 2011 (£38.3m, £32.8m and £23.1m) and was allocated £68.7m (£30m, 322.7m, £16m). The Committee will continue to monitor the potential effect which the allocations proposed for DFP in the draft ISNI may have on delivery and how DFP plans to manage with an allocation significantly below the amount sought.

Land and Property Services (LPS)

  • The Committee had concerns as to whether the capital allocations for LPS were sufficient to allow the organisation to alleviate the difficulties associated with its IT systems, especially with regard to rates relief. A response was obtained from DFP stating that the allocations were sufficient and the Committee will be keeping a watching brief on this matter. However, the Department also highlighted the fact that the Agency’s capital requirements will need to be further assessed in light of the outcome of the current review of domestic rating, the first stage of which was announced by the Minister of Finance and Personnel on 26 November. LPS has a key role in the implementation of the reforms to be introduced in April 2008 and beyond and the Committee considers that any further funding requirements arising from rating reform should be met in any revised allocations.

Central Energy Efficiency Fund

  • DFP also bid for £15m over the 3-year period for the Central Energy Efficiency Fund, used to support measures to improve the energy performance of, and reduce emissions of CO2 from, buildings occupied by NI public bodies. The Committee believes that the £6m allocated to this fund in the draft ISNI runs contrary to the prominence given to sustainability by the Executive in the draft Programme for Government.

Workplace 2010

  • One of the Department’s major contributions to the draft ISNI is the delivery of £175m capital receipt from the Workplace 2010 programme. The Committee was given an assurance by departmental officials as to the accuracy of this figure and also that it will be delivered in the 2008/09 financial year, despite potential delays from the current legal challenge with regard to the programme. The Committee will be monitoring progress on the key goals and milestones for Workplace 2010, as set out under the ‘Productive’ Investment pillar in the draft ISNI.

Review of Public Sector Sites/Role of Capital Realisation Taskforce

  • The Committee has also highlighted the review of public sector sites by 2008, which is detailed as a key milestone in the draft ISNI and has been briefed on the work of the Capital Realisation Taskforce. Whilst recognising that the Taskforce has cross-departmental membership (SIB, OFMDFM and DFP officials) the Committee intends to examine the work of the Taskforce in so far as it may affect the capital allocation covered in the Draft Budget period. In particular, the Committee understands that the Taskforce will make an initial report by December 2007 which will influence final settlements for 2008 – 2011. The Committee has arranged to take evidence from the Taskforce in this regard.
  • In relation to the review of public sector sites, DFP has informed the Committee that a significant proportion of public sector sites managed by DFP will form part of the Workplace 2010 programme and that the Department’s input to the review will therefore focus largely on the remaining office estate properties. DFP has already engaged with the Capital Realisation Taskforce on the utilisation of assets for which it is responsible.

Monitoring Arrangements

  • In relation to monitoring of performance, the draft ISNI states that departments are in the process of developing individual Investment Delivery Plans and that monitoring arrangements are also being developed to monitor departmental performance in delivering investment. The Committee has already requested DFP’s Investment Delivery Plan, and has been informed that investment Plans will be published alongside the ISNI in January 2008. The Committee believes that the monitoring arrangements being developed should include a clear role for the Assembly’s statutory committees.

Other Issues

  • The Committee notes that reference has been made to the various NICS reform programmes under the ‘Productive’ Investment pillar and considers that these should be included in the key goals or milestones section, with dates for implementation.
  • Regarding the delivery of infrastructure investment plans, in relation to procurement, the draft ISNI anticipates that guidance on embedding equality and sustainability into procurement processes will be issued to public bodies in the near future. The Committee believes that the Department responsible for issuing the guidance and ensuring compliance should be detailed in the revised draft.

Conclusion

  • The Committee for Finance and Personnel looks forward to publication of the finalised PfG and ISNI in January 2008 and will be working with DFP to ensure that the recommendations included in this response, which relate to the Department, are addressed in the finalised documents.

Yours sincerely

Mitchel McLaughlin MLA 
Chairperson 
Committee for Finance and Personnel

cc:

Damien Martin
Joe Sloan
Norman Irwin, DFP

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