Committee questions the benefits from Invest to Schemes

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 18 March 2016

Reference: PAC 07/15/16

The Assembly Public Accounts Committee today published its report into the Invest to Save schemes which were introduced to fund Departmental projects that would generate significant savings in the 2010 to 2015 budget period. The aim was for funded projects, which would not have been taken forward without the scheme, to have a clear link between the investment made and the savings generated.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Chairperson Michaela Boyle, MLA said: "Invest to Save was a novel programme initiated by the Executive to do something different and to drive future savings. In practice, however, some projects did not deliver in the way that they should have and many of those approved did not identify any quantified savings."

The Committee found that even where projects did deliver savings, there was an absence of monitoring arrangements across the three schemes that received funding and no consistent collation and validation of reported savings. There was a lack of oversight by the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP), illustrated by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety reallocating ring-fenced Invest to Save project funding of £52 million to other 'priority areas'.

Chairperson Boyle continued: "Although the Committee recognises that individual accounting officers need to be accountable for their own spending, there also needs to be central oversight and control in a ring-fenced scheme of this nature. The lack of formal targets, and the absence of central monitoring, reporting and evaluation, means that it is not possible to assess the overall effectiveness and value for money of Invest to Save or to validate reported savings.

"The Invest to Save scheme represented an ideal vehicle to make a real difference and add value to delivering services as well as generating savings. This was an opportunity lost. While not disputing the individual merits of some projects funded, it is clear to the Committee that wider Invest to Save principles, such as innovation and risk-taking took a back seat."

The report welcomes the assurances from DFP that it has accepted the recommendations in the Audit Office report and has learned lessons from the Invest to Save scheme.

Ms Boyle concluded: "We are encouraged by the Department's assurances that it has tightened up guidance on ring-fenced funding. It is a positive sign that the Department has introduced more rigorous evaluation and monitoring arrangements for the £30 million Change Fund and other cross cutting reform programmes."

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. The 2009 Spending Review highlighted that the Northern Ireland Executive would continue to operate within a constrained budgetary position and consequently it needed to deliver sustainable cost reductions. One of the proposals to meet this challenge was the establishment of an Invest to Save fund in Northern Ireland. In total £311 million was "ring-fenced" but only £254 million was spent over the period 2010 to 2015.
2. Invest to Save (ITS) was introduced to fund departments for activities that they would not normally take forward and that would generate significant savings in the budgetary period from 2010 to 2015.
3. There were three separate Invest to Save schemes which were designed and delivered within relatively short time-scales. Almost a third of successful Invest to Save projects allocated funding did not anticipate and/or quantify savings over the 2011-2015 budget period.
4. The NIAO reported that almost two thirds of Invest to Save funding (£206 million) was finally allocated to two departments–the Department of Regional Development (DRD) and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS).
5. The NIAO reported that the DRD's Roads Structural Maintenance programme received £108 million – 35% of the Invest to Save funding. £95 million was allocated to Invest to Save Projects in the DHSSPS. However DHSSPS allocated £52 million instead to fund other "priority areas" in DHSSPS.
6. The Committee examined the operation of the three Invest to Save funding schemes in Northern Ireland and considered lessons learned to inform any future ring-fenced programmes.
7. In a previous report, on the Transfer of Former Military and Security Sites to the Northern Ireland Executive and Ilex Accounts 2010-11, the Public Accounts Committee highlighted the importance of tracking and monitoring ring-fenced funding.
8. You can access the Report here.

 

 

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