£700 million Cost Overruns Mar Key infrastructure Projects
Session: Session currently unavailable
Date: 22 October 2020
Reference: PAC 02/20/21
The Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee has published its wide-ranging inquiry report into Major Capital Projects. The report focuses on 11 high profile and high value infrastructure projects, including the A5/A6 and Casement Park, as part of the Regional Stadia Programme and Sub-Regional Stadia Programme for Soccer.
Over the eight-year period from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2019, almost £10.6 billion was spent on infrastructure projects and estimates are that, by 31 March 2021, more than £14.8 billion will have been spent on these projects. Each of the flagship and high profile projects suffered from time delays and cost overruns to a total value of £700 million.
William Humphrey, MLA, Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee said:
“During our inquiry into Major Capital Projects, frankly we were shocked by the delays and cost overruns which were apparent across the entire range of high value and flagship projects. The £700 million cost overruns that have been incurred could have been better invested in our schools, hospitals, roads and transport networks.
“In short, not only was the system for commissioning and delivering major capital projects over complicated, it was clear that many of the senior staff did not have the relevant experience or expertise to allow them to deliver these projects within the agreed timescales and budgets. This is an issue that has been raised repeatedly by this Committee in relation to its review of major capital projects.
“We were also disturbed to find that there is no single oversight body whose function it is to ensure that projects are being delivered properly. We strongly recommend that Northern Ireland, like other jurisdictions, should have this kind of oversight body.
“Additionally, the Head of the Civil Service should have a more direct role in ensuring that projects progress within the agreed cost and time constraints, something that is not currently the case. It came as something of a surprise to be told by the Head of the Civil Service that he could not direct what other permanent secretaries could do—something that can lead to silo working with less joined up thinking.
“We believe, and have recommended, that the Northern Ireland Civil Service Board be strengthened to include more independent non-executives to help achieve this transparency and accountability.”
Some of the most disturbing findings from the inquiry concerned the business case process, with comparisons drawn to issues surrounding the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme. As part of its evidence, the Department of Finance assured the Committee that it has introduced a new approach to developing and progressing business cases, but the outcome of this new method is yet to be assessed.
Many of the delays and cost overruns were also associated with securing planning permission and the judicial reviews that led to delays and increased costs. To reduce this, the Committee has recommended that the civil service works with the judiciary to take steps to simplify and improve this process, including reviewing the bar for taking judicial reviews.
Mr Humphrey concluded,
“These important capital projects should and could have been delivered without many of the delays and excess costs. We are clear that the Departments involved, and the civil service, need to make the improvements we have outlined in our recommendations.”
Notes to Editors:
The projects examined as part of this inquiry were:
- Belfast Rapid Transit
- Belfast Transit Hub
- Mother and Children’s Hospital
- Critical Care Centre
- Primary Care Community Centres
- Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, Learning and Development Centre, Desertcreat.
- Casement Park (Regional Stadia Programme and Sub-Regional Stadia Programme for Soccer)
- Ulster University, Greater Belfast Development.
- Strule Shared Education Campus
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