The Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, has secured Government approval for a package of significant actions aimed at enhancing project delivery for the National Development Plan (NDP). The package represents a fresh approach to securing delivery as part of the Minister’s new departmental remit.
The actions include significant changes to reduce the administrative burden in delivering major capital projects. The Minister will also now take a direct role in overseeing delivery of the NDP.
Under the reforms, the Public Spending Code, which sets out the approvals process for new projects, will be removed and replaced by a set of Infrastructure Guidelines. The effect of this will be to reduce the number of approval stages prior to implementation of projects from five to three.
The level of cost at which a new proposal is considered a major project is also raised from €100 million to €200 million. This will allow for projects below this limit to proceed more speedily through the appraisal and evaluation process compared to those of greater scale and complexity.
Major projects are required to undergo a more rigorous assessment process than this and will receive more Government oversight prior to implementation. Major projects are required to go through the External Assurance Process and Major Projects Advisory Group Process at the Preliminary Business Case stage. Major projects will also need Government consent at both the Preliminary Business Case stage and Final Business Case stage.
This is a significant policy development that will allow those departments that are responsible, greater freedom to pursue the delivery of their priority projects.
Further changes include additional reforms to the Capital Works Management Framework, which sets out the contracts used for public capital projects. These will be in addition to previous reforms, such as the introduction of liability caps, announced by the Minister last week.
Minister Donohoe will now take a direct role in overseeing delivery of the NDP by chairing the Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board, which will meet on a quarterly basis. Capacity reviews of departments and agencies with significant delivery programmes will be carried out, where appropriate, to ensure that adequate resources for project delivery are in place.
Direct reporting to Government on NDP delivery on a quarterly basis throughout 2023 and 2024 will now also take place. Finally, an independent evaluation of NDP priorities and capacity is being provided for, which will be conducted over the coming months.
Commenting on the actions to enhance NDP delivery, Minister Donohoe said:
“Government’s €165 billion investment through the National Development Plan is already providing homes, schools, and primary healthcare centres across the country. However, no-one is any doubt that we need to ensure timely delivery is part of the Government’s focus to respond effectively to the pressing challenges of our time, particularly in areas like housing, health and climate.
“The actions which I am announcing today underline my Department’s renewed focus on securing the delivery of better outcomes for the people of this country. We are removing administrative barriers, reforming our own processes, and ensuring that the departments responsible for the delivery of capital projects are provided with the resources they need.
“Every member of the Government recognises how vital improved project delivery is for us to achieve our social, economic and climate ambitions. That is why I am personally taking on the role of Chair of the Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board and why I will be bringing regular reports to Government on performance across all responsible departments. I look forward to providing further updates on our progress in the months ahead.”
Notes to Editors
Over the past three years, delivery of the NDP has been adversely impacted as a result of pandemic related pauses in the construction sector, the inflationary impacts from both Covid public-health measures and the war in Ukraine, with knock-on impacts on the supply chain for construction materials. Consequentially, key support structures and levers available across Government have been examined with the goal of maximising delivery of vital infrastructure.
A number of priority actions have been identified for 2023 to support and improve delivery under the NDP, including:
- Action 1: The Public Spending Code will be replaced by a set of Infrastructure Guidelines. The level of cost at which a new proposal is considered a major project is also raised from €100 million to €200 million, and major projects will be subject to review by the Department of Public Expenditure NDP Delivery and Reform (PENDR) and Major Projects Advisory Group (MPAG) at the Preliminary Business Case stage only. It will be a requirement that major projects will go to Cabinet for approval at this and the Final Business Case stage. Prior to project implementation, the number of stages in the approval process will reduce from five stages to three stages. This applies to all projects and will help to significantly speed up the appraisal and approval process;
- Action 2: The Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF) will continue to work on rebalancing risk in the Public Works Contract while maintaining expenditure control. The focus on lifecycle costs in tender documentation as opposed to construction costs will allow public clients to focus on quality over cheapest bid. The reforms are also targeted at rebalancing some of the risks borne by the contractors/consultants on public works projects through capping the liability and amending indemnity insurance requirements.
- Action 3: The Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board will be reconstituted and will now be chaired by the Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform, and comprise the existing independent members and key Secretaries General;
- Action 4: Review of capacity in major departments and agencies to deliver on NDP priorities with particular focus on significant capital projects to ensure appropriate resourcing to assist delivery;
- Action 5: An independent mid-term evaluation of investment priorities and capacity of the NDP, focussing on the capacity to deliver current Government priorities, to utilise sectoral capital allocations and to estimate the impact of the NDP on key economic indicators; and
- Action 6: Reporting to the Government on NDP delivery throughout 2023 and 2024 will take place on a quarterly basis.