Delay to launch of body charged with scrutinising Government investment

The National Development Plan was launched Monday after the Irish government signed off on the blueprint during a meeting in Cork.
Delay to launch of body charged with scrutinising Government investment

By Dominic McGrath, PA

The launch of one of the bodies charged with ensuring that the Government’s new multibillion-euro projects provide “value for money” has faced delays.

A major projects advisory group, announced over six months ago and referenced by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath on Monday at the national development plan launch, has still not been formed.

The major projects advisory group, which will help oversee some of the €165 billion set to be spent on the National Development Plan, was described by Mr McGrath on Monday as one of a host of reforms that would bring a greater level of scrutiny to Government projects, especially those involving costs of over 100 million euros.

“We also have to take a step-change in our approach. We have to make sure we’re getting value for money,” he told reporters.

However, a Department spokesperson confirmed to PA news agency that the aim to have the group ready by the third quarter of 2021 has been been missed.

The group was announced in March 2021 as part of a range of reforms that the department said would deliver extra expertise and ensure that “value for money” is delivered on major state projects.

Earlier on Monday, Minister for Expenditure and Reform Micheal McGrath also namechecked the Major Projects Advisory Group as one of the Government’s new innovations that would help stop any overspend on state investments.

“A new major projects advisory group is being established to support the work of my own department and again, the appointment of people to that new group will be through an open competitive process,” he told RTE radio.

Mr McGrath also said that the Project Ireland 2040 delivery board would be reformed, to include four more external members.

The 10-year, 165 billion euro National Development Plan was launched on Monday after the Irish government signed off on the blueprint during a meeting in Cork.

The plan sets out the big transport and road projects the government will spend money on from now until 2030.

The target of launching the advisory group at some stage in the third quarter of the year was contained in a booklet for applicants to positions on the new body.

It said: “The Group will be established in Quarter 3 2021 and will meet primarily in Dublin, or through online platforms if required by public health guidance.”

That same booklet said that the closing date for applications to the group was 30 September.

It says that the purpose of the group is to support the Department in challenging and scrutinising investment plans and to advise the minister “in advance of Government consideration of major public investment proposals in particular in relation to costs, scheduling and consideration of risk”.

A spokesperson for the Department told PA news agency: “The formation of the Major Projects Advisory Group will align with the introduction of the External Assurance Process and DPER has been working to establish a framework of external experts to carry out the independent external reviews.

“The establishment of this framework will soon be complete, with the details of the process and arrangements for implementation to be delivered in October 2021.”

“The Major Projects Advisory Group will also form in October 2021.”

“The slight delay of the formation of the group into October (from the Q3 timeline outlined in the information booklet) will not impact on projects.”

The Department declined to give any reasons for the delay.

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