Findings of latest NIAO report demand immediate focus from NI Executive

27 February 2024 Business Environment Procurement Infrastructure

 CEF comment on the publication of the NI Audit Office’s follow-up report on Major Capital Projects

Commenting on the publication of the NI Audit Office’s follow-up report on Major Capital Projects, Mark Spence, Chief Executive of the Construction Employers Federation, said:

“The NIAO follow-up report is a stark reminder to the returning Executive of the need for immediate focus on how the public sector seeks to commission, procure and deliver major capital projects. 

“While the period since the previous report’s last publication has, unquestionably, been one of major challenge in this space given the pandemic, the unprecedented period of inflation and material shortages and the lack of an Executive, it remains the case that much still needs to be done to ensure value for public money and enable greater confidence within the construction industry as to the pipeline and deliverability of major schemes. 

“Many of the concerns and frustrations we identified in evidence to the NIAO in 2019 and the Assembly’s PAC in 2020 remain – however, in working collaboratively with the construction industry, we believe there are clear and deliverable solutions. 

“These must include:

  • The agreement of multi-year capital budgets to give funding certainty to both Government Departments and the construction industry;
  • The publication of a funded pipeline of works which flows from a multi-year financial settlement;
  • Utilisation of a broader range of procurement approaches and forms of public contract which seek to incentivise contractors rather than penalise them;
  • Fundamental reform to a planning system which, at this stage, the industry has little confidence in and;Establishment of an independent Infrastructure Commission for NI which, in part, can look to how we seek to end this never-ending cycle of wholly avoidable mistakes.

“These solutions are even more urgent given that, as we approach the beginning of the 2024/25 financial year, the Executive’s capital budget of £1.8bn is the same in cash terms as it was some 17 years ago. Notwithstanding welcome recent announcements related to additional funding from several City and Growth Deals and the Irish Government, Ministers need to speedily address how they can grow the capital budget as that will be fundamental to the delivery of many of the key projects and infrastructure plans which are likely to form part of any Programme for Government”.

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