Will the introduction of an external assurance and review process assist with the delivery of major infrastructure projects on time and on budget?

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (“DPER”) recently published a request for tender (“RFT”) for the establishment of a framework of external experts to undertake an external assurance and review process (“EAP”) on major public investment projects.

The EAP will be utilised for major infrastructure projects estimated to cost in excess of €100 million.

The RFT reflects a commitment made by DPER in the National Development Plan Phase 1 Report 2021 (the “National Development Plan Review”) to strengthen the assurance process for major public investment projects to provide for more structured scrutiny.

The update of the Public Spending Code in 2019 (regarding the provisions relating to improved governance and assurance for major public investment projects) combined with lessons learned from domestic projects and international best practice highlighted the need for more structured scrutiny of major public investment projects, particularly in the areas of planned delivery, costing and risk.

DPER noted in the National Development Plan Review that domestic and international evidence consistently shows that the greatest impact on improving project outcomes comes from careful project preparation, and external reviews from an independent party can be instrumental to enable good project and investment governance.

In summary, in order to provide more structured scrutiny which will ensure that the Government has better evidence in considering its decisions on major infrastructure projects going forward, DPER intends to introduce an independent external review at two major decision gates in the project lifecycle:

  1. When the preferred delivery option to achieve the objective is chosen (i.e. at the approval in principle stage); and
  2. Before a decision is taken as to whether or not to approve a project to go to tender (i.e. at the pre-tender stage).

The focus of the EAP will be on the robustness of planned delivery, accuracy of cost forecasts, consideration of risk and appropriateness of governance and procurement strategies.

The type of skills required to conduct the EAP include expertise in major project delivery, stakeholder management, risk assessment and management, major project development, commercial leadership, appraisal of major projects and project management. Further detail is provided in the RFT, available here.

The RFT is expected to be established in early Q3 2021 and will run for a period of three years. A circular identifying the new requirements in the Public Spending Code is expected to be issued in early Q4 2021.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact our projects team.

 

Article written with the assistance of Sallie Shipsey.

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