To ask the Minister for Transport the steps he is taking to ensure that the tax payer receives value for money in relation to the construction and acquisition costs for major roads and public transport projects.
- Brendan Howlin. (Nominated by: Róisín Shortall).
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 6th December, 2006.
Ref No: 41663/06
Answered by Minister for Transport
(Martin Cullen TD)
I am satisfied that the investment that has taken place over recent years in upgrading our road and public transport infrastructure represents good value for money.
The position as regards national roads is that as Minister for Transport, I have overall responsibility for policy and funding in relation to the National Roads Programme. However, in accordance with the Roads Act 1993 the implementation of the projects which make up the programme including measures to ensure that these projects are delivered on time and in budget are a matter for the National Roads Authority (NRA) in conjunction with the relevant local authorities concerned.
My Department's main focus in monitoring the progress of the national roads programme is to ensure that it meets the overall policy priorities and targets set down in Transport 21. In addition my Department has a role in ensuring that appropriate arrangements are in place for programme/project management and cost estimation and control so that the programme can be delivered in accordance with best practice value for money principles. This is achieved through a number of different methods ranging from day-to-day liaison with the Authority; the submission of regular formal progress reports to my Department and regular meetings of senior officials of the NRA and my Department.
In addition it should be noted that the NRA must also comply with the Department of Finance's Value for Money Framework for Public Expenditure and Guidelines/Regulations relating to Capital Appraisal, Procurement and Public Private Partnership. This includes the requirement to undertake detailed financial and economic appraisals for each major individual scheme.
In recent years, at the behest of my Department, a greater emphasis has been placed in the NRA on improving their cost estimation and control measures. As a result a welcome trend of projects being delivered on time and within budget has developed. So far this year 12 of the 14 projects already completed have come in on time and in budget. In fact a number of projects were not only delivered on time but were also delivered comfortably ahead of their original schedules. These include the N15 Ballshannon/Bundoran Bypass (three months ahead of schedule), N2 Ashbourne Bypass (four months ahead of schedule), N8 Rathcormac Fermoy Bypass (eight months ahead) and the N25 Kinsale Road Interchange (six months ahead).
All major capital investments in public transport are subject to rigorous appraisal procedures, ensuring that the need for each project and the options for delivering it are established with the objective of maximising value-for-money. Major rail projects are now being delivered on time and within budget.
Progress on projects is monitored through regular reporting by, and meetings with, the implementing agencies and through technical and financial audits of a selection of projects by independent consultants.
As well as the monitoring arrangements set out above I have established a Group to monitor the implementation of the Transport 21 Investment Framework. This Group comprises senior officials from my Department, the Departments of Finance, Taoiseach and Environment, Heritage and Local Government, as well as the National Development Finance Agency. My Department chairs the Group and the Chief Executives of each of the implementing agencies attend the meetings. The Committee meets regularly to oversee the implementation of Transport 21, in accordance with the Government Decision approving Transport 21.
The key functions of the Monitoring Group are to -
Monitor the implementation of projects provided for in Transport 21, with particular reference to compliance with the Department of Finance's Capital Appraisal Guidelines and the Value for Money Indicators,
Review on-going programme progress using information supplied by Endorse an audit regime for the Transport 21 framework,
Submit an annual progress report of progress to Government on the implementation of Transport 21.
I am satisfied that the arrangements in place for the appraisal, approval and monitoring of projects is sufficiently robust to ensure that value for money is secured.