Minister McGrath introduces new Assurance Process for major capital projects and establishes Advisory Group

Published on: 02 December 2021

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD, has today, 01 December, announced the introduction of the new External Assurance Process for major capital investment projects.This new process will see independent external experts reviewing and scrutinising investment projects.The revised National Development Plan (NDP), published last month, contained a commitment to restructure the oversight and implementation of capital projects and to strengthen scrutiny of major public investment proposals. Delivering on this commitment will ensure that better value for money is achieved and will improve project delivery.In order to achieve this, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has put in place the External Assurance Process to provide independent project scrutiny at key decision gates.Its main purpose is to achieve better value for money by supporting departments and Government with independent expert insight relating to project risks, delivery feasibility, and the robustness of costings, governance and procurement.At the Approval in Principle stage and again at the Pre-Tender Approval stage, the new process for projects which cost in excess of €100m will focus on issues such as cost, risk and ability to deliver. This mandatory process is effective immediately for all funding departments and a panel of experts has been put in place to assist funding departments in progressing projects through the new External Assurance Process.To support the External Assurance Process, a new Major Projects Advisory Group (MPAG) has been established to further strengthen project management and to assist the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in its project assurance role. As a prerequisite to seeking Government approval for projects at the relevant decision gates, project proposals and external reviews will be scrutinised by the MPAG in advance of the decision to proceed. The new arrangements bring Ireland into line with leading international performers and meet a recommendation of the IMF’s Public Investment Management Assessment of Ireland.Minister McGrath announced the appointment of external experts to the MPAG who will complement the public service leadership currently in place and whose appointment will further enhance governance of project delivery:“The Government has provided an unparalleled investment commitment of €165 billion through the recently published National Development Plan (NDP). This investment will support the delivery of more social and affordable homes through the Housing for All plan and the implementation of the Climate Action Plan."Investment projects under the NDP are required to comply with the Public Spending Code but this announcement today goes one step further. The External Assurance Process will allow for independent scrutiny of public projects at key decision-making stages of the project lifecycle which will ensure taxpayer’s money is spent wisely and projects are delivered on time and on budget."Today also sees the establishment of the Major Projects Advisory Group to further support my Department’s role throughout the project assurance process. I am pleased to announce the appointment to the Group of four highly qualified experts with extensive experience at senior levels in planning, managing, and delivering major public investment projects."The implementation of the External Assurance Process and the establishment of Major Projects Advisory Group will help deliver on our commitment in the National Development Plan to reform the oversight and implementation of public infrastructure projects to achieve better value for money.”Minister McGrath TD also announced changes to the Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board which will now include more external members.He added:“In order to bring more independent rigour to the PI2040 Delivery Board, I have begun a competitive process seeking suitably qualified external candidates for membership of the board."Five suitable candidates are being sought and these external members will help bring additional expert knowledge, independent and regional perspectives, and an enhanced challenge function to bear within the deliberations of the Delivery Board.”