The National Development Plan (NDP) published in October 2021 represented the largest such plan in the history of the State. The initial period of its rollout will be pivotal in consolidating the progress already made, and most importantly, in delivering the infrastructure to support our future climate, social, and economic requirements, writes Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath TD.
Effectively delivering on investment of this magnitude requires the necessary capacity in our construction sector, delivery-focused oversight and governance structures, the adoption of technology and sound public policy.
We have already put in place numerous reforms to support delivery, governance, and the implementation of capital projects and programmes. We have included professionals from industry early in the project lifecycle process to provide additional insight to support a rigorous decision-making process.
In December 2021, I announced the introduction of the new External Assurance Process (EAP) for major capital projects which allows independent external experts to scrutinise investment projects. To support the EAP, I have also established a new Major Projects Advisory Group (MPAG). The first meeting of the MPAG took place in January and will bring on board independent experts to further strengthen project management and support my department in its project assurance role.
The Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board, the core function of which is to track the delivery of projects, is comprised of the secretaries general of the main capital spending departments. There will almost certainly be delivery challenges as we ramp up investment. To respond to these challenges, the Board will focus on the delivery of infrastructure projects on time and on budget. The Government also provided in the NDP for the addition of up to five external members to the Board to bring additional expert knowledge and an enhanced challenge function to the deliberations of the Board.
“The revised NDP published by the Government is a robust and ambitious plan that will have a transformative impact on this country’s climate, economic and social development.”
— Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath TD
Along with these reforms, we will continue to report on project delivery through the work of the National Investment Office (NIO) in my department. The NIO will collate data on the planning and delivery of projects through the MyProjectIreland investment tracker. Our publicly available and detailed tracker provides information on over 350 major capital projects across all regions and highlights the pipeline and progress of such projects. This monitoring is intended to show taxpayers that we are achieving value for money and improving project delivery.
Capacity and digital adoption
Strengthening our governance and oversight structures is only one part of the measures we need to take. Ensuring that capacity in the construction sector is available to meet demands is one of our primary objectives for 2022. A competitive, dynamic, and sustainable construction sector is needed to build the infrastructure promised by our ambitious NDP. The Innovation and Digital Adoption Subgroup, as part of the wider Construction Sector Group (CSG), will play an active role in promoting this necessary initiative.
Following consultation with members of the CSG, several cross-cutting issues will be tackled in 2022. These include the improvement of procurement, the supporting of innovation and digital adoption through the Build Digital Project and the better engaging with government departments to put in place the required skills and expertise.
Innovation and digital adoption within the construction sector are being supported with a range of actions to be delivered using the Government’s collaborative approach and through continued engagement with industry representatives via the CSG.
One such action is to improve delivery using digital technologies. In November 2021, I announced that a consortium led by TU Dublin would be awarded €2.5 million in grant funding over a five-year period to deliver the Build Digital Project. This project will provide guidance and leadership on the digital tools, standards and training required across the construction sector to increase productivity and sustainability.
The Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund (DTIF) is a €500 million fund being rolled out over the 10-year period of the NDP. A total of €235 million has been allocated to 72 projects over the three DTIF calls to date. The deadline for applications for a fourth call was 10 February 2022.
Enterprise Ireland, through the actions of the CSG Innovation and Digital Adoption Subgroup, will also establish a Construction Technology Centre in 2022 to identify the optimal consortium of research performing organisations in the Irish ecosystem that will deliver productivity and sustainability for the Irish construction sector.
In addition, the Supporting Excellence Action Team (SEAT) report, published alongside the NDP, examined the capability of the public service to deliver a large-scale capital programme. The 34 actions included in the report will all be progressed in 2022 with the aim of boosting delivery capability in individual sectors, supporting excellence from the centre and improving coordination to support excellence on a system wide basis. Examples of measures include the development of the Office of Government Procurement’s Commercial Skills Academy, the further enhancement of our public procurement framework, as well as the introduction of new legal and planning reforms.
The revised NDP published by the Government is a robust and ambitious plan that will have a transformative impact on this country’s climate, economic and social development. Our focus now must be on effective delivery of this investment. 2022 is a pivotal year in bringing forward critical reforms to remove bottlenecks in the system and to build capacity in both the public sector and private industry.
An innovative, dynamic, and responsive construction sector will be crucial in the delivery of the NDP. I will continue to support and engage with the sector to sharpen our focus on delivery throughout 2022 and help ensure success in our common endeavour. I am confident that working together we will meet the needs of our citizens in a way that supports our climate ambitions and our economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.