Speech to the Capital Projects & Infrastructure Public Spending Code Workshop

22nd February, 2023

The National Development Plan was first launched in 2018 with the revised Plan published in 2021. It is our largest, greenest and most ambitious infrastructure plan to date.


Over the lifetime of this NDP out to 2030, this Government has committed to €165 billion of capital investment in new and upgraded infrastructure that will meet the needs of our growing population.  In 2023, almost €12 billion will fund vital infrastructure in areas such as housing, transport, education, enterprise, sport and climate action.


As a percentage of national income, annual capital investment is now among the largest in the EU.


The NDP, capital expenditure and infrastructural investments are all around us.

It is the Luas, DART or Bus you may have used today, the greenway you cycled at the weekend, the cultural buildings we visit and enjoy, the schools our children are educated in, the flood relief schemes that keep our homes safe, the national broadband plan that keeps us connected.


It is vast and ambitious plan for the future of Ireland.

The importance of the NDP, and the projects contained in the plan, is reflected in the changed mandate of my portfolio, from Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform. A change that reflects the importance of achieving the targets and delivering the projects set out under the NDP.


Delivering value for money on capital projects through the Public Spending Code

Reducing cost and schedule overruns is a vital part of delivering the NDP. With the scale of expenditure planned in the NDP comes increased responsibility to ensure value for money.


This is the core purpose of the Public Spending Code which seeks to appraise projects early in the development stage to ensure that likely risks and costs have been fully considered prior to approval by Government to proceed.


Delivering large scale projects is challenging, whether in the public or private sector. Factors such as scope creep, planning delays, weather etc. are often provided as reasons for overruns on cost or time. The Public Spending Code aims to support better project planning through rigorous and objective analysis and the consideration of appropriate cost forecasting/benchmarking,


The Public Spending Code for capital investment was reviewed and revised in 2019. The key strategic aim of the review was to ensure greater Value for Money for public investment. While many long-standing arrangements for oversight of capital projects remained unchanged, the new arrangements sharpen the focus on risk and cost management, reduce the compliance burden on low-risk projects and bring Ireland into line with leading international approaches to major project delivery.


The PSC also brings external perspectives and experience from previous projects to bear on NDP delivery. The role of the Major Projects Advisory Group (MPAG) is to enhance the development of major public capital investment projects, with the help of qualified experts with extensive experience at senior levels in planning, managing, and delivering major public investment projects.


What further reforms to the Public Spending Code are required in order to speed up delivery of the NDP?

The approach through the PSC has bedded in well over the last three years. There is good engagement on the application of the Code and a range of Departments and agencies have developed sector-specific arrangements within the parameters of the overall Code.


At the same time, concerns have been expressed that the application of the Code may cause unnecessary delays in project implementation under the NDP.


All options across Government to improve delivery and ensure that capital allocations are best utilised, are currently being examined in order to maximise delivery of vital infrastructure such as housing, schools, hospitals, roads and public transport.


It will be the role of my Dept, in collaboration with each of the line departments’ responsible or specific projects, to ensure that obstacles are identified, processes are streamlined and delays are minimised.


A number of initiatives are continuing in the Department to ensure the robust, transparent and considered oversight of public funds through key reforms to the Public Spending Code.


The planned reforms are to be considered by Government in Q1 2023 and then implemented through an update of the capital appraisal guidelines, to be published later this year.


The ambition of the public spending code is more efficient and effective delivery of public projects, better protection of public finances and achievement of our climate goals. Through continued evaluation and improvement of the PSC and the enhanced focus on project delivery, we can achieve the ambitions of the NDP sustainably and successfully.