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

From Department of Public Expenditure and Reform 
Published on 1 December 2021
Last updated on 1 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 [external-link | 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.”


Notes to Editors:
Major Projects Advisory Group Members:
Michael Nolan – Chair
Michael Nolan has extensive experience in the development of strategic transport infrastructure projects in Ireland. He was appointed as the first Chief Executive of Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in 2015, which merged the National Roads Authority (NRA) and the Railway Procurement Agency. He had worked in increasingly senior positions for the predecessor organisation, the NRA, and held the position of Head of Major Projects and Programme Management between 2007 and 2015. He retired from TII in 2020. Most of his career has been in public service, including working for many years with various local authorities in the delivery of major roads infrastructure. He is a graduate of NUI Galway and Trinity College Dublin, and has graduated with a Masters in Major Programme Management from the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.
Michael has studied leading techniques in risk management of major projects and programmes such as use of Reference Class Forecasting under Professor Bent Flyvbjerg, the world’s leading expert in megaproject management. Michael is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of Engineers Ireland. He is currently Chair of the Western Development Commission’s Project Working Group to develop a Rural Town Mobility Index and an external member of the NTA’s BusConnects Programme Board.
Jerry Grant
With an academic background in engineering and law, Jerry has over 25 years’ experience at Director and Executive Advisor in the Utilities and Construction sectors. Jerry served on the Irish Water Executive team from 2013 to late 2018 with roles including Managing Director, Head of Asset Management and Specialist Advisor.
Jerry continues to hold active leadership roles in State sectors engaged in infrastructure-based services and investment, and is the Chairman of Dublin Port Company . He is also an external member of the Governing Body of the Technological University Dublin and a Director of Sport Ireland.
Alison Hardiman
Alison Hardiman has extensive experience in the development of strategic infrastructure projects in Ireland as a planning and development law expert. She is a qualified lawyer with wide-ranging expertise in relation to strategic infrastructure development within the public and private sector. As a tendering consultant, she also has experience in Irish procurement law and processes.
Alison worked with the Railway Procurement Agency as the Agency’s in-house planning lawyer between 2006 and 2011 working on projects and proposals such as Metro North PPP, Luas Cross City and Citywest. With sponsorship from EirGrid, Alison is currently a PhD candidate researching the gaps in law and policy that inhibit the effective delivery of legally required renewable energy infrastructure projects in Ireland.
Barry O’Driscoll
Barry is a Chartered Civil Engineer with over 25 years’ experience in the national roads and public transport sectors. His extensive and relevant experience in senior positions in the planning, managing, and delivery of major public investment project roles include being Director for a global consultancy, WSP, Director for Highways England’s Smart Motorway Programme since 2016 and Project Director for a series of major projects, the most recent of which is the €1.2bn M4 Smart Motorway.
Barry is also a Member of the Independent Investment Programme Advisory Group (IIPAG), providing independent assurance and expert advice to the Mayor of London concerning Transport for London’s major projects.
Public Spending Code (PSC)
All Irish public bodies are obliged to treat public funds with care, and to ensure that the best possible value for money is obtained whenever public money is being spent or invested.
The Public Spending Code is the set of rules and procedures that ensure that these standards are upheld across the Irish public service.
The update of the Public Spending Code in 2019 highlighted the need for strengthened assurance of major projects over €100m. There are currently over fifty of these in the Exchequer funded element of the NDP.
Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board
The Project Ireland 2040 Delivery Board was established in 2018 and meets regularly to ensure effective leadership of the implementation of the PI2040, which encompasses both the NDP and the National Planning Framework.
The process of enrolling external members to the Delivery Board has commenced on the website.
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