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Tue March 31 2020

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Ireland boosts oversight of transport projects

15 Jan Ireland is to strengthen the oversight of public transport projects as the country embarks on several multi-billion-euro schemes.

“Project Ireland 2040 allocates €8.6 billion [£7.4bn] toward transforming sustainable mobility in Ireland, whether we travel by foot, bike, bus, train or light rail,” said minister for transport, tourism and sport Shane Ross. “Among the projects planned in the next few years, BusConnects, Dart Expansion and MetroLink are all multi-billion euro investments which will require careful oversight to ensure value for money for the taxpayer as they are delivered in the coming years.

“That’s why I’ve made some significant improvements to how my department currently oversees the delivery of public transport projects by the relevant state bodies. I want to ensure our departmental oversight structures and processes complement the massive increases in funding and activity we are now seeing.”

All public expenditure must comply with the recently revised Public Spending Code which sets out the value for money requirements for the evaluation, planning and management of public investment projects in Ireland. It also gives details of the roles and responsibilities of government, departments and state bodies in relation to the expenditure of taxpayers’ money.

In line with the Public Spending Code, the National Transport Authority (NTA) will be the designated Approving Authority for each of the three public transport ‘megaprojects’ – BusConnects, Dart Expansion and MetroLink. In the case of Dart Expansion and MetroLink, the NTA will work with the relevant sponsoring Agencies - Iarnród Éireann (Dart) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (MetroLink) – as they deliver the projects.

Government approval will be required at certain key ‘decision gates’. In 2020 the first of these Government Decision Gates will be reached for each of the projects with the submission of preliminary business cases.

Ross added: “I want to ensure that when government is asked to make significant decisions in relation to each of these projects, those decisions are informed by independent, expert technical advice. To ensure that is the case, my department has entered into arrangements with Jaspers, an agency jointly established and funded by the European Commission and European Investment Bank, to ensure that each of the business cases are independently reviewed by them prior to any recommendation being made to Government.

“Furthermore, I want to ensure my department is assisted in its oversight of the investment programme over the next few years by independent experts to support the department in providing the appropriate level of challenge and oversight as these projects are delivered by the responsible state bodies.

“So we will look to appoint two independent persons – one person with senior executive level experience in transport infrastructure development and one person with similar levels of experience in the area of governance generally – to each of the two departmental oversight groups we propose to establish.”

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