18 April 2008
The Welsh Assembly Government is to set up a pan-public sector body to manage capital projects in the country to tackle delays and cost overruns, Andrew Davies has told Public Finance.
Wales' minister for finance and public service delivery said the Strategic Capital Investment Board will control around £500m of the country's £5bn capital investment budget, roughly 10%, over the next three years.
That proportion will increase if it proves a success, Davies told PF, and lead to greater pooling of capital budgets right across the public sector. It is the first time in the UK that public sector capital budgets have been combined on such an ambitious scale.
He said the SCIB will tackle skills shortages in areas such as procurement and project management and ensure that infrastructure schemes have robust, properly costed business cases.
'We are introducing a rigorous finance system that will allow us to have a clear idea of what we are spending money on, and a clear focus on outcomes,' Davies said. 'It's a better and more joined-up approach that will deliver much better value for the Welsh taxpayers' pound.'
Welsh public bodies, including local authorities, will bid for funding from the SCIB and will be expected to use a single methodology, known as the 'five-model business case'. Davies said this process, which involves testing proposals against stringent criteria, would ensure the best possible use of public funds.
The board will also take a broader overview of infrastructure planning in Wales to ensure that organisations in different parts of the public sector are not duplicating capital projects or failing to co-operate on complementary schemes.
'How we've used our capital budget has been quite fragmented in the past and hasn't always given us value for money. This is all about taking a more unified, strategic approach.'
The WAG has previously identified weaknesses in relation to capital schemes, including a failure to clearly identify objectives at the outset and shortcomings in project management.
Davies said that if the board is successful in remedying these problems there could be further moves towards a centralised function, saying it would 'depend on how this works out'.
The minister is setting up an independent advisory panel of experts to advise the SCIB, drawn from the business sector. The intention is to harness their expertise and gain greater access to private capital and corporate finance.