Not at all. Obviously the fossil fuels Bill is going through the Houses as we speak and we have been working closely with the various committees on that.
To touch on the National Development Finance Agency, it is involved in direct procurement, public private partnerships, PPPs, and advising Departments in terms of financial value for money. The PPP that people are probably most conscious of at the moment is what we call "schools bundle 5", which has been affected by the Carillion collapse. That has been an extraordinary story for the UK with huge implications for jobs and a vast number of projects right across different sectors. Thankfully, in Ireland Carillion was only involved in one PPP in addition to a number of other smaller projects. The collapse did indeed cause very significant difficulties and complications for that PPP project. Ultimately, a number of the schools are likely to be completed, three of them hopefully by this school term, which was in doubt at various stages. Hopefully that looks likely to happen, which is a positive. The other schools will be delayed but works will start in the next couple of quarters.
As to what happened, what it means and what the lessons are, I think probably there are two things to take away. The first concerns the bundling of different projects to make a scale project suitable for a PPP. In PPPs generally, private capital wants a scale project. For example, we have bundled 14 primary care centres in a group, and we have also put a group of courthouses together to attract capital. Smaller projects will not attract that kind of capital, so we have bundled some. However, unbundling in the event of a failure of one of the counterparties proved to be very difficult. It has been managed, maybe just in time, but I think we will have to look at contracts involving bundled projects to ensure we have a better mechanism to separate them in the event of one of the counterparties failing.
The second consequence is potentially higher pricing in PPPs and procurement in general. There are still inquiries and lot of new reports coming out of the UK which we are watching closely. However, from the surface analysis, it seems that Carillion was serially underpricing contracts and the margin was too tight, which ultimately got it into trouble. There may be a recalibration in public procurement contracts of the price versus the strength of the counterparty and its ability to get the project done at the end of the day. I suspect that stronger counterparties and stronger balance sheets will prevail and will have an advantage. That may or may not be right. Ultimately, they will charge a price for their counterparty strength, which could mean prices rising in both direct and PPPs. That already seems to be happening in the UK.
The UK seems to have a specific exposure in aggregate to Carillion as a counterparty and that appears to be a big issue over there. I am wondering if Ireland has such an aggregated counterparty list. Should we have one? Are there companies to which the sovereign has a total counterparty risk - companies that are doing projects here, there and everywhere? Is there an aggregate list showing the top ten counterparties with which the sovereign currently has contracts? Should there be a limit on the State's exposure to any one counterparty rather than another? I think that is proven in retrospect in the UK, which would probably say it was too exposed, as a state, to one single counterparty. That is something we might take a look at and take forward proactively.
The other business that the NTMA is in charge of is NewERA, which is a corporate finance advisory business to commercial semi-State companies, and it produces its annual report which is about governance and shareholder value and having all of the State's shareholding in one place with the same metrics, governance structures, reporting and key performance indications, KPIs. I suppose a measure of confidence in the work that NewERA is doing is that it is getting a lot of additions to its portfolio and being asked to provide additional advice for various Departments. Recently all of the transport assets of the State were added to NewERA's portfolio as designated bodies and An Post has also been added. I can see NewERA developing as essentially a custodian - a single place where all of the State's assets and exposures are held in one place, analysed and subject to governance on behalf of the various Departments. That seems to be growing.
The Committee of Public Accounts is all too familiar with the business of the SCA. I am sure members will have questions for Mr. Ciarán Breen on the update. It is a big business now. It manages claims for 150 different agencies, and is dealing currently with 10,000 claims, 80% of which are non-clinical. The total contingent liability is substantial, somewhere between €2.5 billion and €3 billion. It is a significant business. The Houses of the Oireachtas are asking the agency, through the mandate it has given to us to walk that delicate line between watching out for taxpayer's money and being sensitive to the difficult and tragic circumstances that victims often find themselves in. It is a difficult balance and the staff of the agency walk it every day. It is a difficult mandate for somebody.
That covers my statement and I am happy to take questions.