Thursday, 20 June 2019

Questions (4)

Jonathan O'Brien


4. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the capital projects that will be delayed, deferred or cancelled as a result of capital project overruns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25967/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Public)

I refer again to the capital projects which may or may not be delayed or postponed as a result of the recent decision on the national broadband plan.

As the Deputy will be aware, I am responsible for setting the overall five-year multi-annual capital expenditure ceilings, and for allocating these resources across Government Departments. My Department is also subsequently responsible for monitoring expenditure on a monthly basis at a departmental level against these agreed ceilings. Decisions on how and where these allocations are then invested by individual Departments are a matter, in the first instance, for the relevant Minister, in line with the conditions of delegated sanction specified by my Department. It is therefore a matter for individual Ministers to manage their projects within the greatly increased capital ceilings available to them under Project Ireland 2040. As I have previously indicated both in response to Deputy Cowen and at other points, I intend to provide additional capital to ensure the national broadband plan can move ahead, and I stand by the commitments I have made to maintaining projects in other areas. Project Ireland 2040 seeks to reform how public investment is planned and delivered. It sets out an overall vision for Ireland's public capital projects and signals a shift to greater integration in regional investment plans, better co-ordination of strategies, and more rigorous selection and appraisal of projects to secure value for money. A number of decisions have been made within it, relating, in particular, to the work of our delivery board and construction sector group in responding to the various pressures now under way in the delivery of big capital projects.

What we are saying, therefore, is that all the projects that have been publicised will go ahead unless there are delays for reasons other than budgetary ones, such as delays in planning or delays associated with a project just not being ready to commence. Based on what the Minister is saying, all the projects announced will go ahead and none will be cut or postponed for budgetary reasons. The Minister is going to provide the additional capital to meet the shortfall associated with the children's hospital and the national broadband plan. That is what I am taking from the Minister. If it is the case, we require an additional €900 million approximately between now and 2023 to meet the costs of the national children's hospital and national broadband plan. Will additional capital funding be provided without having an effect on projects already announced?

What I am saying is that, as a result of the decisions made on broadband, and in dealing with the national children's hospital, I will not change other projects. The other projects have associated needs, within communities and the country. I want to make sure they move ahead. Projects do not go ahead every year for reasons that have nothing to do with budgetary policy, but this can, in turn, create options for the Government. This is broadly the case in the management of all capital projects and all capital plans.

We have to presume all the projects will go ahead and that none will be delayed, for whatever reason. Some may be delayed because of planning issues but we do not know from month to month how delayed a project may be. Does the Minister know? Does he know how much could be re-profiled for next year? My understanding is that no projects are to be cancelled for budgetary reasons. If so, an additional €900 million, at a maximum, could have to be added to the cost of the capital programme. If this is added to what the Minister has already doubled down this week in terms of tax cuts, it represents a lot of money. He has not indicated where it is coming from yet. That is why there is concern.

The Minister criticises us in the Opposition for fantasy finances and for seeking to spend so much money. He has not indicated where he is going to find all the money in question, however. Therefore, it is not fair to be criticising us for coming up with figures and then not providing the very figures himself.

I have done it for this year in the context of what happened with the national children's hospital. As we moved through the year, we managed to respond regarding the additional funding needs of the hospital and maintain commitments we have made elsewhere.

The national broadband plan will require funding beyond what was included within the capital ceilings. Given the magnitude of that decision and the number of years for which a cost will be incurred, what I have said is the case, and it is what I am going to be honouring. In the run-up to budget 2020, with all its staging posts, I will have to outline how we will come up with the additional funding to deliver on the capital projects. I am confident that, in the context of the very significantly enhanced capital plan we have and our national finances moving into a position of surplus, we will be able to do that.