While I have responsibility for public procurement policy, my Department does not procure public works contracts and has no role in invigilating the procurement process of the national children’s hospital project. It is the relevant sanctioning and contracting authority that has responsibility for the management of the tendering process for a public works contract and the administration of the contract once it is awarded.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform requires those charged with the delivery of public works projects to comply with the Public Spending Code and the Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF).
The Department of Health, as the accountable Department for the Children’s Hospital Project, established the reporting and governance arrangements for the project through which the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board (NPHDB) provides regular updates to it on the project.
The roles of the Chief Procurement Officer and the Government Contracts Committee for Construction (GCCC) in the project are set out below.
The Chief Procurement Officer was appointed in a personal capacity to the NPHDB in 2013 for a five year term by the then Minister for Health. He was re-appointed in 2018 by the current Minister for Health. The members of the NPHDB, in line with Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies and the Board’s own Code of Governance, have a fiduciary duty to the Board in the first instance, a responsibility to act collectively in decision making and communication, and an obligation to observe its confidentiality arrangements.
The responsibility for construction procurement policy and the associated Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF) lies with the Office of Government Procurement (OGP). Government policy requires the use of the CWMF on all projects delivered under the Exchequer-funded element of the public capital programme. The public works contract is a key component of the CWMF and is a lump-sum fixed-price contract which is to be used on all public works projects.
It is possible for public bodies to seek a derogation from the use of the standard forms of contract from the GCCC. The GCCC is a consultative forum for the discussion and development of policy in the tendering and contracting of all aspects of construction projects. Membership of the committee includes representatives of all the main capital spending bodies and it possesses considerable expertise across the different sectors of activity in the construction industry. The OGP provides the Chair and the Secretariat to the Committee.
The NPHDB commenced their formal engagement with the GCCC in May 2014 with a view to securing such a derogation. The GCCC supported the principle of the proposed strategy.
It is important to note that a derogation does not sanction the approach or strategy of the Contracting Authority, but simply acknowledges that the circumstances are such as to warrant a different approach than the standard. It is a matter for the Contracting Authority and the Sanctioning Authority to satisfy themselves as to the adequacy of the approach with regards to compliance with procurement rules and project appraisal in accordance with the Public Spending Code.