Failing to learn from previous mistakes will threaten the Republic’s €116 billion national development plan, experts warn in a new report.
Governments will spend €116 billion over a decade on roads, public transport, regional development, infrastructure and other projects under a national plan announced in 2018.
However, the Irish Academy of Engineering warns in a new report, Delivering Major Capital Projects, that failing to learn from planning and other mistakes made in previous plans will leave the project struggling.
Tom Leahy, president of the Irish Academy of Engineering, said that the organisation had published the report to “highlight some issues that influenced the successes and failures” of previous projects.
“We still have much to learn in terms of how other countries successfully plan, procure, resource, and manage their major public infrastructure projects,” said Mr Leahy.
Among other recommendations the reports says the Government should streamline public bodies’ planning approval processes to make them cheaper and quicker while continuing to allow for public control and accountability.
The engineers call on the Government to scrutinise its planning laws, including criteria for granting permission and objecting, and access to the Irish and European courts.
The academy also says that when incorporating EU environmental directives into Irish law, the government should include the level of flexibility allowed by each regulation, without compromising their aim of protecting the environment.
Budgeting should also be reviewed, according to the report. It recommends that each project’s approved budget should include not just the construction cost but also elements such as maintenance and risk mitigation.
The academy believes that projects should have a “cost range” that gets reduced through the design stage as risks are quantified and included in the budget.
Similarly, the report argues that project managers should ensure any changes considered during the project are within the approved budget, or within the limits for alterations agreed by the client.
“The approved budget is updated at each key milestone of the project,” the academy’s report recommends.
The document argues that pre-tender discussions between contracting parties should be clear about risks and who carries them .
It calls for public works contracts to be revised to ensure risks are identified, allocated and managed by the appropriate contracting party.
The Irish Academy of Engineering’s members include some of the Republic’s most experienced engineers. The organisation aims to provide independent advice to policy-makers on engineering and technology.