Northern Ireland public-procurement policy requires that all procurement is undertaken by a centre of procurement expertise. The Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) acted as the centre of procurement expertise in the procurement of a private-sector delivery partner for the Maze/Long Kesh regeneration site, using the competitive dialogue process.
Public procurement must comply with The Public Contracts Regulations 2006. The competitive dialogue process is one of the procedures that can be used to lead to the award of a public contract that is compliant with the regulations. The CPD advised the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, the Strategic Investment Board (SIB), and their legal advisers in the preparation of the tender documentation. The CPD also administered the procurement process.
Will the Minister join with me in commending the CPD’s work in that particular procurement exercise, particularly the building in of a pain/gain mechanism that will ensure that the private sector will bear the burden of risk? As a consequence, the figure of £379 million that was quoted in the press can be halved, and further tens of millions can be wiped off that for the cost of regeneration at the Maze.
I am happy to hear what the Member said about the role of the CPD, and I concur with his view about the excellent work that that body has done. It had no input into the development of business cases for the projects, or any involvement in the business-case assessment. The Member and the House will, of course, be aware that a preferred bidder has not yet been appointed and that the procurement process is therefore still live. Detailed information on the bids cannot therefore be made public at this stage, as to do so would be in breach of procurement rules.
Perhaps the Minister will give some indication of how many millions of pounds of public money have already been spent on the Maze/Long Kesh project. Does he agree that the divisions in his party on the Maze project are another indication that a huge economic and social opportunity is being lost in favour of what some see as the DUP acting out of short-term political necessity?
It never surprises me when the Member seeks to ask such a question. Facts are stubborn. The fact is that the outline business cases that were produced by the accounting officers in OFMDFM and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) have concluded that a value-for-money case has not been demonstrated for the scale of public expenditure that is involved in the proposals that they sent to my Department. In those circumstances, there is nothing to approve since no unqualified recommendation has been received from either Department.
In order to inform future Executive considerations of the proposals, DFP has produced a strategic analysis of the material that the two Departments provided. All of the facts and figures that DFP analysed and quoted came directly from the material that was supplied by the two Departments concerned. Therefore, conclusions that were reached by the officials and accounting officer in DCAL, their counterparts in OFMDFM and officials in DFP all concur on the value-for-money position. Therefore, when the Member has sat down and read the documents, got the facts into her head and realised what the factual position is, perhaps she can come up with a more sensible question next time.
Given the requirement that the Maze site be developed for community use, will the Minister outline what the likely cost of regeneration would be without the stadium, as opposed to with the stadium, and thereby give the House an indication of the real cost of a stadium at the Maze?
So far, the Department has received outline business cases from DCAL and OFMDFM. In a previous answer, I explained the position as regards those outline business cases. It is highly unusual that they should be put forward without a recommendation on value for money. Nevertheless, the Department will consider all of the options carefully. It is absolutely essential that the tremendous and valuable site at the Maze should be regenerated and used for the benefit of the local community and the wider community of Northern Ireland. There is a fantastic opportunity, which we want to realise as quickly as possible. We will do so on the basis of all of the facts and available information. Ministers will make the final decision.