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Over 120 bids were received from across the public sector, with the total amount requested equating to approximately five times the value of the fund. Allocations were agreed by the Executive as part of the Budget 2015-16. The list of successful bids is published in the Executive's Budget 2015-16. All selected projects have received funding and are at various stages of implementation. A mid-year update on progress has been sought. Spend is being monitored in-year, and evaluations will be completed in 2016-17, as per the 'Northern Ireland Guide to Expenditure Appraisal and Evaluation' guidance.
I am very encouraged by the level of applications to the fund. I recall that, when I was in my previous role as Enterprise Minister, we were able to draw down a significant amount of money to deal with skills in relation to the workforce. So I am hopeful that it will deliver on the aims and objectives that were set out for the fund, which were, of course, to encourage innovation in the public sector; improve integration and collaboration between Departments, arm's-length bodies, the private sector and the third sector; support a decisive shift towards preventive spending with a focus on improving outcomes for citizens; and support transformational change required to sustain medium- to long-term efficiency measures. Those are the aims of the fund, and I am certainly hopeful that the money that we are spending right across the Northern Ireland Civil Service will help us deliver on those aims.