Skills Deficit: Senior Civil Servants

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:30 pm, 25th February 2020

T7. Mrs D Kelly asked the Minister of Finance, given that he will be aware of a number of critical reports on the capital build project skills deficit among senior civil servants, whether he has had any discussions about this and what action he intends to take to address the issue. (AQT 147/17-22)

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

I am aware of the Audit Office report on capital projects, which is critical to delivery. We always have lessons to learn when an Audit Office report comes out. As a former member of the Public Accounts Committee, I am aware of the work that goes into its reports. The Procurement Board, which I chair, will meet on 1 April, and I intend to have the Audit Office report discussed at the meeting, after which I will direct the Procurement Board to commence a review of the role of procurement in delivering major capital projects, because that is the responsibility of my Department. Other Departments are involved in a range of issues, but procurement has a key role to play. I want to ensure that the Department of Finance plays its role.

Photo of Dolores Kelly Dolores Kelly Social Democratic and Labour Party

Will the Minister elaborate on whether the Strategic Investment Board has a role to play in the delivery of capital projects, given the underspend that there has been to date?

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

The Strategic Investment Board will provide advice to all Departments. It has key experience of doing that. Where we find a skills deficit such as that which you outlined, and if the Audit Office report clearly identifies a skills deficit as one of the failings, we should address it. Skills can be supplemented in part through those that exist on the Strategic Investment Board, but, for others, we may need to look outside. We will try to ensure that we can recruit people with those skills. My Department has already been in discussion with the Strategic Investment Board, and I am sure that other Departments that are criticised over capital projects will be in touch with it as well, because it is a source of advice for everyone.