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Delivering the Infrastructure Provisions of the National Development Plan 2000 - 2006 Best Practice Guidelines for Project Implementation



The following "Best Practice" guidelines were drafted as part of the Framework for Action on Infrastructural Development, including Public Private Partnerships which has been approved by the Government. They provide a framework for the implementation of project management to the best available standards across all sectors and projects. They are intended to act as an overall statement of best practice and to build on and complement the existing good practice in operation.

The Guidelines are intended to ensure consistency in project management in relation to infrastructure delivery and for this reason, they focus specifically on project management techniques in each phase of the project. They are not a full statement of the duties of project managers and, in particular, it is assumed that health and safety standards and good industrial relations practices which fully comply with all statutory and other obligations will be applied.


The accelerated level of infrastructural investment provided for in then National Development Plan will place increasing demands on implementing agencies. The financial allocations for projects will take account of this factor. The need to remain within the financial parameters for the project should be kept clearly in view. All implementing and other agencies should continually review the deployment of resources to ensure maximum possible effectiveness. The option of pooling resources between implementing agencies where appropriate should also be pursued.

Quality management should form an integral part of the project management process. The relevant agency should be in a position to show that all due processes have been complied with. The quality management process should also cover the approvals and decision procedures within each agency or authority which has licensing, decision or approval powers in respect of the project.  

Preparatory Phase Recommendations

Consideration of each project should take account of the Guidelines for the Appraisal and Management of Capital Expenditure Proposals in the Public Sector which were issued by the Department of Finance in July 1994 and the Working Rules for Cost-Benefit Analysis published by the CSF Evaluation Unit of the Department of Finance.

For each project, or an appropriate grouping of projects, the implementing agency should establish a dedicated project planning team with an experienced full time project manager and adequate personnel with relevant skills, expertise and experience. Project teams can comprise agency staff or consultants or a combination of both. The need for adequate public relations and legal expertise is particularly important.

The most appropriate size of the project needs to be clearly defined. Larger projects may be more appropriate in a PPP context. However, it is also important that the size of the project is defined by reference to its complexity. If a project is too big and too complex this may add to delay.

The implementing agency and funding body should establish clear and effective decision making structures from the inception of project planning right through to the completion of construction. The monitoring and oversight arrangements required by Departments should be critically reviewed so as to ensure that they are the absolute minimum necessary and that they do not unnecessarily divert planning resources or duplicate other monitoring arrangements.

Implementing agencies, and funding bodies, should ensure that adequate financial resources are allocated each year to the planning of infrastructure projects and prioritised to avoid wasting resources on projects which may not eventually proceed.

Each project should have an adequate and clearly defined budget, with an adequate contingency provision. It is essential that there is sufficient budgetary flexibility within overall agreed allocations to ensure that essential modifications arising from the public consultation or environmental impact assessment process can be taken onboard. Adequate cost control procedures should be in place to ensure that changes are not taken as an invitation to escalate project costs but as a prudent measure to address concerns before they become a major delaying factor during the approval process.

Each project should have a clearly defined set of indicators to enable cost comparison across projects and to enable the measurement of progress on the project during its execution.

Public consultation should be thorough and well managed. It should be approached with an open mind and a preparedness to modify the project where appropriate. It should be well resourced with skilled personnel who can address the issues raised. It should be focused and work within a tightly defined timetable.

Public advocacy of individual projects needs to be properly resourced, well prepared and effectively managed by the implementing agency. It is vitally important that the purpose of the proposed project be clearly explained to the general public and opinion formers and that objections to the project and concerns about it are quickly and effectively addressed. In certain cases, it may be appropriate to appoint a project champion who will be the public face of the project. Well planned engagement with non-governmental organisations, particularly those with roles laid down in legislation, should form an integral part of the management of the project.

Each major project should have a thorough environmental assessment which identifies and addresses all significant impacts on the environment. There should be full co-operation between the relevant environmental agencies and the project team to ensure that potential impacts are identified as early as possible in the planning process for the project. Environmental agencies should ensure that they provide sufficient resources to do this.

Where additional resources are required for this purpose, reasonable, appropriate and properly documented costs can be charged to the project.

Similarly, implementing agencies should co-operate fully with statutory agencies and utilities to identify and address issues as early as possible in the planning process. Adequate resources with overall agreed allocations should be allocated to ensure this and reasonable, appropriate and properly documented additional costs incurred by the agencies or utilities can be charged to the projects.

It may be appropriate to establish a utilities group to co-ordinate the approach to utilities on certain major projects. Clear criteria should be developed as to the costing and charging of utilities works and clear rules should be established in relation to allocation of costs arising from the betterment of utilities.

Approval Phase Recommendations

The implementing agency should allocate adequate and appropriately skilled resources to the preparation and presentation of its case for statutory approval. The documentation supporting the application needs to be of high quality, adequately set out the case for the project and properly address the likely environmental impact. The technical and legal team presenting the case for the project need to be adequately resourced and well prepared and briefed.

An Bord Pleanala should ensure that the inspector appointed to conduct an inquiry or hearing into a major project is, wherever possible, assigned on a full-time basis until his/her work is completed. The Bord should ensure that it has adequate legal resources to prepare the necessary legal documentation arising from its decisions, which in some cases will be significantly different to that used for planning appeal decisions.

Implementing agencies and An Bord Pleanala should establish dedicated legal / administrative teams to manage legal actions in respect of infrastructural projects in a proactive manner. Such cases must be pursued by the public authorities in a much more focused and proactive way than has been the practice to date, with a particular emphasis on compliance with timetables set by the Rules of the Superior Courts or in Court Orders.

Implementation Phase Recommendations

Implementing agencies must ensure, as far as possible, that a project is ready to proceed immediately the necessary statutory approval comes into force.This will involve the completion of designs and the preparation of contract documents in parallel with the approval process. It will also require the project team to attempt to anticipate the conditions to be attached to the approval, having regard to the evidence heard at the inquiry or hearing. Such an approach involves a risk that some of the work done may subsequently have to be modified or set aside. However, the balance of advantage normally favours taking this risk.

At an early stage in the planning of major projects, the project planning team should undertake a risk assessment to decide on the appropriate level of investigation of geological and ground conditions and other technical factors which might delay the construction process. The earliest possible consultation of the state agencies responsible for environmental and heritage protection should be ensured.

A public private partnership approach should be adopted wherever it will accelerate the implementation of a particular project and represent better value for money over the full life cycle of the project. The most appropriate form of PPP (ranging from design and build to design, build, finance and operate) should be adopted having regard to the particular circumstances of the individual project.

The Cross Departmental Team on Infrastructural Development and Public Private Partnerships. Department of the Taoiseach, February 2000

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