Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) has questioned the government’s decision to remove the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station from its Major Projects Portfolio.
Hinkley Point C was identified as one of over 300 projects that the NAO believes could have been prematurely removed from the Major Projects Portfolio, in the NAO’s Projects leaving the Government Major Projects Portfolio report.
Run by the Infrastructure Project Authority (IPA), the Major Projects Portfolio logs the strategic priorities and objectives of the biggest government-supported infrastructure projects. As of September 2017, the Portfolio consisted of 133 projects with whole life costs totalling £420bn and benefits of £650bn.
In total 302 projects were removed from the portfolio by the IPA between April 2011 and September 2017. The NAO has expressed concerns about the timing of the removal of these projects.
“The NAO found that the [Infrastructure Project] Authority lacks complete information about why these projects left and what they had delivered by the time of their departure, making it difficult to determine whether projects left at the right time and for the right reasons,” the NAO report reads.
“Poor records and incomplete reporting also reduce transparency, increasing the risk and perception that projects are removed inappropriately.”
The study considers whether there is evidence that projects that have left the Government Major Projects Portfolio have delivered their intended benefits and whether accountability for, and transparency of, major project delivery has improved.
Hinkley Point C was identified as one of five projects that the government “was responsible for enabling investment, not for delivering the required infrastructure or system”.
The nuclear power station was removed from the portfolio when the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial strategy had “achieved its objectives of identifying investors and signing a construction contract”.
However, the report concludes that the government still shoulders accountability for the project despite removing it from the portfolio.
“It would be inappropriate to conclude that the project’s removal from the Portfolio means the wider project of Hinkley Point C is complete,” the report states. “The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy remains the project sponsor, and is responsible for continuing oversight and ongoing monitoring of the developer and has risks to manage.”
Other projects examined as part of the study, include Tideway and the Department for Transport’s Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Government is delivering a bold and ambitious portfolio of major projects, which is realising our priorities and modernising public services.
“As the NAO recognises, we’ve made significant advances in capturing and measuring project benefits and are using this data to drive improved performance across government.”
Like what you’ve read? To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here.