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Government infrastructure boss shuts down calls for NIC statutory powers

3090770 parliament

A senior figure within the government’s infrastructure authority has shut down calls for the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) to be given statutory powers which would allow it to decide which major public infrastructure projects can go ahead.

Infrastructure Project Authority (IPA) director of strategy and policy Hala Audi has dismissed the prospect of giving NIC statutory powers as “completely unnecessary”.

It comes after the ICE called for greater authority for the NIC in its State of the nation report.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Hala said: “There is nothing wrong with it in theory. However, I think that it is completely unnecessary in adding reform after reform.

She added: “I think the system works fine as it is and it is a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.”

Instead Audi called for better time and cost estimates for infrastructure proects and urged senior figures to remain in position for longer.

She said: “The IPA is worried about people in high positions moving on quite quickly, we are worried that too many chief executives and board level members move on after a short spell in the job.

“I worry about executives leaving half way through a project to take up something with more money, and what impact that will have on the project’s continuity.”

Despite Audi’s dismissal, industry figures have largely backed the ICE’s calls for NIC statutory powers.

Infracaptial greenfield director Andy Matthews said that it sounded like a good idea as it would give investors more confidence in backing infrastructure projects.

“Giving the NIC a statutory footing sounds like a good idea,” Matthews said. “It keeps the market stable if and when government changes.”

He added: “In my job, I always get asked by investors about the next election and what impact it could have on particular projects.

“If it turns red [Labour], the projects may be scrapped in favour of re-nationalising everything, and so investors are wary due to political changes.

“So I would like to see the NIC have a statutory footing if it protects projects and allows for more long term forecasts.” 

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