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Procurement shake up looms


HIGHWAYS AGENCY officials have said the Nichols report will herald 'a new agenda' with a major focus on cost estimating.

Transport secretary Douglas Alexander commissioned Nichols Group chairman Mike Nichols to review the Highways Agency approach to cost estimating and project management last year.

His brief was to make recommendations on how the agency should best assess, monitor and report on risks to its cost estimates. His report was expected before Christmas but is now expected to be published later this month.

Alexander's move came after the Agency admitted to the Commons transport select committee that spending had been running out of control (NCE 23 February 2006).

The Agency overspent by £314M in the 2001/2002 nancial year, but its recent record is better, with schemes like the M25 widening around Heathrow being brought in on time and on budget.

Speaking to NCE this week, Rowsell said that because of their nature ECI schemes have taken a long time to prove their worth.

'Where we have delivered, the target costs are robust and demonstrably robust because of the open book accounting. If you go back a few years you didn't know the final cost of a scheme for years, and even then you would have no clue where the costs went. You have got to give it time for that data to come through.

'There is a universal acceptance that our principles are the right ones, but within that the detailed ones, and not least cost estimating, we have got to get right, ' he added.

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