The Committee gave consideration to a report of the Director of Finance which informed them of the Gateway review process for a major capital project, the Alexandra Park Eco Centre. The report provided a specific example of the Council’s governance processes.
Members were informed that the Council had set in place a robust governance process for each of the projects within the Creating a Better Place Programme as well as other major capital schemes. Following a request from the Audit Committee, this report set out how a major project (the Alexandra
Park Eco Centre project) had complied with the governance process. In particular, it presented how the project was managed on a daily/weekly basis, and importantly, the approvals it had been required to obtain as it evolved to the point where a main contractor was about to be appointed.
It was important that a large capital project such as the Alexandra Park Eco Centre was subject to a rigorous governance process, given the large sums of public money that such a project expended.
The governance process included the following:-
· Establishment of a Project Board - The Alexandra Park Eco Centre Project Board met monthly and was chaired by the designated Senior Responsible Officer – the Head of Regeneration and Development. Other members of the Board included the client-side Project Manager and representatives from the Council’s Finance, Legal, Procurement and Environmental Services departments.
· Day to Day/Weekly Management - an officer working group that met on a weekly basis. At those meetings, issues that had arisen over the previous week were discussed and solutions agreed. If necessary, decisions/issues would be referred to the next Project Board meeting.
· Council Approvals – due to the complexity of the Eco Centre project and that projects could not progress without Council approval, approval had to be sought at various stages from a range of sources which included the Head of Regeneration and Development, the Director of Economy (both within their delegated authority levels) and Cabinet. In the run up to Cabinet approval, reports had been considered by various officer groups, the Corporate Property Board, and the Capital Investment Programme Board.
· Gateway Reviews – Strategic Outline and Full Business Cases – in order for the project to progress, both a Strategic Outline and Full Business Case needed to be approved. Each of these were considered by Gateway Panels comprising of senior officers and other staff members who have not had a direct input into the given project. This would allow the opportunity for an Independent Review and challenge.
Members asked for and received clarification on the following:
· It was felt that the public expectations of projects were low and majority of residents felt fed up by the time the projects would be completed. It was explained that beginning of projects were very difficult due to hurdles in the process. It was imperative to get the contracts in place as projects could take years to complete. However, it was important to get those projects right for the Borough which included public consultation.
· Potential for projects to overrun on time or money. It was noted that the Finance Team would engage at the first and each monthly monitoring, if a project was not on track then the relevant Officer would be brought to inform the Capital Improvement Programme Board to explain the reasons for the delay or extra costs. Contingency plans were in place for all projects. However, if the contingency plan was not adequate then the project would be sent to Scrutiny for review.
· Contractor value for money. It was noted that external cost consultants were used to advise on large specialist projects and internal cost consultants for smaller projects.
· Did projects need to be more realistic? It was noted that the Council had a lot of ambition and knew it would have to be prepared and realistic. The Council had submitted significant bids to Government with some put in at risk. However, the focus would be on those projects that meet the priorities of the Council.
RESOLVED that the governance process that a large capital project such as the Alexandra Park Eco Centre was required to adhere to be noted.