Existing budgets may not cover cost of M20, BusConnects and other plans, Minister told

Existing budgets may not cover the ultimate cost of mega-infrastructure projects like MetroLink, BusConnects and the M20 Limerick-Cork motorway, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has warned.

In a briefing note prepared for its incoming Minister Michael McGrath, officials argued that project estimates “are outdated, do not include inflation, nor do they account appropriately for risk or full project scope”.

The documents warns that “as they are liable to be overtaken by actual costs in many cases, there is a risk of undermining credibility in our infrastructure investment programme”.

The department also suggested there could be new curbs on hiring additional staff in the public service in the years ahead, as well as new efficiency targets to offset projected budget deficits.

Options, it says, included a new moratorium on recruitment other than for key front-line areas for a period of 12 months or the introduction of an employment control framework.

The department is urging a mid-term review of the National Development Plan (NDP), the overall framework for delivering tens of billions of euro worth of investment for projects around the State in the years ahead.

It argues that, following the Covid-19 crisis, “there is a need to review the overall NDP, including as regards project scheduling and prioritisation”, which will “afford government the opportunity of reappraising the NDP and resetting to better align with the changed economic and social environment”.

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