La Mare de Carteret – PAC response

I made teh following speech as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the Education Department’s report submitted at the November 2014 States meeting and the amendment placed by the Chief Minister requesting a review. In the end, an amendment to the amendment was approved that instructed Education and T&R to work together in relation to such a review.

Sir, as members of the Assembly will be aware the La Mare Schools are not the first schools to be rebuilt in Guernsey. In the last 10 years, High Schools have been rebuilt at both St Sampsons and Les Beaucamps.

In this context, the PAC does note one glaring omission in this extensive States Report and accompanying appendices – it does not contain any section outlining the lessons learnt from the earlier High School developments. However, we are not surprised by this as the Post Implementation Review of the latest High School to be built (Les Beaucamps) has not been undertaken despite the school being operational for a significant period of time.

One of the PAC’s mandated functions is to review Post Implementation Reviews or PIRs. These PIRs should be undertaken within six months of practical completion of any capital project.

PIRs determine whether efficiency of project management and value for money, have been achieved throughout the development of particular projects. Deputy Trott referenced just this in respect of the SSH PIR yesterday. Any ‘Lessons to be Learnt’ from a project should then be available to assist the project management of future capital projects.

In order to understand whether lessons learnt were being incorporated from one project to another, the previous Public Accounts Committee undertook a review in 2010 of the most recent PIRs it had received from the Education Department culminating from the first phase of the Education Department’s Educational Development Plan.

The main issue highlighted in PAC’s report was that PIRs for the Education Department capital projects were at that time, not being undertaken nor disseminated in a timely manner. Lessons learnt therefore, were not being noted and instituted prior to the commencement of the next Capital project.

This PAC has considered it worthwhile to review the capital projects across the States of Guernsey since 2010, to determine whether improvements have been made in the last 5 years and we will be publishing our findings in the near future.

More immediately however, the PAC has serious concerns regarding commencement of the La Mare project prior to a formal PIR being completed for Les Beaucamps, which has been open to students since September 2013. There have been numerous reports of issues relating to that campus which is why the information gained would be invaluable for the proposed La Mare redevelopment.

Despite having raised its concerns on more than one occasion with States Property Services which oversees all States Capital projects, a PIR is still outstanding.

The PAC was informed that the project as a whole was not considered complete until the Sports Hall was finished and so the PIR would not be undertaken until then. However, being mindful that the Education Department was hopeful that the La Mare redevelopment would go ahead in the near future, the PAC suggested that the Les Beaucamps PIR should be conducted in two stages, reflecting the 2 phases of the project. This would allow a review of the school building to be completed ahead of the La Mare project. It would also ensure that any issues arising during its development could be formally documented to assist the La Mare project board. Unfortunately, the Committee’s suggestion was rejected.

This is not good governance.

 The PAC therefore has serious concerns about the Education Department commencing a complex high cost project prior to the formal lessons learnt from the Les Beaucamps project being produced and disseminated.  Irrespective of whether the project team has a similar composition to previous projects, there is no evidence to suggest that lessons learnt have been, or will be, incorporated into the La Mare development.

The PAC also believes that it is unfortunate that the existing agreed process for bringing forward major capital projects has not been followed in this case. For T&R political representatives to withdraw from the project board before the newly proposed SCIP arrangements were implemented is not good governance. The lack of a completed Outline Business Case for a project of this scale, prior to submission of this report to the States,  again is not good governance.

These actions by both Departments may have led to the current impasse, which shows neither party in a good light.

Another notable omission from the proposal is a comparison of the ongoing costs of running the new build with the existing costs of the current school. When assessing the merits of the new build surely this information is pertinent? What is spent now? We don’t know from the report. We know from page 2660 that the new site will cost £580k a year to run and understand from a document circulated by the T&R Minister that this is £186k more than current costs.  And how will this be funded? None of this is apparent from the report. Reference is made in the response to Deputy St Pier’s questions prior to the debate, which I will refer to later, but there are no figures to back this up.

Neither is there any indication of potential income from the use of community and sports facilities. Presumably, if the pre-school will be run privately, rent will be charged – or does the department believe that the business running it should get a new building for free?

It also seems surprising that the report does not include any measurement of outcomes. The people of Guernsey might reasonably expect that the department anticipates an improvement in educational standards and attainment once the build is complete. However, what that improvement will be is not explicitly stated.

Finally, I should like to say that clearly the PAC would be expected to welcome any attempt to provide assurance that a project, certainly of the magnitude and complexity of this one, represents value for money. However the proposal to have T&R leading the review process concerns the PAC from an independence point of view. If this review is to be truly impartial then we believe it must be managed by an independent third party such as the PAC. And would welcome confirmation that such an approach would be acceptable.

 



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