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Public Spending Code:  Arrangement and Programme Life Cycle

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Document Update Log 

Document Summary:This document acts as a map to the Public Spending Code, and is intended to serve as a starting-point for public service users in planning and managing public expenditure in line with the Code requirements. Part I lists the contents of the Public Spending Code. Part II describes the various stages of the Project/Programme Life-cycle (also referred in parts of the Public Spending Code as the “Expenditure Life-cycle”) and points to the key Public Spending Code documents that are relevant to each stage.

I – Public Spending Code Layout:

The Public Spending Code is made up of four sections:

Section A – General Provisions:   (These documents apply to all stages of the life-cycle.)

Section B – Appraisal & Planning (Expenditure being Considered ):

Section C – Implementation (Expenditure being Incurred) & Post-Implementation (Expenditure has recently been completed) 

Section D – Standard Analytical Procedures

Section E – Reference/Parameter Values

  • Discount Rates
  • Shadow Costs (Labour, Profits, Public Funds, Carbon)
  • Calculating Staff Costs
  • Other Parameters

ICT projects:

The principles and guidelines in the Public Spending Code apply to all expenditure including expenditure on ICT. ICT projects are subject to some specific additional requirements. The document ICT Expenditure Approval Process briefly describes the additional requirements and the website www.ict.gov.ie provides full details of procedures relating to ICT expenditure.

II – Project or Programme Life-Cycle

The four stages in the life-cycle of a project or programme are:

  1. Appraisal:  assessing the case for a policy intervention
  2. Planning/Design:  a positive appraisal should lead on to a considered approach to designing how the project/programme will be implemented
  3. Implementation:  careful management and oversight is required for both capital and current expenditure. Ongoing evaluation should also be a feature of current programmes
  4. Post-Project or Post-Implementation Review:  checking for delivery of project objectives, and gaining experience for future projects.

The successive stages should follow a realistic time schedule and have clear starting and finishing points. The appraisal and planning stages may overlap. Good detailed appraisal will require some design and planning work. Decision-making takes time and allowance should be made for this in time schedules.  Figure 1 below gives an overview of how the various stages are inter-related.

1. Appraisal – Before Expenditure is Incurred

(i) Preliminary Appraisal

The preliminary appraisal aims to establish whether, at face value, a sufficient case exists for considering a proposal in more depth. It leads to a recommendation on whether or not to proceed to the detailed appraisal stage which can often be a costly exercise. For proposals costing more than €5m, a preliminary appraisal should be undertaken by the Sponsoring Agency. It involves an initial specification of the nature and objectives of the proposal and of relevant background circumstances (economic, social, legal, etc.). The reasons why it is thought that public resources should be committed should be set out, having regard to what the private sector is doing or might be willing to do, independently or with State participation or encouragement. A preliminary appraisal should include a clear statement of the needs which a proposal is designed to meet and the degree to which it would aim to meet them. It should identify all realistic options, including the option of doing nothing and, where possible, quantify the key elements of all options. It should contain a preliminary assessment of the costs (particularly financial costs) and benefits of all options.

On the basis of the preliminary appraisal, the Sponsoring Agency should decide whether formulating and assessing a detailed appraisal would be worthwhile or whether to drop the proposal. A recommendation to undertake a detailed appraisal should state the terms of reference of that appraisal. If significant staff resources or other costs would be involved in a detailed appraisal, the prior approval of the relevant Sanctioning Authority should be sought.

(ii) Detailed Appraisal

The detailed appraisal stage aims to provide a basis for a decision on whether to drop a proposal or to approve it in principle. It involves the clarification of objectives, exploration of options, quantification of costs and a method of selecting the best solution from competing options. See:

2. Planning/Design

Planning/Design starts with the Approval in Principle from the Appraisal stage (although some elements of planning/design may need to be completed to fully inform the appraisal). No commitment to finance a project should be made until this stage is completed and a decision taken on whether to proceed is taken. This stage involves detailed planning and costing of the project.  The latter end of this stage may involve procurement and lead to the evaluation of tenders and an assessment of whether the best proposal received meets the requirements and is within the approvals required. For more information on the Planning/Design stage see documents:

3. Implementation

This stage may, if an external provider is involved, begin with contract placement. Management, Monitoring, Supervision and Control are key terms that apply to this stage. For capital projects the implementation stage will be of limited duration but the implementation of current expenditure programmes could extend over many years or even decades. In the case of current expenditure, evaluation will also play an important role. Both continuous evaluation using pre-determined performance indicators and more formal evaluations will be required to ensure that programmes are operating efficiently, are achieving the outcomes as planned and are serving needs that remain a priority.  Documents in the Public Spending Code that are specifically relevant to the stage include:

4. Post-Project or Post Implementation Review

Post-Project Reviews aim to confirm whether project objectives have been met, the project has been delivered to required standard, on time and within budget and to ensure that experience gained can be used on other projects. It may also help to inform managers on the continued best use of a new asset. Documentation on the appraisal undertaken is the key starting point or reference for any post-project review. The Post-Project Review stage is more relevant to capital expenditure. Current expenditure is likely to be reviewed during what is typically a more extended implementation period but reviews post-implementation may also be relevant. Documents in the Public Spending Code that are relevant to this stage include:

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