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Commons committee calls for more design in PFI

The hugely influential House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called for design to play a more important role at an earlier stage in the PFI procurement model.

The committee, whose report on the collapse of the Paddington Health Campus scheme has been published today (29 January), found that the scheme was based on an inadequate outline business case, constructed without the benefit of input from doctors and nurses as to the required clinical content.

The report's first recommendation states that 'incomplete or inadequate business cases should not be approved until all material issues, including sufficient design work, have been addressed'.

PAC member Richard Bacon said: 'Design needs to be much higher on the agenda in the early stages of PFI projects.

'Testing a design brief early on will go a long way to ensuring a better outcome before a single brick is laid.

'I hope the government will listen to the RIBA's advice before millions of pounds more in taxpayers' money is squandered,' he added.

The RIBA is claiming the report's conclusions as a victory for president Jack Pringle's campaign to increase the role of design in PFI.

'I am pleased to see that the Public Accounts Committee has supported the RIBA view on the role of design in the PFI process,' Pringle said. 'We have been delighted with the response our Smart PFI proposals have already received from the Treasury and Office of Government Commerce.

'This report now sends out a clear message to Government spending departments and commissioning bodies that PFI schemes should not go ahead unless design is fully considered from the very start,' he added.

by Ed Dorrell

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