• Saving the Northern Ireland taxpayer up to 20% on public sector construction costs through the use of an innovative procurement strategy and greater use of digital technologies.
  • Making sure that only quality firms operate in Northern Ireland construction.
  • Ensuring that there is cashflow security for small businesses and statutory measures are introduced to deal with the much abused system of construction cash retentions.
  • A carbon audit of the public sector estate in Northern Ireland as a prelude to a retrofit programme to achieve carbon efficiency.
  • A public sector ombudsman to challenge poor procurement practices that are wasteful of taxpayers’ monies.

These are the key actions in a construction manifesto sent to all the political parties in Northern Ireland contesting the May elections.

The manifesto has been published by the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group Northern Ireland.  SEC Group represents the largest sector (by value) in Northern Ireland construction.  The majority of firms in the sector are small businesses involved in electrical, mechanical and plumbing installation and maintenance, lift installation and maintenance and steel fabrication.

Speaking on behalf of the Group Alfie Watterson said:

“The overriding priority for the next Northern Ireland Executive, as far as construction is concerned, is to put in place effective measures to ensure that SMEs have cash flow security”.

SEC Group Northern Ireland will be urging the new Executive to mandate the use of project bank accounts across all public sector works.  This will enable payments to suppliers to be channelled through a ring-fenced account.

Additionally the Group will be seeking regulations to ring-fence cash retentions.  Over £50 million of cash retentions are withheld from small firms involved in public sector construction in Northern Ireland.  These monies – ostensibly security against the possibility of defects – are currently used to bolster the working capital of public bodies and tier 1 contractors.