Late last year, Vaughan made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Welsh Assembly Government to determine the criteria for Strategic Investment Capital Fund (SCIF) projects and whether approved projects met the criteria (or not).
As part of the FOI request, a list was provided of the 31 projects that had received £467.3 million of capital funding from the Government during the period 2008-2011.
Looking at the first tranche of projects, it would seem that some still have considerable spending allocated for 2010-2011. Indeed, what is noteworthy is that two of the projects will not, because of various circumstances, be drawing down any funding for this year.
According to press reports, the All Wales Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Programme and the South East Wales Shared Services Centre – HR, Payroll & Training will not be needing this capital expenditure in 2010-2011.
For example, the cost of swine flu in Wales was estimated by WAG to be £35 million for 2009-2010 (against a budget of £40 million). However, with danger having passed, that means that the £7.7 million earmarked for 2010-2011 will not be needed. If so, what will happen to the money?
In addition, given that the South East Wales Shared Services Centre project, which was to bring together HR, Payroll & Training across 10 councils failed when Cardiff, Newport and Caerphilly failed to agree participation, why is the £9.5 million allocated to this scheme still in the SCIF budget?
Therefore, across these two projects alone, there is a saving of £16.2 million – nearly ten per cent of the reduction in expenditure that Wales will have to find for 2010-2011.
Given that the Finance Minister has said that no cuts could be made in this financial year, that is somewhat of an odd finding. What is going to happen to this money?
More relevantly, if large capital projects earmarked for 2010-2011, such as the refurbishment of the students union in Bangor or the Taff Ely Learning Campus, can be postponed or reduced in size then, with a will, there is a way for Wales to find further savings almost immediately.
If there is, then isn't the job of the opposition parties to scrutinise the budget and point this out to Ministers?