Department of Finance and Personnel Memorandum on the Third and Fourth Reports from the Public Accounts Committee Session 2009-2010
The above document (available online here) covers a number of items including a report into the purchase of the SS Nomadic - a tender ship of the Titanic.
The text concerning this aspect of the report is reproduced below. Please note this is subject to Crown Copyright (2010).
Department for Social Development
Bringing the SS Nomadic to Belfast – The Acquisition and Restoration of the SS Nomadic
DSD purchased the SS Nomadic (Nomadic) at auction in Paris on 26 January 2006. Built in Belfast by Harland & Wolff shipbuilders for the White Star Line, the Nomadic's original purpose was to transfer first class passengers from the landing stage to the Titanic and Olympic liners and is a tangible reminder of these great vessels. The return of the Nomadic to Belfast's Titanic Quarter provides the potential for the restored ship to be used as a visitor attraction and as a historically important example of Northern Ireland’s (NI) maritime industrial heritage. The ship has been placed on the core collection of the United Kingdom Register of Historic Ships. A charitable trust has beenformed by a number of public, private and voluntary stakeholders to fundraise and oversee the restoration of the ship.
Departmental Oversight of the Trust
PAC Recommendation 1
The Committee recommends that the Department should assess the arrangements currently in place between
it and the Trust against best practice guidance and the recommendations contained in the Committee’s 2008
‘Report on Good Governance - Effective Relationships between Departments and their Arm’s Length Bodies’,
and adjust them accordingly.
DSD notes this recommendation. The Nomadic Charitable Trust (the Trust) was established as an independent charity as a matter of policy. While not considered be an arm’s length body, DSD intends reassessing its current relationship with the Trust and in doing so will have regard to the Committee's 2008 Report insofar as its recommendations are consistent with the status of the Trust.
PAC Recommendation 2
The use of rolling contracts does not constitute best practice and is unlikely to deliver value for money. This point was previously made by the Westminster PAC in their report on ‘Governance Issues in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment’s Former Local Enterprise Development Unit’. The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Personnel takes this opportunity to reiterate that point and draw departments’ attention to the formal guidance issued by the Central Procurement Directorate on the matter. Departments should also be reminded of the need to have proper systems in place to monitor and control contracts.
DFP accepts this recommendation and agrees with the Committee that the use of rolling contracts is not regarded as best practice and is unlikely to deliver value for money. DFP’s Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) issued formal guidance on the Use of Rolling Contracts on 14 July 2006 (Procurement Guidance Note 03/06) which is available on the CPD website. DFP will remind departments of this guidance and the need to have proper systems in place to monitor and control contracts.
On fundraising, progressing the project for centenary celebrations and Maximising visitor potential
PAC Recommendation 3
Finalisation of the Conservation Management Plan is key to this project; it will determine what needs to be done and the likely cost of the work, and it will form the basis of any application the Trust may make to the Heritage Lottery Fund. However, its completion provides an opportunity to step back and re-assess the project. The Committee recommends that, on completion of the Plan, the Department should ask the Trust to revisit its economic appraisal and confirm to the Department’s satisfaction that the project will deliver value for money. The Committee agrees with the Westminster PAC’s conclusion on The Result that preserving our heritage is important, but not at any cost.
DSD accepts this recommendation. The Conservation Management Plan is comprised of two parts. Part One was completed in May 2009 and contains the historical context policies for conservation and a statement of the significant importance of the ship. Part Two contains the full specification for the development and estimated cost of restoration and will be completed by January 2010. Both the Trust and DSD are committed to the project delivering value for money and have endorsed an option in the economic appraisal which reflects a realistic expectation of the total resources likely to be available for the restoration project. This option will be periodically revisited in the light of the actual available resources at each stage of the restoration. DSD is aware of the Westminster Committee of Public Accounts conclusion on ‘The Result’ and agrees that preserving our heritage is important, provided that it delivers value for money.
PAC Recommendation 4
If the revised business case makes the case for taking the project forward, the Committee recommends that the Department and Trust must work together to ensure that contractors are appointed to enable work to commence at the earliest opportunity. It is critical to get the ship to a stage where it is open for viewing by the paying public who will then be contributing to its restoration costs and on-going maintenance, thus reducing the burden on the public purse.
DSD accepts this recommendation and will work with the Trust to ensure that procurement to appoint contractors begins at the earliest opportunity. Tenders will go out from January 2010 and the various contractors should be appointed within a couple of months. Restoration work will then get underway. The restoration will be implemented in three stages. Stage one will involve putting the superstructure back on again. Stage two will involve fitting out the first part of the inside and stage three will see further developments. DSD remains confident that stage one will be achieved, that stage two will be well underway by the time of the centenary and that the ship will be open to the paying public at that point.
PAC Recommendation 5
The Committee recommends that the Department must be more proactive in working with the Trust to market the Nomadic and to link it in with other events, such as the Tall Ships. In addition, the Department and Trust must continue to create and maintain effective relationships with those progressing the Titanic Quarter and the Titanic Signature Projects in order to maximise their impact on the Nomadic. The Department, in particular, must also be proactive in contributing to a wider overall maritime heritage strategy to ensure the Nomadic is given prominence within it.
DSD notes this recommendation. Whilst the lead responsibility for marketing the Nomadic falls to the Trust, DSD will continue to provide support to the Trust to maximise marketing opportunities. DSD has been liaising with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Museums NI to ensure that the Nomadic is linked not only to the Titanic Signature Project but also to the preservation of NI’s overall maritime industrial heritage. DSD will continue to work with the Trust and all key statutory bodies and stakeholders involved in progressing Titanic Quarter to ensure that the potential contribution of the Nomadic to developing NI’s maritime industrial heritage and tourism product is maximised. DSD is in discussions with others about the desirability of a maritime heritage strategy and will ensure that the Nomadic is given appropriate prominence within it.
Crown Copyright © 2010
Days Hotel Belfast - located in a lovely area of Belfast where the Union Jack flies from every lamppost and the kerbstones are painted blue white and red.
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