Press Release - Strategic Planning for Flood Risk Management

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is the lead body for the co-ordination and implementation of Government policy on the management of flood risk.

In 2004, an interdepartmental policy review group recommended,that future flood risk management should focus on mapping and strategic planning at a river basin level. The EU Floods Directive, published in 2007, established a common approach across the EU to the assessment and management of flood risks, also at river basin level. The directive set deadlines for the production and submission by member states of flood hazard maps, flood risk maps and flood risk management plans.

Between 2005 and 2008, OPW set up pilot projects to prepare flood maps and flood risk management plans for a number of river basins. In 2009, OPW prepared an implementation strategy for a national catchment flood risk assessment and management (CFRAM) programme.

This examination by the Comptroller considered the governance and project management arrangements in place in respect of strategic planning for flood risk management. It also assessed OPW’s management of, and the progress to date on, the CFRAM programme.

Main Findings

Governance and Oversight

A steering group established to oversee the CFRAM programme did not meet during a four year period up to November 2014. A high level interdepartmental group set up to oversee national co-ordination of flood risk management and flooding response did not meet for a period of almost six years up to July 2015. In the case of the pilot projects, there was a lack of clarity about the oversight arrangements.

Pilot Testing

While OPW had originally envisaged that nine pilot projects would be undertaken, only four proceeded. There was some evidence of learning from the pilots being transferred to the CFRAM programme, but this did not happen in a formalised manner. In the case of the two pilot projects managed by local authorities, no service level agreement was put in place between OPW and the relevant local authorities prior to commencing the projects.

Project Delivery

In March 2006, OPW planned that the pilot phase would finish in 2007. All four pilot projects reviewed ran significantly over their original schedules, with delays of at least six years in each case

CFRAM Programme Targets

The CFRAM programme got underway in 2011, with one of its main objectives being to produce the required flood hazard maps, flood risk maps and flood risk management plans within the timeframe set out in the EU Floods Directive.

The first CFRAM delivery target required the preparation and submission of preliminary flood risk assessments by March 2012. OPW met the target, identifying 300 areas that warranted further assessment.

The second delivery target required the preparation and submission of flood risk and flood hazard maps for each of the identified areas by March 2014. OPW had submitted maps for only 50 of the 300 areas by the due date.

At the time the report was being finalised, OPW did not expect to meet the directive’s final delivery target of March 2016 for submission of final flood risk management plans, but aimed to complete the plans for all river basins by the end of 2016.

Budgets and Expenditure

OPW estimated in 2009 that the cost of implementing the CFRAM programme would be €30 million (excluding VAT). It now expects the final cost to be about €27.4 million. Cost estimates for the four pilot projects totalled €3.5 million. Expenditure to the end of 2014 on those pilot projects was €8.9 million.

Investment in Flood Management Works

Capital expenditure on flood risk management over the period 2005 to 2014 was €329 million, comprising major works at a cost of €242 million, strategic studies that cost €52 million and minor works that cost €35 million. In September 2015, the Government announced details of a €430 million six-year programme of capital investment on flood defence measures as part of the Government’s overall Capital Investment Plan 2016 – 2021.

In order to derive maximum value from the limited funds available, it is essential that funding allocation decisions are evidence-based. However, twelve years on from the report of the Flood Policy Review Group and eight years after the EU Floods Directive, substantial capital expenditure continues to be incurred on an annual basis, without the full benefit of the comprehensive analysis and strategic plans that will emerge from the CFRAM programme.

Notes for Editors

The report was finalised on 24 December 2015 and sent to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on 8 January 2016. The Minister is required to ensure that the report is laid before Dáil Éireann within three months of receiving it.

The Comptroller and Auditor General is an independent constitutional officer with responsibility for the audit of public funds. He reports to Dáil Éireann.