Dallat: Amounts owed on PFI contracts are 'really scary'

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The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) took evidence for its inquiry into the future impact of borrowing and private finance commitments, on 11 June 2014.

An Audit Office report recorded that the current 39 operational Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts had built up an estimated £7bn of commitments against future years' departmental resource budgets, costing an average of £245m each year until 2030.

It said there was no central collection of PFI costs and commitments, or dissemination directly to the Assembly or its committees.

PAC deputy chairman John Dallat of the SDLP wanted to know why there continued to be a lack of transparency regarding PFI contracts.

Dr Mark Browne of the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) accepted the report's comments that there were a number of ways in which the information could be made more readily accessible.

Mr Dallat said it was the first time they had seen the figures for PFI. He said that to future generations they must sound "real scary, I would have thought"

Dr Browne said "the numbers are large because they are the amounts that would be spent over the next 25 to 30 years".

Paul Girvan of the DUP was concerned that government was perhaps being "hoodwinked" by businesspeople in the private sector.

Dr Browne said a PFI contract "has to be a contract that works for both the private and the public sector" and that even if a project was funded in the conventional way the contractor would still want to make a profit.

"I'm not always so sure that we are getting value-for-money for the public purse," Mr Girvan said.

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