PFI – Partners welcome review

Accountants specialising in private finance initiative work have welcomed the government’s decision to review the PFI procedures.

Announced last week by Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson, the review will be conducted by Sir Malcolm Bates and will examine the progress made on PFI schemes. The Pearl Group chairman has been asked to recommend changes which could improve the way in which public-private partnerships are approached.

An earlier review undertaken by Sir Malcolm recommended the creation of a Treasury taskforce to help government departments and agencies test large projects for commercial viability. The new review is due for completion before the original taskforce’s mandate runs out next summer.

‘There needs to be something else when the taskforce expires,’ said Keith Stein, head of Ernst & Young’s PFI unit. ‘So a review looking into this now is particularly appropriate.’

He added that the government was right to try to put in place the best possible arrangements to ensure a smooth transition when the taskforce mandate ends.

Rob Francis, head of PFI at Pannell Kerr Forster, said the taskforce had a positive impact. Civil servants had bought into the PFI regime and were beginning to embrace it as a real alternative to funding infrastructure projects.

‘We are confident that the culture in government is right for PFI now.

However, we need to see more focus on the actual funding and on the role of banks and institutional investors,’ said Francis.

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