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Greater financial independence best defence against PFI

15 April, 2008

Sinn Féin West Belfast MLA has said that Sinn Féin remains opposed to the use of Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) to fund public sector building on the basis that it serves the interests of private corporations more than the interests of the general public.

Speaking during an Assembly debate on PFI Ms McCann said:

"The reality is that PFI can often cost more - a lot more. We are being forced down this route are because of the approach of previous Finance Ministers from the SDLP; and the current incumbent from the DUP.

"Until we move towards fiscal independence and greater financial control we will not be in a position to develop our own long-term solution to the deficits created by the British Exchequer.

"There are a number of key issues for Sinn Féin, including:

  • Private partners can have no say in the management of schools or hospitals, and should have no power to affect levels of public service provision;
  • Ministers should make it clear that PFI contracts are not the preferred option and instruct civil servants responsible for designing projects that they must put equal or greater effort into alternative funding models to PFI projects;
  • Project should encourage incentives for better services at lower cost and should not reward managers for providing greater profit to a private sector at the expense of the public;
  • Those who manage or benefit from PFI must follow transparent practices, be open to public inspection and be held accountable for any irregularities.

"It is Sinn Fein's view - our strong view; that PFI represent poor value for the Public Sector; and that public service provision under PFI will create problems in future years.

"The net result will be that the Executive will progressively take on more and more long-term debt, and a greater proportion of the total Budget available to Ministers in the future will be taken up by the repayments for these contracts."

She also outlined concerns about a number of specific issues including;

  • The transfer of surplus land in the PFI Education Pathfinder projects' where public land was sold to private developers as part of the contract to build new schools at less than market value.
  • British Medical Association criticism of the way in which PFI contracts in the Health Service fail to deliver an adequate level of patient care and increase the accumulation of debt levels across the Health Service.
  • The car park at the Royal Hospital in West Belfast that has already paid for itself yet the private developer will continue benefit from any future profits which could have been directed into patient care.
  • Workplace 2010 where a number of reports are critical of the way in which PFI contracts are being looked at and entered into by the government.
  • The Finance & Personnel Committee report which raised a number of important questions about the efficiency of PFI, and in particular in respect of one of the pilot projects at Clare House.

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