All proposals to incur expenditure should be subject to a comprehensive, but proportionate business case. This page provides information on Better Business Cases NI,templates for preparing business cases and information on DfE delegations (as set out by DfE Corporate Governance).

Better Business Cases NI

 

Better Business Cases NI is the primary guide for Northern Ireland departments on the appraisal and evaluation of projects, policies and programmes. The Better Business Cases website contains supporting materials that appraisers may find useful when developing a business case. These include a ‘Best Practice Guide’ to business cases, a ‘Plain English Guide’, as well as a checklist for what should be included in a business case.

Better Business Cases NI is based on the HM Treasury best practice approach to the development of business cases, known as the ‘Five Case Model’ . 

The Five Case Model involves separating the business case into its five component parts, or ‘Cases’ - as follows:

  • strategic case
  • economic case
  • commercial case
  • financial case
  • management case

The five cases are not individual documents, they are the five sections of an overall business case - and they are interlinked and should not, therefore, be developed in isolation.

Presenting the information in this way is intended to help clarify who is responsible for developing the business case, and which specialist advisers should be involved in providing advice and support. The table below illustrates the specialist advisers that can provide advice for each case.

Five Case Model

Specialist Adviser

Strategic Case

Departmental Economists from Analytical Services Division (analyticalservices@economy-ni.gov.uk)

Policy Advisers

Economic Case

Departmental Economists from Analytical Services Division (analyticalservices@economy-ni.gov.uk)

Commercial Case

Commercial Policy Branch (commercial.policy.branch@economy-ni.gov.uk)

Financial Case

Business Area Accountants*

Management Case

Project Assurance and Support Branch (projectassurance.support@economy-ni.gov.uk)

* Where an area does not have a Business Area Accountant Departmental Finance should be contacted at dfefinancialcase@economy-ni.gov.uk

Templates for Preparing Business Cases 

To assist with the completion of business cases DoF has provided a number of business case templates. If you are unsure which template to use, please contact one of the departmental Economists listed below.

There is no template for appraising expenditures over £2m. However, the template for £0.5-2m can be used as a starting point with proportionally more detail provided. The amount of detail required, in all the templates, will depend on the complexity of the project as well as the level of expenditure.

    DfE Delegations

    The expenditure relating to a business case should be approved based on the delegations that are set out by DfE Corporate Governance, as shown in the table below.

    An economist VfM statement is required for all business cases requiring approval at  Grade 3 or above.

    Proposed Level of Expenditure Level of Approval Required for all DfE expenditure
    0 to £0.25m Grade 6 or Grade 7
    >£0.25m to £1m Grade 5
    >£1m to £5m Grade 3
    >£5m Grade 3, Casework Committee scrutiny, Permanent Secretary, and Ministerial approval.
    Expenditure that is novel, contentious, repercussive, sets a precedent (or subject to Ministerial Direction) irrespective of level of expenditure Grade 3, Casework Committee scrutiny (if appropriate following consideration by the Finance and Corporate Governance Directors), Permanent Secretary and Ministerial approval.
    Exceptions Consultants
    Ministerial approval required in all cases above this amount £10,000

    Note 1:  Areas requiring DOF Approval for all Departments are documented in DAO (DoF) 08/21 - Delegated Limits/requirements for DoF approval. A summary of DAO 08/21 has been provided by Accountability and Casework Branch in Governance and Accountability Notice 16/21 on the departmental intranet.

    Note 2:  Delegated limits should be applied to the total central government monies required (inclusive of irrecoverable Value Added Tax)

    Note 3:  Delegated limits should also be applied to proposals which will result in a positive monetary result. Future savings yielded through an ‘invest to save’ type project should be ignored in applying delegated limits.

    DfE Economist Contacts

    Email: analyticalservices@economy-ni.gov.uk

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