Publci sector construction projects worth an estimated £800m are stuck in the pipeline while a legal wrangle over a new select tendering system is settled, it was disclosed today.
High Court judge Mr Justice Deeny has already ruled against the Department of Finance and Personnel in a recent judicial review.
In a 27 page ruling on a case brought by Newtownabbey-based contractors and engineers McLaughlin & Harvey, he found that the DFP had contravened European rules by omitting the firm from a short list.
Mr Justice Deeny is due next month to call the interested parties back to court to tell them how he proposes to resolve the matter.
But in the meantime, a four-year programme of major government projects relating to badly needed urban regneration, further education, arts and sports developments is on hold.
The DFP’s Central Procurement Directorate had intended that its so-called “framework competition” public sector procurement procedure would reduce red tape and allow developments to move on site more quickly.
But in the case of the drawing up of the select list, the judge found that the procedure was flawed because the Department had failed to disclose its evaluation criteria in advance to McLaughlin & Harvey.
At next month’s hearing it will be determined whether remedies should involve the payment of damages or the granting of access to the shortlist for McLaughlin & Harvey.
McLaughlin & Harvey had no immediate comment to make on the case.
A spokesman for the DFP said: “We cannot comment in detail on the case at this stage.”
James Golden of Belfast-based consultants Quigg Golden, said there was widespread concern in the industry about the delay.
“At a time when private sector construction is at a standstill, and the construction industry is relying on public projects, everyone wants to see this situation remedied as quickly as possible.”