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Third of government projects in doubt, says NAO

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One in three major public sector projects scheduled to complete in the next five years could be in doubt if no action is taken to improve delivery.

A National Audit Office analysis of projects in the government’s Major Projects Portfolio found that, of the 106 projects set to finish before 2020, 8 per cent were given an ‘amber’ rating and a further 27 per cent rated ‘amber/red’ in terms of their achievability.

According to the AJ’s sister publication Construction News, the analysis found that 17 of the 56 projects remaining on the portfolio since the last audit in 2012, were viewed as in doubt or unachievable. In 2012, that only applied to 12 of the same set of projects.

In a report released this morning (6 January), the NAO said government departments ‘cannot yet prove’ they have improved the ’the success rate of project delivery’.

The NAO added: ’It is also a cause of concern that so many projects are due to be delivered within this parliament but have been initiated without any process to assess whether such a scale of delivery is achievable across government.’

The report acknowledged that the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, created by the merger of the Major Projects Authority and Infrastructure UK, had ’taken many positive steps… to provide greater assurance on improving project delivery’, but said concerns remained around transparency on major schemes.

It added: ’Despite some improvements in the level of information published on major projects, there are still a number of issues which make it difficult to form conclusions about trends in performance.’

The issues include a lack of detail on project turnover and costs, limited data being made available by government departments, and a lack of monitoring of the benefits of completed projects.

The analysis from the NAO included service delivery projects, IT projects and defence equipment projects. However, construction projects made up 20 per cent of those analysed, accounting for 33 per cent of the whole-life cost of the pipeline, or £170billion.

The estimated whole-life cost of the pipeline of 149 projects was £511bn as of June 2015.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority launched on New Year’s Day. It sits within the Cabinet Office and is led by former MPA chief executive Tony Meggs. Former IUK CEO Geoffrey Spence was yesterday appointed by Lloyds Bank as its new infrastructure chief.

Commenting on the report, NAO head Amyas Morse said: ’I acknowledge that a number of positive steps have been taken by the (Infrastructure and Projects) Authority and client departments.

’At the same time, I am concerned that a third of projects monitored by the authority are red or amber-red and the overall picture of progress on project performance is opaque. More effort is needed if the success rate of project delivery is to improve.’


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Readers' comments (1)

  • There's a mistake in the opening paragraph (copied directly from construction news). A third of projects are rated red or amber/red, see penultimate paragraph here on the NAO's site. https://www.nao.org.uk/report/delivering-major-projects-in-government-a-briefing-for-the-committee-of-public-accounts/
    makes more sense then.

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