Big doubts over the delivery of one third of government’s major projects

One in three major projects due to be completed by 2020 are in doubt if nothing is done to improve delivery says government watchdog.

A National Audit Office (NAO) analysis of projects in the government’s Major Projects Portfolio will make worrying reading in the corridors of power. Out of 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.

The analysis also revealed that, of the 56 projects remaining on the portfolio since the last audit to ok place in 2012, 17 were still viewed as in doubt or unachievable. In 2012, that only applied to 12 of the same set of projects. In a hard-hitting report released earlier today, the NAO said government departments can’t prove that they have improved the success rate of project delivery.

They said: “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.”

Although the new Infrastructure and Projects Authority, created by the merger of the Major Projects Authority and Infrastructure UK, has taken many positive steps to provide greater certainty on improving project delivery, significant concerns remain around transparency on major schemes. The NAO report criticised 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 NAO’s analysis covered service delivery projects, IT projects and defence equipment projects. Construction projects made up 20 per cent of those analysed, accounting for 33 per cent of the whole-life cost of the pipeline, or £170bn.

The estimated total cost of the pipeline of 149 projects was £511bn as of June 2015. Commenting on the report, NAO head Amyas Morse said that he acknowledged that a number of positive steps had been taken by the (Infrastructure and Projects) Authority and client departments, but “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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