A third of major government projects due in the next five years, including flagship transport schemes such as HS2 are ‘at risk’ of failure Britain’s public spending watchdog has said.
The National Audit Office (NAO) warned remedial action much be taken on 37 out of 106 projects, which might not be delivered or only delivered in part because of a range of problems at oversight and delivery level.
HS2 needs to span 'traditional departmental boundaries'
‘Key recurring issues included an absence of portfolio management at both departmental and government level; lack of clear, consistent data with which to measure performance; poor early planning; lack of capacity and capability to undertake a growing number of projects; and a lack of clear accountability for leadership of a project,’ the NAO said.
‘Progress in improving portfolio management is disappointing with no single organisation having a view of the whole portfolio of government projects An effective mechanism still needs to be developed for prioritising projects across government or judging whether individual departments have the capacity and capability to deliver them.’
Of the total 149 projects in the Government Major Project Portfolio (the Portfolio) there is an estimated combined whole-life cost of £511bn the auditor said, and an expected spend of £25bn in 2015-16.
Head of the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, said ‘a number of positive steps’ have been taken but he was concerned that a third of monitored projects 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,’ he added.
On HS2, the NAO said the team was slow to respond to review recommendations and warned that due to the complex nature of the project it would ‘require governance structures that span traditional departmental boundaries’.
‘Our earlier reports showed that departments’ responses to assurance recommendations varied, being positive on Thameslink and Crossrail, but slow in the early stages of High Speed 2 and Universal Credit, for example,’ the NAO report states.