Warnings on over-ambitious projects must be heeded, MPs say


Over-ambition is among the main reasons that major government projects such as the HS2 rail link are at risk, MPs have warned.

The newly formed Infrastructure and Planning Authority told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that HS2 was one of the three projects it was most concerned about, ‘because of its scope and scale’.

In a new report the cross-party PAC questions the extent of the former Major Project Authority's (MPA) influence but warns that ‘vital scrutiny of the government's performance could be weakened’ by its merger with Infrastructure UK.

HS2 is one of three projects of most concern to the new Authority 

The report highlights concerns that the new authority, formed on 1 January this year, risks becoming ‘too much of a champion for government projects’.

The committee called on the new authority to ‘maintain its focus on project assurance and support’.

The MPA rated 34% of the Government's major projects as either 'red' or 'amber-red' at June 2015, meaning that successful delivery is unachievable or in doubt unless action is taken. For the projects due to deliver in the next 5 years, 35% are rated as red or amber-red.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, said: ‘There is clearly a role within government for an independent organisation that challenges departments about their plans and projects. One of our concerns is that this important function is not weakened or undermined following the creation of the Infrastructure and Projects authority.

‘But we also question just how effective the previous Major Projects Authority has been in bringing meaningful influence to bear on government performance. Its own assessments cast doubt on the deliverability of a third of government's major projects and there are grounds to question how seriously its warnings have been taken by government.’

She added: ‘Ambitious timetables for delivery are of little value to the public if they simply cannot be met. Failing to plan properly and set realistic delivery targets from the outset can set in train expensive problems for which taxpayers pick up the bill.’


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