18 November 2004 | Cara Whitehouse
The government is falling down on its use of Gateway procurement reviews for its major IT projects, jeopardising the annual £2.3 billion spend.
A report from the National Audit Office, Improving IT Procurement, assessed 440 Gateway reviews and their impact on project timetables and budgets.
One of the largest initiatives examined was the Jobcentre Plus Implementation Programme. The programme will cost £2.2 billion between 2000 and 2006.
The reviews, introduced in February 2001, were the brainchild of Sir Peter Gershon, creator and former chief executive of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC).
Gateway reviews assess the progress of major public-sector contracts.
The NAO report said reviews increased the likelihood of successful projects by identifying and tackling potential problems early on before they became costly and even insurmountable.
But it warned that there was a "major risk" that projects were entering the process too late and not completing the final reviews.
A spokesperson for the OGC told SM: "There is a greater risk of failure if Gateway review teams are not brought in and more departments must buy into the idea that they can help."
Gateway review zero, of a zero-to-five progression, is particularly important as it examines the business case for the project. But the NAO report reveals that for 63 per cent of projects their first review is at stage two and for 41 per cent it is at stage three.
It also found that only 13 per cent of projects progressed from stage four to five where there should be a lesson-learning evaluation of the initiative's success and value for money.
The report said more people should be given access to reviews and their recommendations, but stopped short of saying they should be made public.
The OGC has said it has no authority to make the reviews public. John Oughton, its chief executive, told SM that it was up to the departments that owned the project to decide who gets to see the reviews (see News
, 23 September, and Features
, 26 August).