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19 August 2014 | Will Green
MPs say the government has “serious weaknesses” in delivering projects and the Major Projects Authority (MPA) needs “more formal mechanisms for driving change”.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), in a report on the work of the MPA, said the body only had “informal influence” over departments, while its assessments “do not cover value for money considerations”.
The PAC said the value of the MPA’s portfolio was estimated at £488 billion in May 2014, up £134 million on the previous year, and included high profile and “extremely challenging” projects such as Universal Credit and the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier programme.
Committee chairman and Labour MP Margaret Hodge said: “There remain serious weaknesses in government’s project delivery capability.
“We support the work of the Major Projects Authority and welcome the progress it has made so far, but without stronger powers it is unlikely to achieve its aim of a systemic improvement in project delivery across government.
“It needs to have stronger, more formal mechanisms for driving change, and there should be transparency where ministers or officials have rejected its recommendations.”
The PAC said the MPA needed to “focus its efforts more on the early stages of a project”, prioritise its work more effectively and that its assessments “should include explicit consideration of whether the project is likely to deliver good value for money”.
MPs also said all major projects should be overseen in a single portfolio by the Treasury at a “strategic, whole-of-government level”.
In the report the PAC said there were the “most serious doubts over the delivery of projects” at the Department of Health, which had two red and nine “amber-red” rated projects, and the Ministry of Defence, which had one red and six amber-reds.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "We are developing leaders, increasing transparency around major projects and ensuring projects are set up to succeed from the outset to get the best value for money for the taxpayer. As part of our long-term economic plan, the MPA has helped departments save the taxpayer over £2.4 billion last year against a 2009/10 baseline. We are looking forward to building on this success and we will respond to the report’s recommendations shortly.”