Crossrail will open nine months late ©Credit: Crossrail Ltd
Crossrail will open nine months late ©Credit: Crossrail Ltd

Inquiry launched into Whitehall major projects

12 October 2018

MPs have launched an inquiry into how well the government is managing high-profile projects such as Crossrail and HS2.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) will examine how well the under-fire projects are being handled, taking a wide view of the whole of the government’s Major Projects Portfolio.

The portfolio currently has 133 projects with a value of £423bn, and includes infrastructure projects such as Crossrail, HS2 and Hinkley Point but also major ICT projects, schemes to transform public services, and major defence procurement programmes.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has previously criticised the government for lack of accountability, poor early planning and limited capability on such projects.

The inquiry will consider whether criticisms are justified, what steps have been taken to address them, and where more needs to be done.

In August it emerged the £15bn Crossrail project would open nine months late to allow more time for testing.

The route, to be known as the Elizabeth line, had been due to open in December this year, but has been delayed until autumn 2019 “to ensure a safe and reliable railway”, transport officials said.

The inquiry has encouraged written submissions until 9 November, which can be submitted here.

Questions it will consider include:

  • How can major public projects be managed to command more respect and public confidence?

  • How well equipped is the civil service to commission, manage and deliver major projects?

  • How are decisions to commission and deliver major projects taken?

  • What should be the expectation of remuneration levels, churn of top executives, and conflicts of interest between commissioning authorities, contracted companies and potential contractors, consultants and civil servants leaving their department for the private sector?

In February, the NAO criticised the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) spending plans and said it had a multi-billion pound “black hole” in its budget.

In its review of the MoD’s Equipment Plan for 2017-18, it said the £180bn 10-year plan to modernise the military was “unaffordable” and did not represent a “realistic forecast” of costs.

Then, in July, a leaked internal report warned the $56bn HS2 high speed rail project is “unachievable” and “may need rescoping”.

The document, commissioned by the government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority, said the project was “highly likely to significantly overspend” by 20-60%, the Financial Times reported.

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