Major Projects Authority annual report – credit where credit’s due please

We don’t often say this but ... three unequivocal cheers for the Government, the Major Projects Authority, the Cabinet Office, and Francis Maude, their Minister.

Whilst there have been mutterings about the timing of publication – the Friday before a holiday weekend, perfect for slipping out bad news – the Major Projects Authority Annual Report is in fact very good news for UK taxpayers and citizens.

That’s because it shows both a degree of openness around what is going on in government that we rarely see, and it shows a more rigorous approach to project and programmes than we’ve ever had. It’s of interest to the procurement community of course in that over half the projects are very much procurement projects (e.g. construction, new IT contracts) and another chunk have a considerable procurement content (e.g. shared services programmes).

The distribution of ratings across the whole portfolio of projects is as follows:

Green

32

Amber/Green

49

Amber

58

Amber/Red

23

Red

8

Exempt

21

No, I have worked out what “exempt” means either.

The report covers projects across all departments, and gives a substantial narrative (you have to go into the individual department’s pages to find those) about each project as well as the rating. There’s also an interesting overview of how the Major Projects Authority is developing, including an update on the Academy and work on better data and sharing of information.

The running cost of the MPA has also been reduced by a couple of million by using more civil servants rather than external consultants – I have had a slight concern about that in terms of whether civil servants feel they can be critical of their colleagues, but the RAG distribution suggest my fears may be groundless.

Of course some of the media coverage has focused on the negatives of the 8 “red” ratings and potentially failing projects. We’ll come back to that, because there are some interesting aspects of this, and indeed worrying signs. And of course the political opposition has done a certain amount of head-shaking, conveniently ignoring the fact that many of the projects started whilst Labour were in power and more to the point they always refused to publish this sort of information themselves!

But despite the issues that the media have focused on, we should all put this in the “real achievement” column when it comes to weighing up how the current coalition is performing, and in the credit column for Francis Maude, Cabinet Office et al. This is real openness and transparency at work, and what is disappointing is that some of the negativity may discourage future governments from following such a positive course.

Finally, well done to David Pitchford (who I still haven’t ever met) and his team for an impressive piece of work.

First Voice

  1. Dave Orr:

    The usual forensic analysis by investigative IT journalist Tony Collins:

    http://ukcampaign4change.com/2013/05/29/is-major-projects-annual-report-truly-ground-breaking/

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