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Whitehall cuts number of troubled IT projects



Two MoJ and one DfT IT projects are still in the ‘red’ zone identified in the 2015-16 IPA report

Central government has slightly fewer big projects in trouble than last September – 44 instead of 48 – and of the £405bn invested in them, only £1 billion relates to those identified in the last round.

The change has emerged from the latest Annual Report on Major Projects from the Government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA).

Its broadly positive finding is that: “There’s been real progress in improving the delivery on time and on budget of many of the Government’s major projects… but there are some projects where delivery confidence is assessed at red or amber/red, which means there is much to do to ensure they deliver the promised benefits.”

While this statement could probably have been made at any time in the past 30 years, it is a timely one - as finding out which projects are on the wrong traffic light is the best way to establish how taxpayers’ money is being spent on improving public services.

As one of the main findings of the latest iteration of the annual snapshot of central government major project work – with 143 examples this year - then we do want to know more.

Three reds

So let’s cut to the chase – which projects are in trouble? According to the study, as of April 2016, IT related ones that are marked as ‘red’ and have been in the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) since 2012 are:

  • Future IT Sourcing Programme – “Aims to deliver a £95 million per year reduction in the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) ICT operating costs through the design and implementation of a new ICT operating model.”
  • Electronic Monitoring (MoJ) – “A contractual re-competition that will stimulate the market and increase competition in the provision of electronic tagging systems that exploit the latest technology.”
  • Shared Services Implementation Programme (Department for Transport) – “To centralise transactional functions for finance, human resources, payroll and procurement into two independent shared service centres.”

The study, which is also rather grandly said to include some self-criticism of the IPA’s own “remit, portfolio and progress”, details the current state of achievement – or not – in work underway on everything from Crossrail to Universal Credit to NHS Spine 2 to the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier programme.

The study details 35 public sector ICT projects underway with a total value of £16 billion out of the entire £405 billion (lifetime value) in the GMPP.

IPA says these projects, which make up 25% of the number but less than 5% of the whole life cost, “aim to restructure legacy IT contracts and introduce flexible IT systems more aligned to the future,” exemplified by the Columbus Programme, through which HM Revenue & Customs is replacing the government’s largest IT contract (Aspire).

Crossovers and completions

It is worth noting that there is some possible crossover in the IPA’s separate ‘Government transformation and service delivery’ box, as with Universal Credit, which is surely ICT based. It is also worth recording that a number of ICT based projects have been deemed to have been completed, like HMRC’s Real-Time Information Project and the Department of Health’s Summary Care Record initiative.

Meanwhile, some projects in the field have entered the GMPP since its last report. These include the Cabinet Office’s Verify identify assurance programme, and the Home Office biometrics programme, which is aimed at improving the efficiency and capability of biometric search and match capability.


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