2 Capacity and capability issues |
6. The Authority is responsible for reporting
on over 200 major projects with a total whole life cost of £376
billion. It has a budget of £6 million and 38 full-time equivalent
members of staff, some 40% less staff than its predecessor, the
Major Projects Directorate of the Office for Government Commerce.
The resources applied to assurance work in the private sector
are often significantly greater than those in the public sector.
We asked whether the Authority was adequately resourced given
that it was required to deliver more work with fewer resources
than its predecessor. The Authority told us that, in agreement
with HM Treasury and departments, it prioritised its workload
based on those projects which were considered to be high risk,
high value, and with the potential for high reputational damage
if they go wrong. Other projects in the portfolio get less in-depth
attention from the Authority. The Authority acknowledged that
the size or risk attributed to a project was not necessarily an
indication of how well the project was run and that there was
a danger that it could miss problems which might arise in smaller
7. The Authority does not measure the outcomes
from its assurance interventions, but told us that it was working
with HM Treasury to create a performance framework to capture
We asked what consideration had been given to quantifying the
financial return from the current level of investment in the assurance
system and whether investment in additional assurance work could
result in further savings.
HM Treasury told us that it had not undertaken such an analysis
but it was supportive of investments which 'spend to save'.
8. The Authority told us that because it did
not have the resources to carry out focused assurance work across
the portfolio, it was targeting the improvement of civil servants'
project management skills as a means of reducing the project failure
rate. The Major Projects
Leadership Academy, a joint venture between the Authority and
Oxford University, was launched in April 2012 with the aim of
training 200 to 300 senior civil servants in project management
skills within three years.
From March 2014, all Senior Responsible Owners of major projects
will be required to have attended the Academy and have two years'
operational experience before being appointed to manage a major
9. The Academy is a welcome step in strengthening
the project management skills of civil servants, but retaining
and making best use of those trained will be a challenge.
Managing large projects is as much of a challenge for the private
sector as for the public sector and there is a danger that individuals
will leave the civil service once trained. The Authority told
us that retaining staff would depend on ensuring that conditions
in the workplace allowed staff to use their skills to best effect
and feel supported, appreciated and rewarded. The Academy is being
supplemented with a project leaders' network for Senior Responsible
Owners to share ideas, information and provide peer support.
But the Authority also needs to ensure that individuals strengthen
their knowledge with the right experience, and get recognition
for doing a good job.
10. To make best use of the skilled Senior Responsible
Owners, it is important that they remain on the job for the right
length of time. This Committee has frequently highlighted the
detrimental effect of "churn" of staff on the delivery
of projects. In particular, the Ministry of Defence does not keep
Senior Responsible Owners in post for long enough before they
are moved on to new roles.
The Authority told us that it was working with the Ministry of
Defence and other departments on their deployment of Senior Responsible
Owners and project directors to increase flexibility in appointments
and reduce this "churn" rate.
12 Q 62, C&AG's Report para 2.4 Back
Qq 2-3 Back
Qq 35, 36, 63 Back
Q 114 Back
Qq 41, 114 Back
Q 100 Back
Qq 9, 34 Back
Q 86 Back
Qq 88,90 Back
Qq 93, 95 Back
Q 86 Back
Qq 93-94 Back
Q 77 Back
Qq 79-82 Back