Assurance for major projects - Public Accounts Committee Contents

3 The use of project information

11.  The Authority has significantly improved the management information that government holds on its major projects. The quarterly Government Major Projects Portfolio report contains data on project costs and benefits (budget, actual and forecast estimates), project milestones and delivery confidence for the 205 projects in the portfolio.[26] However, the information in the quarterly reports is not used to secure value for money across the portfolio. HM Treasury does not routinely consider the major projects portfolio across government when making a decision on whether to approve an individual project. Similarly, it does not use the information to identify and understand how underspending or overspending on individual projects may impact future spending across government. HM Treasury acknowledged that it could and should make better use of the data collected by the Authority on the major projects portfolio and told us that it would look to prioritise resources between projects in the portfolio more effectively, and reallocate funding between departments even in the periods between spending reviews.[27]

12.  The Authority has not met its objective of publishing information on project status. Information on project spending, delivery confidence ratings and project milestones is reported internally to departments, but is not available to the public as the Government has not yet decided whether to make this information public. The Authority is also unable to produce its annual report on major projects, which is now seriously overdue, until the government decides whether to release the data.. The Authority told us that it is committed to publishing its annual report once the government reaches a decision, which it expects by the end of the summer, and that it would provide an update to the Committee in advance of the report once the policy and reporting arrangements have been agreed. [28]

13.  Openness and transparent reporting are key to ensuring accountability for public money. The Authority maintains that an exception should be made to exclude it from publishing commercially sensitive information.[29] We are concerned that on far too many occasions private companies are allowed to hide behind concerns for commercial confidentiality as a means of frustrating the legitimate scrutiny of value for money.[30] In the future, the Committee will expect regular published updates on the progress of major projects.[31]

26   C&AG's Report paras 2.2 Back

27   Qq 73-75 Back

28   Qq 102-106, 109-110 Back

29   Q 106 Back

30   Q 107 Back

31   Q 110 Back

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Prepared 16 October 2012