NAO calls for compulsory safeguards for major IT projects


NAO calls for compulsory safeguards for major IT projects

Rebecca Thomson

The National Audit Office (NAO) has called for a compulsory system of safeguards for major IT projects in an attempt to stop the huge cost overruns they have become associated with.

It wants an assurance system that will provide information to people involved in projects. The aim is to make decision makers better informed and reduce the risk of project failure.

The government watchdog said, "Central government's high-risk projects are frequently large scale, innovative and reliant on complex relationships between diverse stakeholders. Such projects frequently present a level of risk that no commercial organisation would consider taking on. Projects can fail to deliver to time, cost and quality."

Central government has become associated with big IT projects that run over-budget by millions of pounds and fail to be delivered on time, and the NAO said previous attempts to stop this happening have not worked. Neither Gateway reviews or the Major Project Review Group have the necessary powers to stop ailing projects early on, it said.

The new system of assurance would need to be compulsory, focused on outcomes, capable of collecting plenty of evidence from those involved in projects and triggering interventions where necessary. It also needs to be capable of "systematically propagating the lessons learned".

Head of the NAO Amyas Morse said, "A new mandatory system of assurance for high risk projects is needed. This will help to reduce the financial risk to the taxpayer and increase the likelihood of successful project delivery. The new system should make greater use of hard evidence in judging whether the elements fundamental to successful project delivery are in place and operating effectively."

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