Government IT needs to be better co-ordinated from the centre of Whitehall, according to a report based on interviews with senior civil servants.
The Institute for Government Study said there is a gap at the centre of Whitehall and a "conspicuous lack" of a single coherent strategy for government as a whole.
While the government's central CIO council has succeeded in coming up with central strategies and methods of sharing information, the problems arise when it tries to implement changes, because it does not have enough authority to override individual departments.
The report says, "Attempts by the centre to promote cross-government IT-based transformation have tended to founder on a combination of line departments' competing priorities and the centre's lack of influence.
"This is because the governance of IT is currently 'collegial': with power dispersed between departments, the centre can co-ordinate only through persuasion and consensus rather than formal mandates."
The report said a central body may be best placed to tackle some of the problems with government IT. It would be able to standardise the patchwork of systems that have grown up across departments, which often operate to different standards and are unable to connect up with each other. This can mean colleagues in different departments are unable to communicate properly.
Public sector spending on IT in 2007/08 was £16bn, around 4.6% of total Whitehall spending. The government is on an efficiency drive and wants to cut these costs by about 20%, and initiatives such as the Operational Efficiency Programme, Transformational Government and the Gershon Review all emphasise improving the efficiency of IT.
The report said, "The centre could play a crucial facilitating and coordinating role" in this.