MPs value private sector staff

House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Edward Leigh has underlined the importance of former private sector...

House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Edward Leigh has underlined the importance of former private sector workers in improving the Government's IT infrastructure.

The chairman of the influential parliamentary committee cited the work of Peter Gershon at the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the agency set up to streamline central government procurement and oversee major IT projects.

He said, "I think that he is probably a breath of fresh air - someone who is interested in results - it is good to bring someone like that in from outside Whitehall."

Gershon, the former chief operating officer of BAE Systems, formed the OGC in April 2000. As part of his role as the agency's chief executive, he oversees the Gateway review process, which aims to prevent high-profile IT project failures, such as those that hit the Passport Office and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.

To date, 330 Gateway reviews have been conducted on 270 projects, and OGC officials expect to deliver a £500m saving to the taxpayer by March 2003.

Leigh said, "You could argue that the story of government IT over the past 15 years has been a disaster."

The Conservative MP for Gainsborough said, "Ministers have added more policy changes than a business would have done. It is like adding more and more gifts to the Christmas tree - and then it topples over."

Leigh also identified strong project management as key to avoiding the IT fiascos of the past. "You have to have one person in charge of projects and his career has to depend on it," he said.

In November 2001 officials admitted to the PAC that the probation service's IT strategy had been dogged by poor project management.

Read more on IT project management

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