Commons support grows for Gateway publication

Parliamentary report expected to back call for transparency in IT projects

The head of Eurim, one of the most influential parliamentary IT bodies, has thrown his weight behind Computer Weekly's call to make government IT projects more accountable.

Brian White, chairman of the parliamentary lobbying group, has called for the publication of Gateway reviews to be written into the manifestos of all political parties.

White was speaking to Computer Weekly after Treasury minister Ruth Kelly said the government would consider calls for a statutory framework to ensure good practice in government IT projects.

The comments were made ahead of the publication later this month of the findings of the most penetrating investigation yet into IT projects by a House of Commons committee.

After more than six months of enquiries, the work and pensions subcommittee is expected to back Computer Weekly's call for more disclosure of information over the progress or otherwise on major government IT projects which can cost billions of pounds.

This publication is campaigning for the disclosure of Gateway reviews - independent assessments of risky IT projects at critical stages in their lifecycles - and a statutory framework which would improve accountability and transparency on government computer-related schemes.

He said, "It would be good to see [publication of Gateway reviews] written into the manifestos of all parties - it would be a good position for them to adopt."

Support for the idea of parties committing themselves to publishing Gateway reviews in their manifestos came last week from Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Vince Cable, a former chief economist at Shell. Cable said, "I have called for the Gateway review to be published on a number of occasions in the interest of transparency."

Eurim has more than 100 parliamentary members, including ministers and front-bench spokesmen.

The report of the work and pensions subcommittee is expected to be hard-hitting and may focus on the lack of reliable information given to Parliament about how projects costing millions of pounds are progressing.

Two major IT projects, for a new air traffic control centre at Prestwick in Scotland and a £1bn Pathway system for the Post Office collapsed after Parliament was told the schemes were on track for successfully going live.

MPs' response on Gateway reviews       

Computer Weekly's campaign achieved a breakthrough last month when Ruth Kelly, financial secretary to the Treasury, told Richard Bacon, a member of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, that the government would consider the call for a statutory framework. Kelly said she would write to Bacon on the government's response.  

Bacon said he expected a reply indicating the government's thinking on a statutory framework within two weeks. He thought it unlikely he would receive a more thorough response until September.

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