NAO advocates openness but not publication of Gateway reviews

The National Audit Office has recommended that Gateway reviews should be more widely available to civil servants, but has stopped...

The National Audit Office has recommended that Gateway reviews should be more widely available to civil servants, but has stopped short of recommending publication.

Computer Weekly is campaigning for Office of Government Commerce Gateway reviews to be published because, given the history of public sector IT failure in the UK, this is the only way to guarantee transparency and accountability.

In its Improving IT Procurement study, the NAO found a case for more openness of Gateway reviews. It said that although confidentiality ensures subjects were open and frank about the risks they faced and their concerns about how risks are being managed, this must be balanced with the need for openness.

"It is only by sharing Gateway findings - both positive and negative - that lessons learned can be maximised and past mistakes avoided. Gateway review reports are provided to the senior responsible owner of the project and to the department's Centre of Excellence, and our case studies indicate that accounting officers are keen to see the reports," the report said.

"But practice varies in the extent to which they are routinely considered by departmental boards and chief executives. As the Gateway process is much more firmly embedded within departments, the results of reviews should be considered by management and the action taken in response made more transparent.

"Similarly, suppliers have made the point that they do not routinely see Gateway reviews and consider that wider circulation of at least key parts of such documents would help maintain a joint approach to tackling emerging problems and issues."

Despite this, the NAO did not challenge the consensus among ministers, the OGC and senior civil servants that Gateway reviews should not be exposed to Parliamentary or public scrutiny.

Key points from the NAO's Gateway review report   

1. "What the Gateway process has revealed is that many of the problems of IT-enabled programmes and projects are not about the technology itself, but about the determination of the business processes that it is designed to serve and the selection and training of staff who will operate the new arrangements.    

"The Gateway review process' insistence that the planning, management and implementation of programmes and projects with an IT element should also have regard to these matters has been of great value."   

2. "The degree to which it is possible to assess whether the procurement of IT-enabled projects has improved as a result of the Office of Government Commerce's activities, tools and guidance is difficult to judge given the recent introduction of a number of these initiatives.  

 "What can be said is the structures are in place to minimise the risk of future IT failure and that department and supplier behaviour is changing positively as a result of the OGC's work."

Source: Improving IT Procurement, NAO

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