MPs' report spurs rethink on IT project monitoring

The government is changing how it monitors IT projects following criticisms from MPs.

The government is changing how it monitors IT projects following criticisms from MPs.

The comments were contained in a report into the government's IT-related failure to allocate EU farm payments effectively.

The report, published last month by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, highlighted the inability of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) to halt failing IT projects as a key factor in the farm payments debacle, which pushed thousands of farmers to the brink of bankruptcy.

In response to this and other similar failures, the Treasury is forming the Major Projects Review Group, which will have powers to stop a failing government IT project before it goes live.

The system should give more weight to the OGC's existing powers to conduct Gateway reviews into failing IT projects.

A spokesman for the OGC said the move was partly in response to criticism that it lacked teeth in ensuring that its recommendations were acted on by government departments.

"You could argue that was a weakness in the remit we had. That is not something for us to answer we could only work within the remit we had. It is down to the project's senior responsible owner to act on the report," a spokesman for the OGC said.

The government now proposes that, as well as going to the department that manages the IT project, Gateway reviews will go to the Major Project Review Group.

The group would then have powers to halt failing IT projects if the department did not act on the recommendations in the review.

Eric Woods, government practice director at research firm Ovum, said that with so many government IT projects becoming interdependent, it was sensible that an agency outside each department could assess their progress.

"The government has realised that IT has become crucial in delivery policy and that it needs to be taken back into the broader governance of government. There is a recognition that it needs to do more and that some things have slipped though the net," Woods said.

A spokesman for the Treasury said the group would be established during the summer.

Related article: Government watchdog rapped by MPs

Related article: Rural payments scheme failures

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