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Government IT projects improving - but several still in doubt

Watchdog says no Whitehall IT programmes received its highest 'red' rating this year - but others still need attention

None of the government’s major technology or IT-dependent programmes have received the highest “red” warning status in the latest review of the biggest Whitehall projects.

However, eight such programmes have received the next highest “amber/red” rating, which means “successful delivery is in doubt”.

The annual report from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) shows that 39 IT projects worth £18.6bn are being monitored as part of the government’s major project portfolio – although many of the 40 projects worth £71.1bn classified as “transformation and service delivery” are heavily dependent on IT and digital implementation.

In 2016, two IT projects received a red status, meaning “successful delivery appears to be unachievable” – those were the Home Office’s Oracle enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and the Department for Transport’s (DfT) move to the Cabinet Office’s shared service centre.

This year, the £262m Home Office ERP project has been “reset” – effectively, it has been restarted because of the problems encountered – while the DfT shared services is now rated as “amber” after being re-scoped in August 2016.

The eight IT-related projects rated as amber/red are:

Some high-profile projects that have faced recent criticism received more favourable “amber” ratings from the IPA, which means “successful delivery appears feasible but significant issues already exist”, but any problems “appear resolvable”.

Read more about government IT Verify – the identity assurance programme run by the Government Digital Service, was rated as “amber/green”.

“The IPA rated the programme’s technical delivery as green, but government’s ability to adopt as amber. The programme has developed a targeted commercial plan to rapidly increase adoption and user volumes in 2017/18. This includes providing a new lower level of identity assurance to support departments’ needs,” said the report.

Computer Weekly has previously asked the Cabinet Office to release details of the Verify roll-out plan under freedom of information (FOI) laws, but our request was turned down. Costs for the Verify programme were also withheld from the IPA report, again citing exemptions under FOI.

Universal Credit rated amber

Universal Credit, the controversial welfare reform programme at the Department for Work and Pensions, was rated as amber, reflecting the “continued progress the programme has made”, according to the IPA.

The whole-life costs for Universal Credit have also reduced – estimated now at £13.5bn, down from £15.8bn in 2015.

The £17bn smart meters implementation programme has also been rated as amber, although the IPA said “there remained a number of areas requiring close management attention by the programme team”.

“The majority of government projects are complex, and there are still many areas for further improvement,” said IPA chief executive Tony Meggs, in his introduction to the major projects report.

“We continue to work with government departments and industry to improve the way individual projects are being delivered. One of our priorities is to build the necessary delivery capability in government so we have the very best people managing our projects.”

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