Delivering major projects
Director Project Delivery National Audit Office (UK)
About the NAO
• The National Audit Office (NAO) scrutinises
public spending for Parliament.
• We help to hold government departments and
the bodies we audit to account for how they
use public money.
• Our work helps public service managers to
improve performance and service delivery,
nationally and locally.
a) OGC Gateway Review launched January 2001.
b) Major Projects Review Group.
c) 2010 NAO’s “Assurance for High Risk Projects” published.
d) 2011 the Major Projects Authority was founded.
e) 2016 MPA and IUK merger to form Infrastructure & Projects Authority.
A bit of history
IPA addresses project failure…
• Advice & guidance
• Access to peers
• Developing the profession
• Gateway Reviews
• Integrated Assurance & Approval Plans
• Government Major Projects Portfolio
• Quarterly Progress Returns
• Annual Report
...in the biggest and riskiest GMPP projects
The Major Projects Authority (now IPA) has a Prime Ministerial Mandate to improve the delivery
of major projects in government
• Absence of portfolio management
• Poor early planning
• Lack of clear consistent data
• Lack of capacity and capability
• Lack of accountability for leadership of a
Problems with delivery identified by NAO
& PAC between 2010-15
We reported to PAC on project delivery
• Why we did our report:
To brief the new PAC.
To highlight concerns from previous Parliament.
To consider what progress has been made and what is left to do.
• Our report covered:
The challenge of delivering projects in government (size, nature, depts, time).
Recent Performance of the GMPP.
What steps had been taken to improve performance by MPA and departments.
• Our evidence:
GMPP data from Jun 2015.
The Major Projects Authority Annual Report 2015 (September 2014 data).
Interviews with Heads of Profession, Portfolio Teams, SROs of major projects.
Government has a challenging portfolio of major projects
• 30% will take more than 10 years to deliver; and
• 4 will take more than 30 years
• 71% of projects due to be completed by 2019-
• Crossrail the largest infrastructure project in Europe
• Departments are delivering several projects at once
• Across departmental boundaries
• Involving a diverse supply chain
• Multiple policy objectives
Ambition and complexity Timescales
Volume of projects Size of projects
• 149 projects with WLC value of £511bn in the
Government’s Major Projects Portfolio;
• 30 of these are infrastructure, estimated at £170 billion
• 564 projects in the National Infrastructure pipeline worth
• Another £26 billion capital spend outside
• Plus Network Rail and other
We saw some welcome developments…
Steps have been taken to improve capability:
Major Projects Leadership Academy and Project Leadership Academy.
CS Fast Stream for project delivery and fast track apprenticeships scheduled.
Departments offering masterclasses & facilitating community activity.
Development of the profession (communities, heads of profession).
• Increased assurance especially at initiation.
• Portfolio management functions now in most departments.
• Improvements to accountability including more clarity on
the SRO role.
…but it is too soon to see the impact of some of these initiatives and for others, the impact is variable
In the absence of reliable and consistent measures of projects success
it is difficult to state whether performance is improving.
We noted the following:
a) Some data is exempt.
b) Data is published at least six months in arrears.
c) High project turnover in the portfolio prevents trend analysis.
d) Inconsistent reporting of costs (some real, some nominal).
e) No systematic monitoring of benefits.
But is performance improving?
Reported costs are higher than in 2012
Whole-life cost of
the Portfolio in
Net increase in
reported costs of
the 59 projects
remaining on the
portfolio across all
joining the Portfolio
Net increases to
the whole-life costs
of projects which
have not been in
the Portfolio for the
Reduction in the
where the project
costs are no longer
Whole-life cost of
the Portfolio in
These were due to changes in the changes in the composition of the portfolio; more
costs being disclosed and inclusion of previously unknown costs
Aggregate and disclosed costs were higher in 2015 than in 2012
More projects in doubt now than in 2012
4 811 12
Sep 2012 - 191
Sep 2013 - 199
Sep 2014 - 188
Jun 2015 - 149
Green Amber/Green Amber
Amber/Red Red Exempt or not provided
The percentage of red & amber/red
projects increased and the percentage of
green & amber/green decreased.
This is because:
• 21 new R & A/R projects added
• Delivery confidence declined for 16
• 6 remained unchanged
• 66 G or Aleft the /G portfolio
• 26 projects improved to G or A/G
For projects in the Portfolio for all
• G & A/G projects increased
• R & A/R projects also increased
Delivery confidence for 35% of projects due to finish this Parliament is in doubt or
unachievable. 80% of projects due to finish by 2020 are ‘transformation’.
Are benefits being achieved
• Benefits are not always clearly articulated at the onset.
• This is a particularly difficult with projects with
ambitious objectives – High Speed 2.
• Important to make someone responsible for managing
• But long timescales are an issue.
• Departments often do not evaluate whether benefits
have been realised.
What are the challenges now?
Three key challenges in this Parliament are to:
• prevent departments making firm commitments on cost and timescales for
delivery before plans have been properly tested;
• develop an effective mechanism whereby all major projects are prioritised
according to strategic importance and that capability is deployed in priority
• put in place systems and data which allow proper performance measurement.
• Merger of the MPA and IUK into IPA.
• Data collection does not allow transparent, open and honest dialogue about
• Over ambition about projects is putting them at risk.
• Major project delivery is not understood by policy makers.
• Technical skills within government and civil service.
• Exit reviews and benefit realisation.
Where to go for more information
Delivering major projects in government: a briefing
for the Committee of Public Accounts
6 January 2016
Welfare Reform – Lessons learned
29 May 2015
Assurance of major projects
2 May 2012
High Speed 2
A review of early programme preparation
16 May 2013
Major Projects Report 2015 and the Equipment
Plan 2015 to 2025
24 May 2014
Lessons from major rail infrastructure programmes
29 October 2014