Government Slow to Learn Project Management Lessons, Committee Finds

Session: 2009/2010

Date: 24 June 2010

Reference: PAC 16/09/10

Major Government projects are still being completed late and incurring increased costs. That’s one of the key findings from the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) First Thematic Report, published today. The Report, which looks at how complex Government projects have been managed since 2007, also found that the public has not always received the intended project outcomes.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Paul Maskey MLA, Chairperson of the Committee, said: “The Committee wanted to consolidate the key findings from previous PAC reports to reinforce recurring lessons to all Government departments about managing complex projects. In the current economic climate it is essential that the planning, management and evaluation of projects is appropriate and thorough to ensure that tax payers get value for money.”

Lessons highlighted by the Committee’s first report of this kind centred on Project Management. It draws out themes such as project appraisal, project team expertise, post-project evaluation and actions to protect the taxpayers’ interests.

A number of cases examined by the Committee have exposed a worrying lack of skills in areas such as IT, accounting and project management that undermines the public sector’s ability to negotiate successful outcomes of projects with private sector contractors.

The report highlights the Committee’s experience of many appraisals which significantly under-estimated costs, resulting in significant cost overruns for large complex projects. The Committee found that such appraisals did nothing to ensure the success of projects, but instead undermined their viability.

Mr Maskey said: “ Public bodies need to be realistic and careful about the number of complex change management projects that they can resource and deliver at the same time. To be more competitive, the public sector also needs to be able to assess the profitability of contracts to their private partner. We hope that highlighting the trends we have come across will start a new and positive conversation about how efficiency can be improved for the taxpayer.”

The Committee will debate this report on 29 June 2010 in the Assembly. At that time it will also address the findings of its fourth composite report, which summarises inquiries dealt with through written correspondence with departmental officials. These included internal fraud in the Sports Institute for Northern Ireland and legal challenges by unsuccessful bidders.


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