The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry on the government’s major projects portfolio. The portfolio currently has 133 projects with a value of £423bn and includes high profile infrastructure projects such as Crossrail, HS2 and Hinkley Point but also major Government ICT projects, projects to transform public services, and major defence procurement programmes.
Individual government departments manage numerous capital projects outside the major projects portfolio and the management of such projects has been criticised, with lack of accountability, poor early planning and limited government capability amongst the concerns flagged by the National Audit Office. The Public Administration Committee inquiry will look at how well such projects are managed by government, consider whether criticisms are justified, what steps have been taken to address them and where more needs to be done.
The committee wants to hear a wide range of views on the government's management of major projects and is inviting written submissions to the inquiry which need to be received by 9 November 2018. Submissions should address some or all of the following questions, giving concrete examples wherever possible.
- How can major public projects be managed to command more respect and public confidence?
- How well equipped is the Civil Service to commission, manage and deliver major projects?
- How are decisions to commission and deliver major projects taken? What planning takes place and at what stage? How is the requirement for the project assessed?
- How should the Civil Service and government departments initiate and manage major projects? What represents best practice and how well is best practice understood?
- Who is, and who should be, held accountable for the conduct of major projects and for their outcomes, and who should be held accountable?
- How should departments establish the best governance of major projects? What is the optimum structure? How departments should divide and allocate responsibilities, and how should boards and chief executives held accountable for governance of their operations, without restricting their requirement to exercise their own discretion?
- How should departments assess the strength of leadership of a major project? What skills and experience do they need to apply to this question?
- What should be the expectation of remuneration levels, churn of top executives, and conflicts of interest between commissioning authorities, contracted companies and potential contractors, consultants and civil servants leaving their department for the private sector? How should the government oversee these issues?
- What role does competition play in the market for contractors for major projects? When is competition beneficial and when is it more of a distraction from issues which need to be addressed?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses in the usual process by which contracts are awarded and managed? What are the lessons to be drawn from particular examples of success or failure?
- How are timescales for delivery decided?
- How adequate are the processes for monitoring the progress of projects over their lifetime?
- How are risks assessed? How are they mitigated and what are the lessons to learn from examples of success and failure of risk management?
- What are the best financial models to adopt for financing and managing the delivery of major projects?
- What are the most prevalent reasons for major projects overrunning or exceeding their budget?
- What lessons can be learned from examples of projects in other countries or under the control of devolved or local government?
- What is the role of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and how well does it perform this role?