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Major project delivery

About major project delivery


We have significant experience auditing government’s major programmes and projects. These are often large-scale, novel, delivered by multiple stakeholders and present risks many commercial organisations would not take on.

Our work shows the chances of success are closely related to the quality of the early decisions. Common challenges include:

  • being realistic about the level of uncertainty around how much programmes and projects might cost and how long they might take;
  • establishing robust, yet flexible, governance and assurance; and
  • understanding and managing the integration with other projects

No matter the size, these are critical if a programme or project is to deliver value for money. Delay and increased costs on one scheme can have wider repercussions, on other projects, programmes, departments and overall expenditure.

The Government Major Projects Portfolio was established in 2011 to increase transparency and provide independent assurance of the biggest and riskiest projects.

Although this has led to improvements in programme and project management, government could do more to embed good practice.

The reports and guidance on this page contain analysis, advice and tools to help government improve programme and project delivery.

Publications

Man working on laptop

Framework to review programmes update April 2021

This review suggests key questions to ask when reviewing major programmes.


Engineer in tunnel

Learning for government on major projects

Guidance to improve delivery, based on insight we have gained from reviewing government’s recent major programmes and projects.


clock on NAO building

Survival guide to challenging costs in major projects

Ground rules and factors for senior decision makers to consider when challenging costs.


sign saying National Audit Office

Over-optimism in government projects

A review of projects that highlights the implications of optimism bias and some key contributory factors.


More publications →

Opinion and comment

Let’s get down to business

Find out why a strong business case is vital for effective decision making and for successfully delivering intended outcomes.


A London underground sign in front of the Elizabeth Tower.

Using our insight into EU Exit preparations to highlight learning for government

Our 28 reports on EU Exit preparations highlight recurring themes and what we have learnt.


A digital butterfly

Successful transformation: voices of experience

Transformation programmes are complex and face numerous barriers. So what does it take to be one of the minority that succeed?



Our Experts

Emma Willson

Emma leads our Major Projects hub. She has worked at the NAO for almost 20 years, auditing a wide range of government programmes, from welfare reform to large-scale defence equipment projects. She is a qualified chartered accountant and holds an International Association for Contract and Commercial Management (IACCM) qualification.

Simon Reason

Simon directs our Corporate Finance Network, specialising in project finance, and is a Member of the Charted Institute of Securities and Investments. He has been at the NAO for almost 20 years, and has audited a range of government departments.

Jemma Dunne

Jemma is an Audit Manager and has delivered value for money reports across areas such as health and defence, including those on government programmes. She is a qualified chartered accountant (FCA) and holds the APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ).

Hedley Ayres

Hedley has been reporting on major infrastructure, construction and commercial projects for over 10 years. His work has covered sectors including the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, transport (Crossrail, HS2, rail franchising and road enhancement projects) and nuclear decommissioning (major projects at Sellafield).

Jennifer Bayliss

Jennifer worked on the delivery of a wide range of projects through the Millennium Commission and Arts Council England. She has been a member of the Association for Project Management for nearly 20 years.