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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

woman looking at gantt chart on a computer

Framework to review programmes

Sets out the key questions we ask, with examples from a range of reports to show how they support learning from past 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.


whitehall sign

Projects leaving the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP)

It’s often unclear if major projects have achieved their intended outcomes. Better closedown processes would improve evaluation.


More publications →

Work in progress

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.


Improving broadband

What the Superfast Broadband Programme has delivered, and how the UK’s broadband infrastructure has coped with increased traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Opinion and comment

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?


signs to Whitehall and Westminster

If Restoration and Renewal (R&R) is to be a success, the risks must be addressed now

Gareth Davies on the R&R Programme for the Palace of Westminster (The House magazine).


Infographic: £442 billion: whole-life cost of the 133 projects on the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP) in 2018-19
Infographic: 42: Number of projects on 2018-19 GMPP where successful delivery is assessed as "appears unachievable" or "in doubt"


Our Experts

Simon Reason

Simon directs our Major Projects Hub. He has been with the NAO for almost 20 years, auditing a wide range of government departments in that time. Simon also directs our Corporate Finance Network, specialising in project finance. He is a Member of the Charted Institute of Securities and Investments.

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).

John Bell

John has 25 years of project delivery experience. He was the Gateway Review Leader and Gateway Director in the Office of Government Commerce. He also held senior Programme and Project Management positions in the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

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.