Background to the report

In April 2011, the Major Projects Authority, now the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (the Authority), created the Government Major Projects Portfolio (the Portfolio) to improve the delivery of government’s biggest and riskiest projects by increasing transparency and providing independent assurance.

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In 2016, we reported on whether the establishment of the Authority and the Portfolio had improved government’s performance in delivering major projects. The turnover of projects, the limited data published and the lack of systematic monitoring of whether projects had realised benefits made it difficult to conclude on trends in performance across the Portfolio. The Committee of Public Accounts (the Committee) expressed concern: about the quality of data, including that on benefits and the apparent gap in responsibilities for reporting on the delivery of benefits; and that some projects left the Portfolio without a review to ensure that they were on track to deliver their benefits.

The Committee identified that improving the delivery of benefits should be a priority, recommending that the Authority should do more to determine whether government projects were likely to achieve their stated benefits before they leave the Portfolio.

Content and scope of the report

This report examines:

  • why we examined projects leaving the Portfolio;
  • whether there is evidence that projects which have left the Portfolio have delivered their intended benefits; and
  • whether accountability for, and transparency of, major project delivery has improved (Part Three).

We do not conclude on whether individual projects have provided value for money.

Report conclusions

The Portfolio represents the government’s biggest and riskiest projects, which are also intended to produce £650 billion of benefits. The Portfolio was set up to provide more transparency around their performance, as well as to provide extra assurance. Although there is evidence that most projects that have recently left the Portfolio have implemented their planned scope, it is less clear whether they achieve the intended outcomes. For example, there is no corresponding figure for what proportion of the £650 billion of benefits have been realised. Weaknesses in the Authority’s processes in the past have reduced the degree of transparency around many of the 302 projects that have left the Portfolio. Recent improvements are welcome but there is still a need for the Authority to develop its oversight at exit and for departments to monitor and evaluate projects and their outcomes more consistently, so that performance improves and maximum value is derived from projects.

“The Infrastructure and Projects Authority is clearly contributing much-needed project management and evaluation techniques to the mammoth programme of major projects run by government. We believe it could drive greater improvement if it adopted a clearer method of measuring the benefits of these projects, and tougher discipline over the terms on which projects are included, or more to the point, excluded from its oversight.”

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO


Publication details

Press release

View press release (19 Oct 2018)

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