A third of UK government construction projects due to be undertaken in the next five years are said to be rated as unachievable if action is not taken to improve delivery, according to the latest report by the UK government’s National Audit Office (NAO).

The NAO published its progress report on measures to improve the delivery of major government projects including construction, major service reforms and ICT (information communications technology). There have been initiatives designed to improve the oversight and delivery of projects but their impact is currently unclear at this time, it said.

There are 149 projects in the Government Major Project Portfolio, with a combined cost of £511 billion (€684.5 billion) and an expected spend of £25 billion (€33.9 billion) in 2015/16.

The public sector has had a poor track record in delivering projects successfully, according to the NAO. During the last Parliament, the NAO reported that recurring issues included an absence of portfolio management at both departmental and government level, a lack of clear and consistent data with which to measure performance, and poor early planning. It also highlighted a lack of capacity and capability to undertake a growing number of projects and a lack of clear accountability for leadership of a project.

The government’s Infrastructure & Projects Authority – a new authority combining the work of the previous Major Projects Authority and Infrastructure UK, which was established by the government on 1 January 2016 – has taken steps to develop capability and provide greater assurance on improving project delivery. However, it is difficult to tell whether performance is improving without reliable and consistent measures of project success, according to the NAO.

It said that despite some improvements in the level of information published on major projects, there are still a number of issues which make it difficult to form conclusions about trends in performance.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said, “I acknowledge that a number of positive steps have been taken by the authority and client departments. At the same time, I am concerned that a third of projects monitored by the authority are at risk of failure and the overall picture of progress on project performance is opaque. More effort is needed if the success rate of project delivery is to improve.”

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