Major Projects Authority ducks out of rating Universal Credit

The government must act decisively to rescue key IT-related projects including G-Cloud, Next Generation Shared Services and electronic tagging, according to a report commissioned by the Cabinet Office and Treasury.

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The government must act decisively to rescue key IT-related projects including G-Cloud, Next Generation Shared Services and electronic tagging, according to a report commissioned by the Cabinet Office and Treasury.

The review, from the Major Projects Authority (MPA), which assesses important central government programmes, notably declined to release its judgements of Universal Credit and the Police ICT Company.

Universal Credit

The MPA did not give Universal Credit a rating on its four-point scale, saying that the beleaguered welfare reform programme has been ‘reset’.

The authority said that this follwed the shift in the programme to a more ‘test and learn’ approach last year. Future development plans for Universal Credit, whole life costs for the new plan- and even its business case- are yet to be updated, according to the MPA.

Police ICT Company

The authority also did not reveal its conclusions about the Police ICT Company (PICT), a police-led, privatised company set up by the Home Office in 2012 to manage police ICT. The report includes a brief description of PICT, but says that further data about the project is ‘exempt under section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act’. Section 43 is usually reserved for commercially sensitive topics.

Very little has emerged about PICT since it was first announced, with no indication of how it will operate, who will run it or when it will launch.

G-Cloud

The MPA rated the G-Cloud programme as ‘amber/red’ in its report. This means that it judges project’s successful delivery to be in doubt, and believes it has major risks or issues and needs urgent action. The report rates projects as green, amber, amber/red or red, with green indicating that a project is ‘likely’ to be delivered and red indicating that it is ‘unachievable’.

It says that G-Cloud had a budget of £1 million in 2013/14 which will increase to £2.3 million in 2014/15 as the programme rebrands as a new ‘Digital Marketplace’ and starts to incorporate other frameworks such as the Digital Services Framework.

Other programmes

The report gave Next Generation Shared Services, a project which aims to consolidate department’s back-office functions, an amber/red rating.

The Ministry of Justice’s electronic monitoring programme, which hit controversy after Serco and G4S were found to have deliberately overcharged the department, is also rated ‘amber/red’. However the MPA says that “a test run of the new tags will take place in December 2014 with full service commencement to start in early in 2015”.

The Public Services Network was given an ‘amber’ rating, with the MPA saying that “the governance issue, scope and compliance have now been addressed”. Although there are a number of issues with the programme, it says that these are being “actively managed and they do not pose a major risk”.

Overview

The report, which concluded in September 2013 but has only been released today, assesses 199 major government projects due to complete over the next 20 years.

Altogether, the programmes are judged to have a total lifetime cost of £488 billion, representing 2.5 percent of annual government expenditure during that timeframe. 76 percent of the projects are scheduled to complete by the end of 2020.

The MPA published its first annual report in May last year. Of the 122 projects published in both years, 27 have improved and 32 have worsened.

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