MPs' inquiry into government IT projects finds role of CIO Council 'unclear'

The role of the governemnt's Chief Information Officer Council is not clear and the top-level IT body needs to “raise its game”, MPs have warned.

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The role of the governemnt's Chief Information Officer Council is not clear and the top-level IT body needs to “raise its game”, MPs have warned.

The powerful Commons public accounts committee urged that the CIO Council - made up of IT leaders from all major government departments - should “become a key influence in government IT” by acting more like the US Office of Management and Budget, which issues quarterly public reports on the status of all major projects.

The call comes in the committee’s report, Delivering Successful IT-enabled Business Change, which also warns of weaknesses in the way public sector IT projects are managed and monitored.

It says the CIO Council “offers the potential to identify key risks to the
delivery of programmes” and to drive up levels of practice and performance across government.

But the council’s role is “not yet clear”, the MPs said. The council should report regularly on the emerging risks around the government’s portfolio of
IT-enabled programmes and projects, provide authoritative advice, promote good practice and act to strengthen relationships with supplies, the report says.

Within government departments there was also “a lack of clarity” about the respective roles of CIOs and centres of excellence – and how these should support project owners. Clear management hierarchies and reporting structures were needed, the committee found.

The MPs also drew attention to the lack of liaison between the “senior responsible owners” in charge of each project and ministers. More than a fifth of the owners of mission-critical IT-enabled projects had not met with the relevant minister, while 28% met ministers less than once a quarter.

“For these major high risk undertakings to succeed, ministers need to be briefed fully and candidly at least quarterly on risks, progress and cost escalations, including key findings from gateway reviews and mission critical reporting, and assessment of the performance of suppliers and contractors,” the report says.

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