“One of the worst cases of project management seen by this committee”.

The UK press were full of a report this week by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which audits government projects and spending. It accused the Department of Transport (DOT) of suggesting its shared services system would cost taxpayers £81 million rather than saving £57 million!

The report makes dreadful reading. Here are some snippets:

• There are 3 ways in which implementation of a project can fail: through delay in introducing planned developments, increased cost; or by providing poorer services. DOT has suffered all three in implementing its shared services project

• …despite the extent of mismanagement in this case, no individuals have been dismissed or been held to account

• the Department was overly optimistic in planning to introduce shared services within one year……..

• In an attempt to meet its original timetable, the Department took shortcuts which subsequently caused problems e.g. it did not subject its IT support arrangements to full competitive tender…

• it reduced the time available for testing which meant that the system was unstable when it was switched on

• ….in some cases, the service is worse than previously provided

• Successful projects are run by experienced project managers but the Department failed to provide that expertise for its shared service project

• two months after the project started, the Department knew that the initial assumptions were incorrect but did not deviate from its timetable

What a damning indictment! How many more government projects are going to cost the UK taxpayer more and deliver a worse service? One wonders what the politicians did to ensure the project was going to be delivered on time and to budget. Was it all the fault of the civil servants?

What has not been said is that there has been a really big push in the UK to train people to use the PRINCE2 project management methodology. Much of our project management training is based on PRINCE2 project management. PRINCE2 is owned by a government department; Office of Government Commerce which was set up to provide best practice in project management using PRINCE2! Plus, the Department are large users of PRINCE2.

One wonders why this failure? The report does mention failing to provide experienced people for this project. But surely senior managers could see what was happening.

I have written too many times about poor project management, about reports from government bodies and wasted taxpayer’s money. When will we ever learn?

The full report can be viewed here

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