Government IT still in dire straits

The review process that is meant to cut down on costly government IT failures is being routinely ignored, according to a Public Accounts Committee report

More than a quarter of government technology projects have hit a "red light" during the review process aimed at cutting IT project failures.

And eight have hit consecutive red reviews during the Office of Government Commerce Gateway Review process, highlighting "substantial difficulties", according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

PAC chairman Edward Leigh said: "Far too often, major IT-enabled projects in government departments are late, well over budget, or do not work at all — an enormous waste of taxpayers' money."

The Gateway Review process was developed to provide better scrutiny of IT projects, so that potential problems can be spotted early enough for corrective action to be taken.

According to the report, by the end of March 2004, 254 IT projects had been reviewed, with 50 percent getting an amber rating, 28 percent red, and 22 percent green.

A red rating means that in order to achieve success the project team should take action immediately as risks have been identified.

Of the eight that received two consecutive red reviews only one has received a subsequent green review and one an amber, with two of the others under further review.

But one in five projects have actually got worse as they progressed through the Gateway process, and two in five failed to get better, the report reveals.

It also warns that the Gateway process is still not taken seriously enough by departments, with the same issues and shortcomings repeatedly highlighted by reviews, and projects still entering the process too late.

And even though the process is mandatory for high- and medium-risk projects, 30 percent currently bypass gates zero and one, and the PAC said the Treasury should consider withholding funds from IT projects where departments consistently choose to ignore stages of the Gateway process, and in doing so increase the risks of project failure.

The report added: "This committee believes that, to further enhance external scrutiny, there is a strong case for the publication of Gateway review reports, particularly given the repeated failures of public sector IT-enabled projects and programmes in recent years."