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Departmental Project Management

Volume 522: debated on Monday 31 January 2011

11. What steps his Department is taking to increase the effectiveness of project management for its major projects. (36745)

The National Audit Office’s recent major projects report shows that the well-documented problems with some of the largest procurement projects have generally been caused by poor and deliberate policy decisions, and that project management itself is improving. But we are doing more to improve project management, including: running a programme to increase skills; forming a major projects performance board to review our most significant projects regularly; and appointing Bernard Gray as Chief of Defence Matériel, where he will build on the improvements made by his predecessor.

Following numerous Select Committee recommendations, the Department’s own guidelines run to eight pages in setting out what should be included in project histories, yet the £4 billion Nimrod project history runs to just two pages; makes no mention of senior responsible owners or senior staff changes; and took the Department seven weeks to produce, even though it already has this document, which is marked unclassified and had no redactions. Will the Minister write to me within the next month listing all the major defence projects that do not comply with the Department’s own guidelines on documentation and what the gaps in documentation are?

I am reluctant to turn this into a diary session for my diary secretary, but I think it would be very helpful to discuss this important issue with my hon. Friend. Departmental good practice guidance on maintaining project histories allows scope for project team leaders to interpret it and decide what best meets the needs of their project depending on its size, complexity and nature. The format and content are not mandated and, frankly, the problems with the Nimrod MRA4 project are about the most well-documented of any major procurement programme we have.