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7 February 2012 | Paul Snell
The UK government hopes more large public sector projects will be delivered on time and within budget with the establishment of a new academy for civil servants.
The Major Projects Leadership Academy has been set up to boost the skills and capability of the public sector to manage major projects and cut the public sector’s reliance on expensive external consultancy to support such schemes.
The government definition of a major project is one that is large and complex enough to require Treasury sign-off for funding, such as the new high-speed railway line.
Training will include major project leadership, technical understanding of major project delivery and commercial capability, which includes understanding different procurement, supplier and contract management methods. Some 50 civil servants will attend the academy each year, taking three five-day modules, which will begin in October 2012. The government claims to be the first worldwide to introduce this sort of mandatory training for those working on major projects.
“Taxpayers need to know that major projects will be delivered on time and to budget,” said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude. “We do have impressive expertise in the public sector at the moment, but we want to take a long-term view and build this within Whitehall. Crucially, this will relinquish taxpayers from having to foot the bill for external consultancy to deliver the projects and services the country needs.”
The Academy will be overseen by the Major Projects Authority and will be run with the help of the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and Deloitte.
In April, the National Audit Office criticised the capability of buyers to negotiate and manage large-scale infrastructure projects. It recommended the Major Projects Authority regularly review the standard of commercial skills on projects and report this to the Cabinet Office.
* In a separate speech on Monday, Francis Maude said the government would “no longer allow the public purse to be raided”, and promised to minimise the payment errors that occur within government.
He said it had been estimated the government loses £10 billion a year in erroneous payments. “For too long, public money was managed in a casual, uncoordinated, even chaotic fashion,” he said.
He added the government was developing a co-ordinated approach, with new guidance brought in from April for all departments to improve measurement and detection.