Headlines: November 22nd, 2002

The National Audit Office is concerned that the taxpayer is not getting sufficient benefit from projects funded by the Treasury’s Invest to Save budget. Some 88 million pounds has been allocated to projects to deliver improvements in health, education, transport and tackling crime. A similar amount is being spent on delivering local improvements in public service delivery mainly through better use of IT. The projects span across central departments, local government, health authorities, voluntary bodies and the police.The projects are expected to deliver two pounds for every pound spent, either in terms of improved services or increased efficiency. The NAO is concerned that project sponsors are taking a narrow view of benefit and not recognizing that publishing findings about what worked and what did not work would bring substantial benefits to the wider public sector. Key lessons that would bring external value to the projects include the way innovative activities have been managed and the need for all those involved with a project to have the same agreed objectives. Failure to share this information raises the risk of duplication of effort and additional costs.

Project management is also criticised. Barriers to improved service delivery are not being properly identified and there is a lack of new and innovative thinking about how barriers can be tackled. Also more thought needs to be given to the sustainability of benefits and innovation once Treasury funding ceases.

The budget was set up to promote innovation and better cross boundary working by organisations, but only 15% of projects have been completed so far and it is not possible to say whether the programme is succeeding in its aim.

Link: http://www.nao.gov.uk