Having looked at what the Major Projects Authority's Annual Report 2015 tells us about major projects across government, our attention turns to what it means for individual departments. We are very grateful to the data team at the MPA for their help with the numbers.
The Department of Health now has the most projects, closely followed by the Ministry of Defence.
Major projects are not spread equally across Whitehall departments. Between them, DH and the MoD are responsible for 40% of the entire MPA portfolio. DH's portfolio has been swelled by 14 new projects to 41 this year, overtaking MoD (39) which had previously been responsible for the most projects. The majority of departments have fewer than ten projects in the Major Projects portfolio.
All of the red-rated projects are held by the three departments with the most projects in the portfolio:
- At DH, these are the data programme, changes to death certification, re-procurement of the National Pandemic Flu Service, NHS Choices and the Health and Social Care Network
- At MoD, they are the Army Basing Programme and Future Reserves 2020
- MoJ's red-rated project is the ICT project at the National Offender Management Service.
All departments with four or more projects have at least one amber/red project. Only DCLG (which only has two) and the Attorney General's Office (one, at the Crown Prosecution Service) have no green or amber/green rated projects.
The proportion of projects rated amber/red and red exceeds one-third in four departments (MoD, DCMS, DfE and Defra), while six departments have a confidence rating of amber/green or green in over half their projects (DfT, HMRC, CO, FCO, HMT, and DfID - which only has one project).
Only two departments have projects for which RAG ratings are not provided: DECC (one) and MoD (three).
Twice as many RAG ratings improved as declined between 2014 and 2015.
There are 131 projects in the portfolio in 2015 that were in the portfolio in 2014 and given a RAG rating in both years. Of these, 40% have seen their ratings improve, 40% stayed the same, and the remaining 20% declined.
Ten departments had five or more projects rated in both 2014 and 2015. Of these, HO, CO, DCMS and HMRC had more than half of their projects improve, DH and MoD had 30% or more of their projects decline, and MoJ, DfT, DECC and BIS had no change in half of their projects or more.
The projects in DECC, MoD and DfT make up over three-quarters of the (known) whole portfolio cost.
The cost of government major projects is also not spread evenly across departments. As far as we know, the major projects at DECC (£169bn) and MoD (£140bn) have the greatest total budgeted whole-life costs.
However, there are fifteen projects across the portfolio for which no whole-life cost has been provided, so the actual costs for some departments are, and the overall ranking could, be different. Five of these exempted projects are in MoD (including the purchase of T26 Global Combat Ships and the removal of Army bases from Germany), so there is a chance that the whole-life costs of MoD projects are in fact greater than DECC's, while four of them are in DH (including care.data and the transformation of the digital NHS Choices service).
£70bn of whole-life cost was bound up in projects that improved between 2014 and 2015 - £42bn in projects that declined in confidence.
MoD had more whole-life cost bound up in projects that declined in delivery confidence than any other department - some £31bn, or 27% of the total whole-life cost for MoD projects rated in both 2014 and 2015. DfT (£5.1bn, or 6% of its total) and DH (£4.1bn, or 21% of its total) also had a substantial chunk of whole life cost invested in projects that declined between 2014 and 2015.
Only ten major projects are led by DECC, but they make up 35% of the whole-life cost of the portfolio.
DECC is responsible for only 5% of the projects in the MPA portfolio (10), but 35% of the cost (£169bn). DfT also has a smaller number (9) of more expensive projects (£84bn, 17% of the total) compared to most departments. By contrast, almost a quarter of all the major projects are in DH, but they amount to only 6% of the known total MPA cost. MoD is responsible for both the second-highest number of projects and the second-highest known cost.
The burden of major projects, then, falls unevenly across departments. Some are responsible for a large number; others for fewer projects which nonetheless account for a large chunk of government's spend on major projects. In spite of the MPA's support and challenge to projects, one would hope that those departments responsible for high numbers and high costs (and those, like MoD, with both) have and will continue to develop the capability to run such important projects.
A full spreadsheet of projects can be found here. We have grouped projects belonging to government agencies with the departmental group to which they belong - the Office for National Statistics with Cabinet Office, National Crime Agency with HO, National Savings and Investments with HMT and the Crown Prosecution Service with the Attorney General's Office.