National Audit Office identifies the need for professionalism in Project Management

The National Audit Office (NAO) recently published a report which identifies some key shortfalls in the capabilities and skills of staff filling key government roles in Project Management.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said:
“Tight public funding means that departments must find ambitious new ways of working to maintain and drive up levels of performance. Key elements of success will be knowing what skills are needed and which staff have them, and then deploying those staff to where they are most needed. These key elements are not presently in place in many departments and need to be driven urgently to be in step with major change programmes.”

The following summary information has been extracted from the NAO report:

  • Government does not know how much is being spent and has rarely evaluated its impact on performance (despite major expenditure by central government departments on developing the skills of their staff).
  • Government’s estimate of £275 million (or £547 for each civil servant) in 2009-10 is a significant underestimate.
  • Only 48 per cent of civil servants said that the learning and development they received in the last 12 months had helped them to be better at their job.
  • Weaknesses in departmental strategies and governance arrangements for identifying and addressing skills needs have limited the effectiveness of skills development
  • Management responsibilities have been complicated and unclear, leading to incomplete and unreliable information on what skills development is being undertaken, by which members of staff and at what cost.
  • Insufficient standardisation across departments and limited use of central government’s buying power to cut costs have undermined value for money.

Government has recognized some of these issues and has recently introduced major changes to the way departmental HR functions operate, designed to achieve efficiencies and better alignment with departmental business needs. A new cross-government learning and development service called Civil Service Learning became operational in April 2011 in response to some of the issues raised. It will be interesting to see the resulting changes and their impact on the effectiveness of Project Management in the Public Sector.

You can read a full copy of the NAO report here.