Foreword: Minister for the Cabinet Office

As the Minister for the Cabinet Office, my mission is to be the taxpayers’ champion across Whitehall. This Government is firmly on the side of hard-working people. They expect every single pound they pay in tax to be spent judiciously.

We know that billions of pounds were squandered in the past. Major projects were one area where countless millions were poured away. At the time of the General Election it seems that just one in three of these important projects were delivered on time or on budget. That was nothing less than an unacceptable record.

If Britain is to succeed in the global race, we need to deliver our major projects efficiently and effectively. We have some successes to build on: the 2012 Games impressed the world. But we have a long way to go to ensure that our project delivery matches what the public expect. That’s why after the 2010 election we founded the Major Projects Authority with an express mandate from the Prime Minister to turn around the Civil Service’s record of delivering projects.

This report is another step towards rectifying the position. It contains information on the Government’s portfolio of major projects. Alongside it, departments will release information on their projects as well as the traffic light ratings produced by the Major Projects Authority.

Transparency is not easy. We are taking a big step by publishing this honest appraisal of our major projects. A tradition of Whitehall secrecy is being overturned. And while previous Governments buried problems under the carpet, we are striving to be more open.

Major projects affect all of us. The Government’s portfolio alone has a total lifetime cost stretching over £350 billion. These aren’t just projects: they are integral to the Government’s ambitious reform agenda.

By their very nature these works are high risk and innovative. They often break new ground and dwarf anything the private sector does in both scale and complexity. They will not always run to plan. Public scrutiny, however uncomfortable, will bring about improvement. Ending the lamentable record of failure to deliver these projects is our priority.

In the past, mistakes have been concealed in layers of bureaucracy, only surfacing when billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money had already been wasted. Some project leaders were running multiple projects of huge complexity. Skills in project management were lacking. There wasn’t even central oversight of all of Government’s projects.

This MPA report is nothing short of ground breaking. It’s taken us longer than we hoped to get here. But we are publishing alongside it RAG ratings for each project – something no Government has ever done before.

I want to pay tribute to all my officials in the Authority and the wider Efficiency and Reform Group. They’ve worked closely with teams across Whitehall. Together they have saved taxpayers £1.7 billion from major projects alone– that’s £100 for each working household in the country. The assurance bill for consultants has been halved while we have trained up new project leaders within the Civil Service. At the same time we have transformed the record of project delivery so that now around two thirds of projects are currently expected to deliver on time and to budget.

This report lays out how this Government has put us on the path to improvement. Just as people once marveled at Brunel’s engineering feats, I want us to be able to celebrate this generation’s ambitious programme of reform. There’s still a long way to go to and we will strengthen the MPA to help us get there.

Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Paymaster General