Last edited 08 Jul 2014

Improving Public Services through better construction

The National Audit office (NAO) report, Improving Public Services through better construction, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General was published on 15 March 2005.

Improving Public Services through better construction.jpg

The report traced progress since the previous NAO Report Modernising Construction which was published in 2001. Modernising Construction proposed tackling adversarial and inefficient working practices and made a number of recommendations for The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, The Office of Government Commerce, line departments and the Construction Industry.

The 2005 report begins with a foreword by Sr Michael Latham in which he reiterates the core themes of his 1994 report Constructing the Team (the Latham Report), suggesting that the client and its business should be at the core of the construction process rather than being seen as “a nuisance”.

The report found that good progress had been made since Modernising Construction had been published in 2001, with 55 per cent of projects delivered to budget (compared with 25 per cent in 1999) and 63 per cent delivered on time (compared with 34 per cent in 1999). The report cited partnering and the early creation of integrated project teams as key components of the success story. It also singled out support provided by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) under the Achieving Excellence in Construction initiative as one of the major factors in the improvement suggesting that ‘Gateway Reviews in particular, have generally assisted clients and their professional advisers in identifying and addressing the risks to, and opportunities for, successful delivery.’

The report however suggested that further improvements would be possible if the best practice found on some projects was rolled out across all projects.

Specifically, to make more progress, the report suggested that government departments should:

  • ‘Reduce the volatility and uncertainty in work flow and funding.
  • Improve construction project management capability.
  • Introduce sufficient independent challenge to conceptual thinking and business cases, and overcome practical difficulties in procuring construction on the basis of sustainable whole life value.
  • Maximise the benefits from good practice in construction procurement and contracting strategies and in managing project risks, opportunities and performance incentives.
  • Ensure that supply chains are appointed at the earliest opportunity, fully integrated and that there is sufficient competitive tension in framework agreements.
  • Evaluate performance and embed project learning.’

The NAO suggested that in order to better assist departments and their agencies, OGC should:

  • ‘Provide co-ordination and leadership of public sector construction activities so that good practice is clearly identified and the momentum for improvement is sustained.
  • Review the support available to organisations which only undertake construction projects infrequently.
  • Assist departments to find the most appropriate tools and support to improve decision-making based on whole life value and to deliver sustainable construction and development.
  • Make better use of the available information on generic lessons and good practice on projects by sharing this effectively across the wider public sector and take a lead in setting performance benchmarks.’

However, Following the 2007 credit crunch, The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) was absorbed into the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) within the Cabinet Office and OGC guidance was consigned to the national archive.

NB The Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions (DETR) portfolio has now been split between: the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG); the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for Transport (DFT).

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