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Auditor calls for more 'rigorous examination' of major projects

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Projects should be subject to a far more “rigorous examination” of their benefits before they are approved, the chief executive of the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.

In a public hearing on the government’s management of major projects, NAO chief executive Sir Amyas Morse said one of the most “concerning” areas was how the government dealt with the clarity of the envisaged benefits of major projects.

He said there should be a much more careful clarification at the start of the project detailing what the project was supposed to deliver, over what timescale and who would benefit from it.

“I think you need to be a much more rigorous examination of what the benefits are that are envisaged,” he said. “You need to have a discussion about how they would be measured, what would be regarded as ok or not ok and also you need to be prepared to revise that in the course of the project.”

He said he had seen projects with “extremely fuzzy benefit statements” with secondary and tertiary economic benefits which raised questions as to how the benefits would be generated and measured.

He added: “Personally I’m much more interested in benefits that can be measured in some sensible way.” 

Morse’s comments come on the heels of a NAO report which criticised the government for prematurely removing projects such as Hinkly Point C from its Major Projects Portfolio

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