There is a ‘strong case’ for Gateway reviews of public sector IT-enabled projects to be published, the high powered House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has decided.

The Gateway system, which gives red, amber or green lights at different stages of projects, does not normally cover the NHS, but it does apply to the National Programme for IT because of its high risk, mission critical nature.

A PAC report on the Gateway system and other initiatives on the delivery of major IT-enabled projects reveals that eight unknown public sector projects have received successive red lights – indications that immediate action is needed to achieve success.

It recommends that in future the National Audit Office should be alerted to decisions to proceed when substantial difficulties have been highlighted by the Gateway system. The PAC also notes that 30% of projects by-pass Gates 0 and 1 in the Gateway system, entering the process after the business case has been prepared.

“Where departments consider projects do not warrant such scrutiny, or decide to skip a review, they should obtain prior permission from the Office for Government Commerce,” says the PAC.

The report also concludes that the Treasury should determine criteria for withholding funds from IT programmes where departments choose consistently to ignore stages of the Gateway process and so increase the risks of project failure.

“Beyond these arrangements, this committee believes that, to further enhance external scrutiny, there is a strong case for publication of Gateway review reports, particularly given the repeated failures of public sector IT-enabled projects and programmes in recent years,” says the PAC, which has been a long-standing critic of public sector IT projects that waste money and fail to deliver benefits.