Commercial skills for complex government projects
The value for money of 43 major government projects worth around £200 billion is at risk because of significant weaknesses in the Government's commercial skills and expertise. The private sector has an increasing role in delivering public services, so it is critical that Government has staff with the commercial skills and experience to interact with the private sector. Departments have a shortage of staff with the commercial skills and experience needed to design and deliver complex projects successfully. A 2009 review by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) found that 44 per cent of Senior Responsible Owners of major projects did not have any substantial commercial experience. The biggest skills gaps are in contract management, commissioning and managing advisers, risk identification and management, and business acumen. The Government has attempted to fill its skills gap with temporary staff and consultants or specialist advisers. Over-reliance on these can lead to higher project costs and loss of knowledge when temporary staff and advisers move on. Many departmental commercial directors believe OGC has done little to address skills gaps within their department, although ultimate responsibility for commercial skills remains with departments. The OGC has introduced a number of initiatives aimed at improving commercial skills but OGC and departments are not working together effectively. As a result, the value for money of the £1.5 million a year that OGC has been spending on initiatives is at risk.
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