Keeping public sector projects on the straight and narrow with the OGC
Gateway Review? So what's this all about?
Gateway Reviews are what the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) uses to measure the progress of big government and public sector projects.
They were introduced by the OGC in 2000 to track the progress of government and public sector projects using a traffic-light system of red, amber or green to indicate their status at each stage of their lifespan.
Reviews can cover anything from property and construction developments to policy development, and from acquisitions to IT-enabled business change.
Gateway Reviews are used as best practice in central civil government, the health sector, local government and defence.
Hmm. Sounds like red tape to me. What's the point of them?
The Gateway process is aimed at making sure government projects and programmes fulfil their initial aims and run as cost effectively and efficiently as possible.
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The OGC Gateway process is meant to provide independent guidance to the senior responsible owner (SRO) - the person responsible for a project meeting its objectives and delivering intended benefits - on how to make the project successful.
How do these Gateway Reviews work then?
The OGC describes the process as 'peer review', with independent experts from outside the project examining progress and how likely a project is to reach a successful conclusion.
If a review allocates a green light to a project then it can progress to the next stage. If not then a process may need to be repeated or major issues may need to be addressed.
Sounds fairly simple...
Well, there is a bit more to it than that.
There are six Gateway Review stages that a government project needs to go through to reach its conclusion.
The first four process reviews (zero to three) assess projects at the planning stage, including an assessment of intended outcomes, business justification, delivery strategy (before suppliers are involved) and an investment decision.
Process Review Four looks at the readiness of the organisation to go live with the changes made and the management of these changes.
Process Review Five looks at how effectively a project has delivered on its goals and how smoothly it is being run. These are carried out during the life of the new service.
The process is usually undertaken by a review team of three or four people over a period of three or four days.
So give me an example of some projects then.
Well, projects like the national ID card scheme are typical of the kind covered by Gateway Reviews.
The NHS National Programme for IT is another big project that is subject to the Gateway Process.
Different public sector areas - such as health and defence - have their own Gateway teams which organise specific reviews.
So how can I find out about how projects are going?
In theory you can make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request on the status of projects and the OGC claims there is no blanket exemption on this.
But this doesn't necessarily mean information is that easy to come by though...
So the OGC plays its cards close to its chest then?
Well you could say that.
Each request is considered and qualified FOI exemptions can be applied. This could include requests that clash with audit, commercial interest or the formulation of government policy.
Recently, there has been a bit of a fuss around the national ID cards project after the OGC refused to reveal its traffic-light status following several requests.
The OGC has also argued that providing certain information - such as names of Gateway reviewers - may make those involved less impartial and could put commercial partners off, undermining the review process.
However, the Information Tribunal ruled last month that the ID cards data must be made available and that the OGC's protests were not valid.
The OGC is currently appealing against the ruling.