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An empirical study of assurance in the UK government major projects portfolio: from data to recommendations, to action or inaction

Hang Vo (Hull University Business School, Hull, UK)
Richard John Kirkham (Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Terry Mervyn Williams (Hull University Business School, Hull, UK)
Amanda Howells (University of Sussex, Brighton, UK)
Rick Forster (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Cranfield, UK)
Terry Cooke-Davies (Visiting Fellow, Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Bedford, UK)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

ISSN: 1753-8378

Article publication date: 1 January 2021

Issue publication date: 20 May 2021

334

Abstract

Purpose

Effective and robust governance of major projects and programmes in the public sector is crucial to the accountability of the state and the transparency of state spending. The theoretical discourse on governance, in the context of projects and programmes, is not fully mature, although is now sufficiently well developed to warrant an increased scholarly focus on practice. This paper aims to contribute to the empirical literature through a study of assurance routines in the UK Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP).

Design/methodology/approach

A framework analysis approach to the evaluation of a subset of GMPP database generates original insights into (1) the framing of assurance review recommendations, (2) the treatment of assurance review data and (3) the subsequent tracking of the implementation of actions arising from the assurance review process.

Findings

The analysis reveals that the “delivery confidence” of the major projects and programmes included in this study improves during the time that they are assured on the GMPP. This would suggest that “enhanced” governance routines are desirable in programmes and projects that exhibit high degrees of complexity and scale.

Originality/value

The research findings contribute to the wider conversations in this journal and elsewhere on project governance routines and governance-as-practice in the context of government and public services.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgements: This research is funded by the Project Management Institute (PMI) and executed under the governance of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Project X. The authors wish to recognise the ongoing support of Mr. Stephen Townsend, PMI Director of Network Programmes.

Citation

Vo, H., Kirkham, R.J., Williams, T.M., Howells, A., Forster, R. and Cooke-Davies, T. (2021), "An empirical study of assurance in the UK government major projects portfolio: from data to recommendations, to action or inaction", International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 865-897. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMPB-10-2019-0242

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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