Government seeks new major projects chief

IPA chief executive Tony Meggs is departing to take a post at Crossrail

Credit: Paul Heartfield

The government will hold an open competition for the new head of the government’s project delivery authority after it was announced that current chief executive Tony Meggs would leave to chair Crossrail.

An Infrastructure Projects Authority spokesperson told PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World that Meggs, who has led the IPA since it was formed in January 2016, would step down to take on the Crossrail role at the end of the year. He will also step down as head of government’s project delivery function.

“IPA’s current deputy chief executive, Matthew Vickerstaff, will act as interim chief executive effective 1 January 2019, while a permanent appointment is made through open competition,” they added.

Meggs’ successor will take on the role at a crucial time as government prepares for the Spending Review that is expected next year. In an interview with CSW in September, Meggs highlighted four main areas – project initiation, performance management, portfolio size, and getting the right skills in the right places – where the IPA was looking to make progress ahead of the 2019 Spending Review.

“To be really blunt about this, this is about promising too much at the outset, particularly on big transformation projects, which are very often extremely ambitious and where the initial timescale is set without proper project timing and review,” he said.

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In comments announcing his departure, Meggs said: “It has been a privilege to lead the IPA, and the wider project delivery community, and support the country’s most complex projects which are improving the lives of so many citizens. I look forward to taking up my new role, working closely with partners, to ensure that Crossrail is delivered as soon and safely as possible.”

Vickerstaff said that while the IPA was sad to see Meggs leave, “there is much to do to build on his excellent work”.

“This ranges from improving project initiation to ensuring we have the right leaders on the right projects,” he said. “We will continue to work forward in our vision to make ours the greatest project system in the world.”

Meggs led the IPA following a merger between the Major Projects Authority and Infrastructure UK and had led the MPA from October 2014. This followed a number of senior roles in the oil industry during a 30-year career, culminating in the role of head of technology at BP.

The new projects chief will inherit a portfolio of major projects that includes a number of large-scale technology and digital schemes across government, including the rollout of the Home Office’s Digital Services at the Border programme and the implementation of the Foxhound secure government network.

In its 2018 annual report, the IPA assessed 29 ICT projects, with a cumulative whole-life cost of £10bn. Seven of the programmes of work were given a rating of amber/red on the traffic-light system used by the authority, with 14 in the amber category and eight rated as amber-green. 

None were given the top-level green rating, but neither were any projects placed in the red category – the second year in a row that this has been the case.

Sam Trendall

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