A Big Project

A recently released report by the Auditor General of the Australian state of Victoria caught our attention for two reasons.

Firstly for its content and then for how the Victorian Auditor General has sought to publicise its findings.

Lets start with the contents.

The report focuses on Major Projects Victoria (MPV) – which as the name suggests has responsibility (with a number of other agencies) in the development and proper execution of major projects in Victoria (hence its imaginative name).

This particular audit is a follow-up audit on a October 2012 report, Managing Major Projects.

The report aimed to provide Parliament and the community with information about the improvements that MPV may have made in relation to the 2012 recommendations.

We were particularly taken by the Auditor General’s opening thoughts:

MPV has done little worth commending to address my recommendations and their underlying issues. The bulk of its effort has been focused on improving its administrative practices and associated governance. While important, this has simply got MPV to the standard at which it should always have been.

There were a number of specific issues within the follow up report that resonate and worthy of consideration by any organisation – public or private sector – that undertake complex major projects.

On its skill sourcing strategy:

MPV has recruited contractors at significant expense, without understanding its skill requirements and without testing the availability of qualified Victorian public sector staff.

On its strategy development approach:

MPV is still without a long-term plan. Given that it is an organisation largely reactive to government infrastructure policy, MPV is exposed to a range of strategic risks and challenges. It needs to plan for these and is exposed without such a plan.

On how it learns from its mistakes and successes:

MPV has not yet developed sound processes to collect industry information and to use the lessons learned internally to develop new and improved processes. This is a fundamental shortcoming in MPV’s operation, given its core work is to provide project management services.

And the role of the independent oversight:

The … audit committee has processes in place to assess progress in implementing recommendations from other external reports. However, it is not assessing the impact these actions are having. As a consequence, neither the department nor the audit committee can be assured that the effort being put into addressing the issues underlying the recommendations is effective.

The second issue that we briefly wanted to canvass was how the Auditor General sought to publicise their findings.

The usual summary and full report (both pdf and html) are on their website.

And so is an 8 minute YouTube video.

It is this latter approach that we would like to see much more of and for which we commend the Victorian Auditor General.

Organisations – such as Auditors General or in house audit teams – need to find as many avenues as possible that their findings are seen and heard.

One could critique the quality of the presentation – but to do so misses a fundamental point that the Victorian Auditor General has tried a new approach when many, many others haven’t.

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