UK Goverment IT Failures

The Independent recently reported on the very, very sorry state of Government IT projects in the UK. It's a mess:
[...]the total cost of Labour's 10 most notorious IT failures is equivalent to more than half of the budget for Britain's schools last year. Parliament's spending watchdog has described the projects as "fundamentally flawed" and blamed ministers for "stupendous incompetence" in managing them.
I thought that the article missed a trick and wrote to tell them so. My letter didn't make it to the paper paper, but has appeared on their blog. It's somewhat hidden, though, so I reproduce it here.

It would be easy to conclude that large government IT projects fail primarily for technical reasons. Technical mistakes certainly are made, but the root cause of many failed projects seems to be the procurement process with which they begin. The question which is asked of the suppliers is not one that allows for the kind of answer that leads to success. It is well known in the private sector that very large monolithic projects have little chance of success, but this is the only kind for which the Civil Service seems to know how to ask.

I have no doubt that ministers are, as Michael Savage puts it, "too easily wooed by suppliers". The suppliers which we see winning government contracts again and again might also find it too easy to woo a minister. Particularly a minister and a department which would rather launch a high-profile, high-budget, high-risk project than adopt the smaller scale, incremental approach that creates few headlines when launched, but also has a much better chance of creating few headlines when it does not fail.