The National Audit Office (NAO) is working with government departments to improve their risk management, NAO auditor general Sir John Bourn told the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) recently.

At the IRM's annual lecture, Bourn said well thought-out risk-taking by government departments could support innovation and lead to improved value for money for taxpayers.

In August last year, the NAO, with the IRM, compiled a report called Supporting Innovation: Managing Risk in Government Departments, which looked at the attitude towards risk management in central government bodies, its perceived importance to their performance and how risks were identified, assessed and taken.

Bourn said the report was driven by developments such as the new emphasis on corporate governance and the 1999 White Paper on Modernising Government.

He also said that, as NAO looked back at their numerous reports over recent years "it was evident many projects and programmes undertaken by government bodies were delivered over-cost, late and offered a reduced performance against their original specification".

However, Bourn said government bodies were now making good progress in risk management, such as during the Highways Agency Private Finance Initiative's work on the A1-M1 Yorkshire link road.

Bourn said the agency and its contractors addressed risks such as disruption to road users, which resulted in work being finished five months ahead of schedule.