While giving out awards for the 2002 Best Government websites with one hand, the Treasury, took away with other by criticising the government's optimistic costing and timescales for getting its service online in a draft report known as the Green Book.

The awards, which are organised by COI Communications — the government's executive agency for publicity procurement, was set up to reward those government departments which had succeeded in establishing an online presence.

The trophy for Best of the Best went to the employment service site, which beat off competition from the army, NHS and the Treasury itself.

"There is a move within government towards integrated communications and using every format to reach our audiences, from traditional to new media," said COI Communications' director of digital media, Jamie Galloway.

"This is an important step forward and one that will become increasingly important as we move towards having government services online by 2005," added Galloway.

But it is these very targets that have left the government open to criticism in the Treasury's draft consultation document into government projects, in particular its e-government campaign.

The study found that over the past 20 years, 54 percent of projects involving technical innovation and system development had exceeded their agreed timescales and a massive 200 percent had overrun budget estimates.

"There is an empirically observed, systematic tendency for appraisers to be over optimistic in assessing projects," said the report. "Optimism bias is caused by failure to identify and effectively manage project tasks."

The report is available for public comment on the Treasury's website until the 18 October. It aims to provide a more robust framework for public sector services.

But not all government IT projects are paralysed by problems, as the department websites that were up for awards proved. Their achievements reinforced the government's commitment to getting its services online by 2005.


Overall winner — www.employmentservice.gov.uk
Best department — www.hm-treasury.gov.uk
Best audience focused website — www.mycamouflage.co.uk
Best campaign website — www.scienceyear.com
Best e-service website — www.nhsdirect.co.uk
Best accessibility award — www.employmentservice.gov.uk