Just two central government CIOs out of a possible 17 surveyed sit on their department’s boards, a National Audit Office (NAO) survey has found.

This is despite the NAO’s belief that the ICT profession is critical to the government in achieving value for money from all of its business change projects.

Not only do the majority of central government CIOs not get recognised at board-level, one department was found to have abolished the CIO role in April earlier this year. Meanwhile, in nine departments the CIOs were not aware of any board members with experience in ICT systems or analytics.

All CIOs, however, did report to a board-level executive in their departments.

The NAO report, ‘A Snapshot of the Government’s ICT Profession in 2011’, seeks to gain an insight into the challenges faced by central government department CIOs and to gauge how the ICT function is perceived by their organisations.

It also looks into CIOs’ views of how the Cabinet Office can help to address the skills issue in the public sector, with recruitment freezes and public sector pay posing a barrier to finding the best skills.

The NAO concluded that when benchmarked against Gartner’s IT maturity matrix, central government departments’ IT functions have some way to go before they reach the mature ‘transformational’ stage.

This is where the leadership of transformational technology is valued, CIOs across all departments are members of the executive leadership team, the IT team is made up of technology innovators and experts and IT staff and skills are comparable to those of business leaders.

According to Gartner’s matrix, government departments are only at the ‘enabling’ or ‘contributing’ stage. This is where business and technology skills only just being blended, but government departments still generally see IT as a reactive provider responding to business plans and IT requirements rather than leading business change.