The National Audit Office has offered an analysis of recent developments in performance measurement of Government departments.It draws on a survey of departments on how they are developing and implementing performance measures and an analysis of other performance measurement practices, used in local authorities and overseas.
For each department, key objectives and associated performance targets feature in a Public Service Agreement, which underlies the resources allocated in spending reviews.
These arrangements put the United Kingdom among the leaders in public sector performance measurement practice, with the emphasis very much on outcomes: more than two thirds of some 160 Public Service Agreement targets now address such outcomes as improved health and education.
Most departments reported that they faced challenges in designing ways to measure performance, including developing quantifiable measures showing their contributions to outcomes and agreeing measures with other departments to support joined-up working.
The report shows how clarifying the link between activities and objectives does help departments design performance measures and set targets.
It also contains examples of successful measurement by department of their contribution to a cross-cutting issue – for example when sustainable development could be the overarching objective, with shared targets for more than one department.
Overall the report recommends improving the design of operational targets through consulting key stakeholders, establishing mechanisms to help front line staff deliver improved performance, and robust collection of quality data to provide accurate measurement of change.