Press Release

Departmental Performance Claims Unreliable, Says Committee

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Thursday, 26 November 2009

Reference: PAC 05/09/10

Government departments’ reporting of their performance could mislead both the public and politicians. That’s a key finding from the Public Accounts Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which today launched its report into Public Service Agreement (PSA) data systems. The report, which examines the data systems used to measure Government results against targets, contends that the systems are not sufficiently precise.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Paul Maskey MLA, Chairperson of the Committee, said: “The Committee views the overarching PSA reporting system as crucial to Government accountability. If the systems used to measure performance are badly designed, the targets imprecise and the data quality poor, they do not provide a basis for proper judgements.

“It is unacceptable that unreliable data should inform and influence the decisions and judgements of officials and Ministers. This issue must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“The Committee is particularly concerned that The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), which has a central co-ordination and oversight role in relation to PSAs, has not monitored them rigorously enough. Oversight arrangements have been improved and a new reporting framework has been introduced. However, 10 years after the launch of this performance system, much still needs to be done to ensure that the public can have confidence in departmental performance information.”

Mr Maskey concluded: “In the current economic climate, the Assembly Committees and the Executive must be quick on their feet. The Executive Departments must improve both the process and quality of performance assessment so that appropriate decisions on spending can be made.”


Notes to Editors:
  1. Since 1998, Northern Ireland departments have been required to publish Public Service Agreements (PSAs) covering each three-year government spending cycle. These specify the targets to be used to measure performance against key departmental and cross-cutting objectives.
  2. The new Delivery Report is a centralised reporting framework which adopts a more detailed four-point assessment scale of PSA performance against target.
  3. Standing Orders under Section 60(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 provide for the establishment of the Public Accounts Committee (the Committee). The main statutory function of the Committee is to consider accounts and the reports on accounts laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly.
  4. The C&AG is head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) and lays his reports on accounts and efficiency before the Assembly. The C&AG is empowered to investigate any area of public expenditure and to access all relevant files in Departments and public bodies in carrying out his investigations.
  5. For information about the members of the Public Accounts Committee, please go to the Northern Ireland Assembly Website:

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