Part 8: Specifying outputs and output classes

Statements of intent: Examples of reporting practice.

The forecast SSP sets out the entity’s plans for its service delivery for the first year of the period covered by the SOI. For Crown entities, the forecast SSP should be clearly distinguishable within the SOI. For both government departments and Crown entities, the subject of the forecast SSP is to report intended output performance. Therefore, the reported elements should meet the definition of outputs and should exclude other elements (for example, inputs, activities, processes, impacts, or outcomes) except where these are useful or necessary to provide context. If reference is made to other elements of performance within the forecast SSP, they should be clearly distinguishable and not reported as if they were outputs.

Another reason for clearly distinguishing the forecast SSP is that it forms the basis for the historical SSP, the end-of year performance report, which is audited as part of the entity’s annual report.

Using output classes allows the entity to group services, and to aggregate them where possible. This gives report users enough information without burdening them with too much detail. Output classes should group similar outputs within one class. Irrespective of how the outputs are grouped, the underlying rationale should be clear and justifiable in all instances.

Entities should use the same output classes and headings in the medium-term part of the SOI as they have used in the forecast SSP. This is necessary to show a consistent performance framework within their performance reports and to help users identify the primary links from outputs to outcomes. It is also desirable that output classes are consistent or reconcilable between the financial and non-financial performance information, so users are better able to evaluate the entity’s performance (for example, for cost-effectiveness).

Customs provides a well-structured list of its output classes (the column headed “Appropriations”) in Part 1.2 of the Information Supporting the Estimates of Appropriation for Vote Customs (Example 20).

Within each output class, the forecast SSP should include the outputs for which the entity is accountable. These are the goods and services provided to third parties, whether delivered directly by the entity or delivered by contractors. All significant goods and services should be identified and reported on, to ensure users get a comprehensive, balanced, and proportionate picture of the entity’s services.

What makes up an individual output as opposed to an output class or a sub-output is a matter of judgement. Practices vary across entities on the extent to which outputs are grouped into output classes or split into sub-outputs. The National Library of New Zealand clearly lays out its output classes, and outputs within those classes (Example 21).

The forecast SSP can be enriched by providing context informing the user about why the services are being delivered. If enough context is given, and relevant performance measures are chosen, the user should then be able to appreciate the relationship between the performance dimensions being measured and reported, and the effect that successful service delivery should have on the outcomes.

The Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner (Example 22) provides an informative contextual introduction to its output reporting. (However, the outcomes context here does not correspond well to the outcomes discussion elsewhere in the SOI, and we consider there is significant room for improvement in selecting and reporting its output performance measures.)

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