Part 1: Introduction

Central government: Case studies in reporting forecast performance information.

The purpose of this discussion paper is to help public entities improve the information they use to forecast what their performance will be in providing services to the public – and how they report that forecast to Parliament and to the public.

This discussion paper is aimed at government departments and Crown entities that produce an annual forecast statement of service performance (SSP), and report against their forecast in an annual report, under the Public Finance Act 1989 or the Crown Entities Act 2004.

This discussion paper features three public entities that we selected from the 40 graded by their auditors as "good" in 2009/10 for their service performance information and associated systems and controls.1 Appendix 1 sets out a list of the 40 public entities that received a "good" grade from their auditors. Appendix 2 sets out information about what the auditors considered when grading service performance information and associated systems and controls.

Our report in 20092 showed that there are many examples of good ideas, and useful forecasting and reporting practices, in the information prepared by government departments and Crown entities.

This year, we chose three public entities that we consider reported their forecast performance in their 2010-13 statement of intent (SOI) or their 2010/11 forecast SSP better overall than others. The three public entities we selected were:

  • Career Services: Rapuara (Career Services);
  • Ministry of Economic Development: Manatū Ōhanga (the Ministry); and
  • New Zealand Customs Service: Te Mana Arai o Aotearoa (Customs).

Copies of the relevant reports produced by these public entities can be found on their websites (,, and

Scope of this discussion paper

This discussion paper provides case studies of practices used to report how three public entities forecast their performance. It is not a good practice guide, does not provide comprehensive advice, and is more descriptive than prescriptive.

There are several other publications available that provide in-depth commentary on performance reporting matters and provide good practice advice. They include guidelines issued by the Treasury and the State Services Commission for people who prepare accountability reports, as well as other publications that we have produced.3

This discussion paper focuses on the presentation and content of forecast performance information in three public entities' SOIs and in the Information Supporting the Estimates of Appropriation for the year ending 30 June 2011 (the Information Supporting the Estimates) about Customs and the Ministry.4 We have not tried to cover every issue or describe every facet of their performance reporting.

There are other elements of performance reporting (for example, inputs, resources, processes, and other objectives) and specific legislative reporting requirements (such as organisational health and capability, and risk management approaches) that we do not discuss.

For context, we have included some commentary about the three public entities and reproduced excerpts from their forecast information to illustrate the matters that we discuss. For a fuller understanding, readers should refer to the three public entities' SOIs and, where applicable, the Information Supporting the Estimates.

Structure of this discussion paper

In Part 2, we discuss the importance of good quality reporting about performance, provide an overview of why we consider the three public entities' forecast performance reporting to be useful examples, and discuss how service performance reports can be used.

In Part 3, we discuss the six elements of a useful story of a public entity's performance – a good performance story – and explain what our expectations are for those elements.

Parts 4 to 6 set out the three case studies, discussing the forecast performance reporting of each public entity and the features that make their reporting useful.

1: One public entity received a grade of "very good" (which means no cost-beneficial improvements were recommended).

2: Office of the Auditor-General (June 2009), Statements of intent: Examples of reporting practice, Wellington.

3: See our website. Our publications include "Part 5: Our intentions for improving service performance information and reporting" in Central government: Results of the 2008/09 audits (2010), Statements of intent: Examples of reporting practice (2009), and The Auditor-General's observations on the quality of performance reporting (2008).

4: The Information Supporting the Estimates of Appropriation for the year ending 30 June 2011 is available on the Treasury's website at

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