Auditor-General's overview

Central government: Cost-effectiveness and improving annual reports.

This discussion paper is based on an analysis of the publicly reported performance information of six government departments and Crown entities during the last six years (2005 to 2010). We have written this discussion paper to encourage ongoing improvements in performance reporting and in using information about performance to support good decision-making and management.

Our wider environment is one of fiscal constraint, in which public entities need to find savings to help return the Government's operating balance to surplus as soon as possible. Entities need good information to support their decision-making and minimise any adverse effects of spending changes on service delivery to the public.

Using good performance information underpins many of the initiatives under way to raise State sector performance. It is important that service performance information is useful and used, and there are significant benefits for entities, Ministers, and Parliament in making this a reality. Likewise, taking a longer-term view of the entity's performance, and monitoring changes in demand and service delivery over time, are central to ensuring that service delivery will continue to be "fit for purpose".

An entity inspires confidence and trust when it clearly demonstrates that it knows its own business, is consistently performing well, delivers value for money, and is transparent about any changes it needs to make and what it can do better.

For public entities to demonstrate these features, I would like to see improvements in four aspects of annual reporting:

  • measuring and reporting on effectiveness and cost-effectiveness;
  • more analysis and evaluation of public entities' own performance;
  • more analysis of longer-term trends; and
  • better reporting of results (the outputs and the cost of service delivery).

I hope that all public entities will use this discussion paper in keeping a constant eye on what they are trying to achieve in measuring and reporting performance – which is the ability to improve that performance and the outcomes it achieves for the public

Signature - LP

Lyn Provost
Controller and Auditor-General

16 June 2011

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