Good practice in reporting about performance

April 2022: This joint guidance from the Office of the Auditor-General, Audit New Zealand, and the Treasury focuses on public organisations in central government. It aims to help people in central government prepare better reports on the performance of their public organisation, particularly the annual report. People working in other sectors, such as the local government sector, might also find this guidance useful.


An annual report is one of the most important ways a public organisation is accountable to Parliament and the public they represent. Parliament and the public are the primary users of this reporting.

We looked at about 40 annual reports from public organisations in central government and chose good practice examples of:

These aspects are where public organisations can make significant improvements and have asked for guidance. Alongside performance reporting on services, they are critical aspects of providing meaningful, appropriate, and accurate performance reporting that fairly reflects the performance of a public organisation.

These aspects closely align to mandated reporting requirements set out in the Public Finance Act 1989, the Crown Entities Act 2004, and the new accounting standard PBE FRS 48 Service Performance Reporting

What we mean by “performance”

By "performance", we mean how well public organisations use public money and resources to achieve their performance objectives and deliver better services (that is, outputs) that contribute to improved outcomes for New Zealanders.

Performance includes how economically, efficiently, and effectively public organisations are delivering high-quality services and better outcomes for New Zealanders. Ideally, performance also includes wider attributes on how services are delivered, such as sustainability, equity, collaboration, openness, and responsiveness. This area of reporting continues to evolve and public organisations should actively consider how they incorporate these wider attributes into their performance reporting.

People responsible for planning and reporting: We encourage you to review the insights and examples in this guidance and consider them as you prepare the next annual report and other accountability documents, including statements of intent/strategic intentions, statements of performance expectations, and supporting information for the Estimates on how performance will be assessed for appropriations. 

About the examples

We looked at annual reports from public organisations in central government, focusing primarily on 2020/21 annual reports.

We excluded tertiary education institutions and district health boards because of recent or forthcoming changes in those sectors. We also excluded councils because their long-term plans were only recently updated and there are also reviews of local government under way.

Over time, we expect to include examples covering other aspects of reporting, and further examples of good practice, as performance reporting continues to evolve.

Effective performance reporting is specific to the context and characteristics of each public organisation. Just because we have included an example doesn’t mean it will be an approach that could apply to every public organisation.

Although we tried to find a wide range of good practice examples, in general we found that operational and service-oriented public organisations and smaller Crown entities were more able to report on what is important and provide a coherent account of their performance. This was more challenging for larger, complex, and policy-oriented public organisations.

These are examples of what we see as good practice performance reporting and do not reflect any judgements on the actual performance of public organisations.

The examples in this guidance illustrate good practice of specific aspects of performance reporting. However, that doesn’t mean they meet good practice standards for accessibility. We didn’t assess these examples against web accessibility standards. Given that most accountability documents are read online, we recommend that preparers of annual reports consult the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines on how to ensure that their content meets accessibility requirements.