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Difficulties in measuring performance in the public sector – Wales

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Performance in the public sector - Wales

The Welsh Government has approved legislation that requires local authorities in the country to “make arrangements to secure continuous improvement” regarding the services they provide to the community. This means that they must plan and forecast for attaining local and national set improvement objectives.

Authorities are obliged to measure their performance by evaluating their success in achieving established targets. The Welsh Auditor General is responsible for monitoring local authorities in their efforts to achieve their objectives. Furthermore, he is required to review the quality of the authorities’ self-evaluation and how they communicate results to the community.

Problems regarding performance evaluation and reporting

Published this September, the “Local improvement planning and reporting in Wales” report reveals that more than half of the Welsh local authorities encounter difficulties in accurately measuring their performance due to limited or unreliable information regarding provided services.

The report identifies problems regarding performance evaluation and reporting. The main issue that was pointed out was the lack of comparisons and performance indicators in those areas where local authorities were not meeting their objectives.

Problems in interpreting certain KPIs

On the other side, the report found that in some cases, the guidance provided by the Welsh Government was not clear and this has resulted in different interpretations by local authorities. The most applicable example is represented by the performance indicator definition for homelessness prevention.

This indicator, % Potentially homeless households for whom homelessness was prevented, is currently the most important measure used to judge the effectiveness of homeless prevention. The report found that there was a wide variation in how authorities interpreted performance regarding this indicator. In 2011-12 the success of prevention activity ranged from 0% in Blaenau Gwent to 97.6% in Denbighshire.

Possible solutions

The report concludes that all local authorities meet their legal requirements for planning, reporting and improvement, but they do not have a consistent approach in implementing government guidelines. The current target setting and measuring performance processes need to be updated and streamlined in order to provide a clear picture of achieved objectives and targets to the government, as well as to the community.

Difficulties in establishing a fully-functional Performance Management System can be addressed by adopting an integrated approach that creates standardization and coordination across the management process.

Thoroughly going through all the steps of the process provides a common understanding of the strategic objectives that will lead the government authority/ organization to the desired state of evolution. This common approach will provide clear reporting guidelines and it will minimize different interpretations of the established objectives.

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