Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General - Press Release VFM examination report on Ordnance Survey

Press Release issued on 1 May 1997

VFM examination report on Ordnance Survey

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr. John Purcell, has carried out an examination of the work of the Ordnance Survey which is the State agency responsible for undertaking surveys, producing and selling maps and maintaining the national mapping archive. The report of the examination, released today, is being presented to Dail Eireann and a copy is enclosed for your information.

The examination focused on

  • the quality of service provided to customers;
  • the financial performance of the organisation;
  • how up-to date the maps are;
  • the impact of change in the operational environment of the Ordnance Survey.

Main Findings

In most aspects of customer service the OS rates well, particularly in regard to product quality. However, there is room for improvement in a number of areas where customers complained of out-of-date map data, delivery delays, complaint handling and difficulties in making contact.

Financial targets in the form of cost recovery rates have been set for specific Ordnance Survey products but due to limitations in the management information system it was not possible during the examination to assess the extent to which the Ordnance Survey is achieving the individual targets. However, the overall rate of self-financing has progressively improved in recent years.

The report suggests that there is potential for the Ordnance Survey to increase revenue through better marketing of its products and services and stricter enforcement of royalty and licence fee collection. The report recommends that the OS should consider the development of a comprehensive management information system and should produce annual financial statements more appropriate to the commercial nature of its activities.

While the OS revises urban maps on a three-year cycle, the rural mapping programme is considerably out-of-date with only 5% of such maps having been revised in the period since 1990 and 64% not having been updated since before 1950.

The absence of up-to-date rural mapping has the greatest impact in areas on the periphery of urban centres which have been subject to considerable housing and commercial development in recent years.

A recent example of the need for rural mapping was the requirement of the Department of Agriculture for a database of land parcels in order to verify area aid claims from farmers. It is estimated that the additional costs incurred in developing the database in the absence of up-to-date mapping was approximately ?1.6m.

Since1990 the OS has invested some ?10.5m in computer-based and digital mapping technology which has enabled it to provide a wider and more flexible range of products in different formats to suit customers’ requirements. Consequent efficiency gains have enabled the OS to gradually reduce staffing from 400 in 1981 to a current level of 278.

Another major change in the operating environment of the OS in the 1990s has been the establishment of regional offices at six locations throughout the State. The regional offices do not provide services locally but merely serve as offsite production centres.

The discontinuance of the historical link between the Defence Forces and the OS is currently under consideration following a recommendation of the Defence Forces Review carried out by the Efficiency Audit Group of the Department of the Taoiseach.

For further information about the report contents, please contact:

Derrick Rapple

Tel: +353 1 679 3122

Fax: +353 1 679 3288


Publication Details

VFM Report No. 13: Ordnance Survey

ISBN 0-7076-3817-8

Price ?5

Government Publications Sales Office

Sun Alliance House

Molesworth Street

Dublin 2

Tel: +353 1 661 3111

Fax: +353 1 475 2760

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The contents of this page were last updated on 26/09/03