Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General - Press release VFM examination report on The Impact of VFM Examinations 94-96

Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General

Press Release

28th January 2000

Report on Impact of Value for Money Examinations 1994 - 1996

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr John Purcell, has carried out an examination on the impact of the first sixteen value for money reports which were produced in the period 1994 - 1996. The reports covered a wide range of issues dealing with economy, efficiency, project management and the assessment of effectiveness.

In this report, specific impacts achieved by individual value for money reports and more general impacts, common to all departments and offices, are considered. The Department of Finance has stated that it is evident that value for money studies have contributed to actual savings in specific sectors and to a greater cost consciousness in general in the spending of Oireachtas moneys.

A report on the examination is being presented to Dáil ?reann today. The main findings of the examination are summarised below.

For further information about the report contents, please contact:

Jennifer O’Halloran at (01) 679 3122

Main Findings

  • The implementation of findings concerned with identifying the potential for cost savings through centralised procurement has led to substantial savings in energy costs in the health sector and in procurement by the Garda Síochána.
  • Cost savings in health boards have also been achieved through the substitution of cheaper resources for more expensive resources without affecting quality. However, where staff substitution is involved, for example, garda civilianisation, the achievement of economies is more complicated. Changes in employment structures and practices can only be achieved through partnership which is the lynchpin of Government policy in this area.
  • Positive impacts arising from value for money reports dealing with efficiency were noted in the case of the transfer of responsibility for managing FEOGA borrowing and treasury management activities from the Department of Agriculture and Food to the National Treasury Management Agency. Some operational improvements were also noted in the Ordnance Survey and for administering the LEADER II programme.
  • The value for money reports dealing with project management issues found weaknesses in each of the key stages of the project life cycle. The most beneficial impact to be expected from these reports is for improvement in guidance material for managing and evaluating the outturn of future projects. This has been noted in the case of the development of project management plans for civil engineering projects and an increase in post project review activity.
  • Arrangements for the direct assessment of the effectiveness of the operations of Government departments and offices are underdeveloped and this limits the scope for value for money audit activity in this area. The principal impacts arising from the reports dealing with effectiveness evaluation have been improvements in the data availability and monitoring arrangements for the areas covered.
  • The inadequacy of data collection to support the provision of meaningful performance information is a recurring theme in many of the sixteen reports. While this problem is being assessed in the specific cases highlighted, the overall progress in the development of improved performance reporting has been disappointing.
  • The period covered by the sixteen reports predates the initiative for the production of statements of strategy and business plans by departments and offices. These strategic documents make a potentially important contribution to the value for money environment as they should clarify the objectives of programmes and identify the performance measures and indicators by which achievements can be assessed. However, much more work is needed in the development of standards and supporting systems to underpin the routine production of performance reports.
  • The implementation difficulties highlighted by the value for money report on administrative budgets were taken up in a revision of the system for the third round of agreements covering the period 1999 - 2001. The new round of agreements also benefit from the availability of strategy statements and plans and from moves to a multi-annual budgeting system. This reflects the interdependence between many of the reform initiatives envisaged in the Strategic Management Initiative and the need to manage the progress of reform in an integrated and co-ordinated manner.

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