Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General - Press release VFM examination report on The Measurement of Effectiveness in Teagasc

Press Release

9 December 1999

Value for Money Report: Performance Measurement in Teagasc

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Mr John Purcell, has carried out an examination of performance measurement systems in place in Teagasc

Teagasc provides advisory, research, education and training services to the agriculture and food industry. It has a staff of almost 1,500, employed at 119 locations including local, county, and regional offices, agricultural colleges, research stations and laboratories and a national headquarters located in Dublin. Expenditure in 1998 was approximately ?82 million. Over 78% of spending is funded by the State or the EU, with the balance being raised mainly by charges for the services provided.

Recent public sector initiatives, particularly the strategic management initiative, emphasise the importance of developing a stronger focus on impacts and on planning and managing to achieve effectiveness. An ability to evaluate effectiveness is one of the primary requirements for such a system. The Comptroller and Auditor General's examination focused mainly on the systems Teagasc has in place to evaluate its effectiveness.

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

For further information about the report contents, please contact:

Fergus O,Brien at (01) 679 3122

Main Findings

Teagasc currently has in place many of the elements required to evaluate the effectiveness of its operations. The remaining elements required could be developed relatively easily.

Teagasc has adopted a strategic management approach to its operations since its foundation. The latest strategy statement, Teagasc 2000, sets out clear objectives at organisational, programme and sub-programme level. There is a strong focus on impacts in the statement of objectives in Teagasc 2000.

Indicators to measure the effectiveness of programmes have not been adopted for all programmes. For example, the indicators chosen for the advisory programme relate to levels of activity (such as the number of clients of the service) rather than impacts (for example, the extent of changes in on-farm technology as a result of advice). By contrast, relevant impact indicators have been identified for food research.

To be able to evaluate effectiveness, impact objectives need to be converted into measurable targets. Many of the impacts which Teagasc is trying to achieve are capable of being measured but targets have not been formally set for most of them. Some good examples of measurable targets were noted. For example, the objective for research into grassland production systems is to achieve target production costs of 9p per litre of milk, 143p per kilogram of suckler beef and 136p per kilogram of mid-season lamb. For the advisory service, targets have been set in annual activity plans but these have not been formally adopted as programme targets.

Targets need a context. For example, in setting a target milk production price, we need to know the current production price before we can identify how much of an improvement is expected or achieved. Even where Teagasc has set targets, few such starting points have been identified. And in most cases, time frames for the achievement of targets have not been specified.

Some objectives cannot be quantified and in these cases alternative means of evaluating effectiveness need to be adopted. For example, it is difficult to quantify the intended impacts of rural economy research. Its effectiveness depends on the quality of work undertaken and formal arrangements for assessing this have not been established.

Teagasc should produce a plan for the comprehensive evaluation of goal achievement. The resources and administrative arrangements for carrying out the evaluation work should be defined.

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