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B.C. Auditor General Reports on Trends and Opportunities in Performance Reporting
Thursday, 19 June 2008 20:00

A recently released report from the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia; Strengthening Accountability in British Columbia: Trends and Opportunities in Performance Reporting on the state of performance reporting in the BC government summarizes progress to date and documents avenues for continued improvement.

John Doyle, Auditor General of British Columbia, stated in the report that “a lot has been accomplished, but progress has been uneven.” The report cites improvements in Crown agency performance reporting, but also notes that assessed Crown agency reports have not yet met the standards envisioned by the BC Reporting Principles.

The report identifies the successes with Crown agencies as a solid beginning and a roadmap for future success. It highlights the need to take lessons learned during the previous seven years and implement them in the province's performance reporting framework. It raises the prospect of mandating that the annual reports of government entities eventually fully comply with the BC Reporting Principles.

The Auditor General also examined the role of legislators in the performance reporting process. Although legislators were initially enthusiastic about performance reporting, the latest government reports have produced very little debate concerning actual and planned performance. Mr. Doyle calls for legislators to give similar weight to service plans and budgets and annual performance reports, in order to properly and effectively close the accountability loop.

The report compliments the British Columbia Crown Corporations Committee for making effective use of public performance reports to hold the government to account. Committee members routinely discuss the information in annual reports.

Lastly, the report said the government should provide full, fair, relevant and reliable information. It said third-party assurance is vital to the accountability process, giving confidence to the users of information.

The Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia identified performance reporting as a critical tool for legislators and the public to hold government to account. It pledged to continue to focus on this area and to promote good governance and accountability through performance reporting.

The government responded positively to the Auditor General's report, reinforcing its commitment to continuous improvement in public performance reporting to enhance transparency and accountability to the public, consistent with the Budget Transparency and Accountability Act (BTAA) requirements and the guidance provided in the BC Reporting Principles.

 

Preconditions for Improved Reporting

To facilitate improvements and standardization of performance reports in BC, the Auditor General suggested three preconditions for improved performance reports:

1. Requirements, enshrined in legislation, to publish performance results

Although BC requires that government ministries and Crown agencies produce annual reports and service plans, the legislation could be improved by requiring reports to be prepared using a generally accepted basis of preparation, as the BTAA requires for the financial statements of government.

2. Standards of reporting accepted by both the preparers and users of information

Moving beyond the British Columbia Financial Accountability Act to develop BC's Reporting Principles involved close cooperation between the BC Office of the Auditor General, the Legislative Assembly's Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the government and information users. This leading form of cooperation ensured that the principles reflected internal and external perspectives.

3. Capacity to produce and use relevant and reliable performance data

The final suggested precondition addressed the need for alignment of internal and external performance measurement and reporting. “It is next to impossible to produce meaningful accountability information for an external audience if an organization does not routinely produce relevant and reliable performance data internally to manage its operations,” according to the report.