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Specifying the Performance Expected in Return for Funding

Linking funding to outputs and outcomes in the Information Supporting the Estimates allows Parliament to look at the value of the goods and services it is asked to appropriate funding for. In retrospect, linkage should ensure the reporting of information that shows - or can be used to show - value for money.

The Information Supporting the Estimates starts the process of laying out how outcomes sought by the Government are linked to specific outputs and costs. Reporting obligations are created by measures and standards for each output. Obligations are reinforced by declaring appropriate performance measures and standards in Statements of Intent and output plans or output agreements.

Since 1989, output reporting has focused on price, quantity and standards. Ten years of results-based management has also brought outcome-based measures into performance expectations and reporting for major outputs.

The end state sought is detailed information on outcomes and how these relate (or are unrelated) to outputs and inputs. While agencies are accountable for delivering outputs, they are expected to help Ministers purchase outputs based on how they will impact (improve) outcomes.

The increased emphasis on reporting outcomes is nicely illustrated in Vote Corrections, where in addition to output-based information on prisoner numbers, funding, etc, targets are also set in the Information Supporting the Estimates for a range of intermediate outcomes. This includes targets for:

  • unnatural deaths and self-harm (per prisoner)
  • assaults on inmates and staff
  • drug use
  • escapes.

These measures reflect what is needed from a prison service and, just as importantly, allow Parliament and the public to gauge the quality of delivery.

A key outcome of prison services is, of course, reduced reoffending after release. Reducing reoffending is part of the rationale for selecting outputs but is not something the department is accountable for.

Rather, Statements of Intent commit agencies to reporting on progress towards outcomes. Corrections, for example, reports detailed information of reoffending rates and impact measures for rehabilitative programmes.

Appropriation and reporting systems are most useful when they produce the value-for-money information the Government needs to channel the funding for services that under-delivered into services that improve the lives of citizens (ie, improve outcomes) in more cost-effective ways.

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