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Demonstrating Performance: A Primer for Expenditure Reviews (June 2008)

Appendix 2: Is the Right Information Being Reported?

Following advice in this paper should result in a tight ‘basket of measures’ conforming to the United Kingdom’s FABRIC criteria[7] (modified to reflect the ER’s focus on major interventions). The FABRIC criteria can be used to confirm that the set of performance measures being reviewed is part of a credible performance management system:

  • Focussed on the intervention’s (and agency’s) main aims and objectives
  • Appropriate to, and useful for, stakeholders likely to use the performance information
  • Balanced, giving a picture of what the intervention is achieving in significant areas
  • Robust in order to withstand institutional change and challenge
  • Integrated into the agency’s decision making and business planning processes
  • Cost effective, balancing the benefits of improved information against its costs.

Moving from system attributes to qualities of individual measures, FABRIC has another set of principles that can be used to identify (and perhaps eliminate) weaker measures:

  • Be relevant: to what the organisation is trying to achieve through the intervention
  • Avoid creating perverse incentives: so as not to encourage wasteful behaviour
  • Be attributable: to the agency’s actions, so it should be clear where accountability lies
  • Be well-defined: with an unambiguous definition, so data is collected consistently, similar measures get compared, and the measure is easy to understand and use
  • Be timely: so progress can be tracked quickly enough for the data still to be useful
  • Be reliable: accurate enough for the intended use, and responsive to change
  • Be comparable: with past periods, similar programmes, or a valid reference group
  • Be verifiable: with clear documentation, so measures can be validated.

Initial reviews of major interventions may rely on available data. Remember that perfect measures are rare. Measures that perform badly against the FABRIC criteria could be dropped. But this depends on whether a big gap is left in your information. ‘It is better to be roughly right, than to be perfectly ignorant.’ Partial information is better than none.

Components of Performance Measurement.

Source: UK Audit Office

The FABRIC criteria are also useful in reviewing future reporting requirements. Major gaps in information about the performance of major intervention may make a strong statement about how well the agency has managed its affairs. The deciding factor is whether the information sought can be produced at reasonable cost. When information could have been produced (but was not), and would have helped the team to develop a clearer view on the management or performance of the intervention, you are expected to propose its inclusion in future reporting requirements for consideration by Ministers.


  • [7]Choosing the right FABRIC’,
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