Cross Departmental Expenditure Reviews : Lessons from the Pilot Exercises

Boyle, Richard


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Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: CPMR- Committee for Public Management Research
Schriftenreihe: CPMR discussion paper
Bandnummer: 34
ISBN: 978-1-904541-46-2
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2006
Publikationsdatum: 28.03.2009
Originalveröffentlichung: (2006)
DDC-Sachgruppe: Öffentliche Verwaltung
BK - Basisklassifikation: 88.00 ()
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.7 Verwaltungswissenschaften

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

Background The expenditure review initiative (ERI) was launched by the Department of Finance in May 1997. The intention is to promote systematic analysis of what is being achieved by government spending. Guidelines issued by the Department of Finance state that areas of expenditure that cut across departmental boundaries should be included in the review process. The Expenditure Review Central Steering Committee (ERCSC), which oversees the ERI, decided that it would be wise to undertake a small number of pilot cross-departmental reviews with a view towards designing systems for and approaches to such reviews that would be capable of being transferred to other departments and offices. Departments and offices were asked to suggest topics. In May 2002, as part of its general discussion on the expenditure review process, the government approved the following two topics for review, with nominated lead departments: · Cross-departmental expenditure review of supports for the long-term unemployed (Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment) · Cross-departmental expenditure review of the government’s strategy for road safety 1998-2002 (Department of Transport). The CPMR was asked to provide a review of the lessons learned from the pilot exercises and to develop practical guidelines for the future practice of cross-departmental reviews. Findings from the pilot reviews The initial timescale for the pilot cross-departmental reviews envisaged their commencement in October 2002 with a view to their completion in 2003. In practice, the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY reviews were not completed until the end of 2005. In many ways this delay in the production of the reports is the main issue for consideration in terms of progressing crossdepartmental reviews in the future. A number of systemic factors that lead to delays in the carrying out of crossdepartmental expenditure reviews were identified: · The effect of other government priority projects on the conduct of the cross-departmental reviews. The Community Enterprise scheme policy review and other urgent priorities impacted on the Supports for the Long- Term Unemployed review, and the development of a new road safety strategy impacted on the Road Safety review. These other priorities took precedence in terms of resource availability. · The establishment and oversight of steering committees. In some instances, other departments were slow to respond to invitations to participate in the steering committee for the review. · The absence of agreed, dedicated resources (both personnel and financial) from the start of the review process led to lengthy discussion as to how to resource the cross-departmental expenditure reviews. Changes occurred in the personnel dedicated to the reviews which of themselves increased the delays, with new people needing to familiarise themselves with the issues. With regard to the main findings from the review reports that were finally produced, a number of key points emerge: · One of the main strengths and benefits of the pilot cross-departmental reviews is that they manage to pull together information on expenditure for the areas under scrutiny that had not been available before in a comprehensive manner. · Both review reports attempt to assess the performance of programmes and measures. Data deficiencies caused difficulties with this exercise. But, despite these difficulties, both pilot review reports provide useful analysis and comments about performance. A significant potential contribution of the pilot crossdepartmental expenditure reviews is that they point towards the development of new performance indicators to allow a more comprehensive assessment of performance in the future. Both reports are strong in this regard. · Synthesis and overview of the findings - how well the various programmes examined work together - occurred but is probably the weakest aspect of the pilot crossdepartmental reviews. Lessons learned In terms of learning lessons from the pilot exercise, a number of key lessons emerge as being important for the conduct of future cross-departmental reviews. The prioritisation of cross-departmental expenditure reviews In terms of thinking how cross-departmental expenditure reviews might receive higher priority in the future, approaches to ensuring reviews which receive priority include: · Formal notification of priority. In this context, the listing of participation in cross-departmental reviews in the statements of strategy and business plans of all participating departments is important (as suggested for reviews generally by the ERCSC [in Department of Finance, 2004]). · Sign-off on terms of reference and resourcing. The secretaries general of all departments concerned should be asked to sign-off on the terms of reference and on the resources they intend to make available to the review. In addition, secretaries general could be asked to signoff at key stages in the review. · Report sign-off by all participants. Currently, the secretary general of the lead department signs off each cross-departmental review report. Consideration should be given to having cross-departmental reviews signed off by the secretaries general of all participating departments. · Political oversight. The choice of topics for crossdepartmental reviews should be a matter for specific government decision. Copies of completed review reports should be forwarded to the relevant Oireachtas committees when completed. Resourcing cross-departmental expenditure reviews If resourcing of the cross-departmental reviews is not to continue to be an issue into the future, consideration needs to be given to ensuring that there is clarity from the initiation of an individual review as to how it is to be staffed and financed. A number of options are possible: · The lead department for the cross-departmental review can take sole responsibility for staffing and financing the review, with other departments on the steering committee simply playing an oversight role. This may or may not involve contracting out of the conduct of the review analysis to consultants. The danger here is that such an arrangement does not solve the type of problems encountered in the pilot cross-departmental reviews. · Participating departments in the steering committee can pool resources (both personnel and financial) to jointly resource the cross-departmental review. Again, analysis may be done either through consultants or staff assigned to the review from participating departments. Experience from the pilot projects indicates that such commitments will need to be clearly established at the start of the process, with sign-off by the secretaries general of the participating departments. · A central pool of resources could be made available to provide support for cross-departmental reviews. With regard to this option, it should be noted that the ERCSC welcomed the decision by the Department of Finance to bring about a gradual integration of the NDP/CSF evaluation unit into the ERI (Department of Finance, 2004). The NDP/CSF evaluation unit has experience in carrying out and commissioning evaluations of a crosscutting nature. Whichever option is chosen, what is important is that all the key stakeholders in the cross-departmental review are aware from the start of their resource commitments and are willing to ensure that these commitments are adhered to. Some mixture of the options is also possible, with either of the first two options being facilitated by a central resource that could be brought in to provide expertise at a particular stage or to conduct a particular piece of analysis for the cross-departmental review. Terms of reference for cross-departmental expenditure reviews While each individual cross-departmental review will have its own specific terms of reference, there are common issues that most cross-departmental reviews would be expected to address. Just as there are generic terms of reference provided by the Department of Finance as a guide for departmental expenditure reviews, it is helpful to have generic terms of reference for cross-departmental reviews. Items to be considered for inclusion in generic terms of reference are: · identify common agreed objectives, results and strategies · map the existing expenditure levels and trends in expenditure · outline the structures and processes used to manage and report on expenditure · assess the efficiency and effectiveness of contributory programmes and the extent to which information is being used to track and improve performance · make recommendations as to the development of future performance indicators and information requirements · make recommendations as to absolute and relative shifts in expenditure in order to achieve desired outcomes. Methodological issues associated with conducting cross-departmental reviews The evaluation of cross-departmental expenditure poses particular methodological problems. Often, the building block for review of cross-departmental programmes and strategies is the evaluation of individual measures. But separate evaluations of individual measures, which by their nature are likely to be distinct and different from each other, in practice often tells us very little about how crossdepartmental programmes and strategies as a whole are working. This was issue encountered by the two pilot cross-departmental reviews. In this context, it is important that the methodologies used in carrying out crossdepartmental reviews includes an element of synthesis across measures and programmes to allow an overview of resource allocation and potential reallocation decisions to be considered. Given these methodological issues, cross-departmental reviews are often likely to need specialist expertise that may not be available in line divisions in departments. In terms of the resourcing issue, departments may need to access particular expertise either centrally held (for example within planning units or the Department of Finance) or externally contracted. Such expertise should be seen as complementary to, and not a substitute for, the involvement of local management in reviews. Progressing recommendations As the pilot review reports had only been recently completed at the time of this study, it is not possible to comment on the implementation of recommendations. However, it is likely that cross-departmental reviews will pose particular challenges in terms of tracking the implementation of recommendations. For standard expenditure reviews, departments are required to put in place systems to ensure that the response to recommendations by their organisations is tracked and reported on regularly to their management advisory committee. This action should also apply to crossdepartmental review recommendations. In addition, when reporting on progress, copies of reports should be sent to the lead department with responsibility for the crossdepartmental review, to enable it to provide an overview of progress with regard to the implementation of recommendations. Also, relevant Oireachtas committees should be sent copies of completed cross-departmental expenditure review reports, and be facilitated if they request subsequent information on progress with regard to the implementation of recommendations. Consideration should also be given to means of ensuring a more direct link between the crossdepartmental reviews and expenditure decisions arising from the budgetary process.

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