Letter issued by the Clerk to the Committee to Secretaries of all Government Departments/Offices
The Dáil Committee on Public Expenditure is most anxious that Government Departments should be operating proper procedures for ensuring that value for money is obtained from the resources entrusted to their use. The Committee is also anxious to assess the value for money which the community is currently deriving from Public Expenditure Programmes.
In order to make a preliminary assessment of the current situation in regard to these matters the Committee requests that you should prepare a response to the attached questionnaire. Answers to specific questions may exceed one page on occasions. Where this occurs a summary of the answer should be provided which is no more than one page in length. Statements on the summary page should be cross referenced to the supporting detail.
It should be emphasised that the purpose of this enquiry is not to find fault but to establish the fact and develop a better understanding on the part of elected representatives of the problems faced by public service managers. If information is absolutely not available to answer a particular question, do not hesitate to say so. The Committee appreciates that this is only the first stage of what may be a lengthy, or even continuing effort to achieve better management of the public finances.
Please send your responses to the Clerk of the Committee on or before 24 February, 1984.
Thanking you in advance for your undoubted cooperation.
Clerk to the Committee
25 January, 1984.
Note: A similar letter was issued to the Chief Executives of the non-Commercial State-sponsored bodies.
DÁIL COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC EXPENDITURE
Scope of Programmes Administered
1.1Identify the Public Expenditure Programmes for which your Department is responsible in whole or in part. The “Tentative Programme Listing” contained in the book entitled “Comprehensive Public Expenditure Programmes” should be used as a basis for answering this question.
2.1Provide a copy of the statement of the overall aims, policies and objectives for each programme identified at 1.1 above. Alternatively if the aims, policies and objectives are clearly understood, although unwritten, please state them.
2.2Describe the procedures used to plan implementation of programmes, the period covered by plans, the information systems used to support the planning process and the factors/criteria adopted in deciding upon the allocation of resources? How is need assessed?
Do the organisational arrangements for managing the implementation of programmes include a Management Advisory Committee as envisaged in the Report of Public Service Organisation Review Group?
Provide samples of documents used in the planning process to illustrate your response.
2.3Are formalised techniques for assessing capital projects used in your department? When evaluating such projects, is reference made to criteria recommended by the Working Group on Cost Over-Runs on Public Construction Contracts?
Identify the two largest capital projects approved by your department since 1 January 1978.
Identify the two largest projects rejected by your department since 1 January 1978.
Provide extracts from these case files to illustrate your response to this question.
Management and Operational Control
In answering the following questions, where appropriate, comment on each programme for which your department is responsible in whole or in part. Illustrate your answers with examples.
3.1In each programme are objectives set in sufficient detail to facilitate measurement of actual performance and to compare with targets?
3.2Are targets/objectives set in financial and non-financial terms?
3.3Briefly describe the procedures by which actuals are promptly reported against budget and variations acted upon.
3.4Does the information system promote accountability by individual managers? Explain how and to what extent accountability is achieved.
3.5Describe how changes in workload are reflected in staff resource planning?
3.6What are the performance measures used to assess the effectiveness of each programme (e.g., pollution levels, percentage of students gainfully employed within three months of completing course etc.)?
Provide examples of improvements in service resulting from the use of this information.
3.7How is public opinion of programme performance determined?
3.8Describe performance criteria used to assess efficiency and economy (e.g. value of capital projects handled per architect, cost per medical card etc.).
Are standards and targets set and compared to actuals?
3.9What actions have you taken to encourage line managers to improve efficiency during the past five years?
What results have been achieved and how have these been evaluated?
3.10Provide copies of the estimate for your department for 1984 and for each of the past five years (1979 - 1983) with the actual outturn for each year. Against the background of these comparisons do you consider the procedures for reviewing, reporting and explaining actual performance to be adequate?
3.11Describe how decisions are made as to the balance between programmes and the amounts to be provided under each vote sub-head when preparing estimates for your department? Are techniques such as zero-based budgeting or multi-annual budgeting ever used by your department?
Performance Trends 1973 - 1983
4.1For each of the primary outputs of each programme for which your department is responsible, in whole or in part, document output volume statistics for 1973, 1978 and 1983 (e.g. housing completions, second level pupils, miles of road maintained/built by major classification etc.).
4.2Document the staff numbers in your department at 31 December 1973, 31 December 1978 and 31 December 1983 or other dates close to these dates for which information can be more easily obtained. A broad analysis by programme and grade should be provided.
4.3Analyse the budget for your department for 1973, 1978 and 1983 between pay, non-pay, grant, transfer payment, capital and other costs. Where possible analyse costs by programme.
4.4Comment on the trends in demand for services, output volumes, staff resources, costs and on the relationships between these trends.
4.5Which of the services provided by your department represent outstanding value for money? Which services which your department is required to provide by statute do you believe merit critical review and why?
5.1If concerns regarding the operations of your department were contained in recent reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General, what action has been taken to deal with such concerns?
5.2How does your department compare with similar departments in other countries in the areas of policy formulation, management and operational control and performance trends?
5.3Identify three activities which the Dáil Committee on Public Expenditure could initiate and which in your view would make a major contribution to improving the value for money which the community derives from Public Expenditure Programmes.