Continuous Improvement arrangements in the NIPB

Date of Issue: 20 March 2012 

Continuous Improvement arrangements in the Northern Ireland Policing Board

Mr Kieran Donnelly, the Comptroller and Auditor General, today issued his report to the Assembly on Continuous improvement arrangements in the Northern Ireland Policing Board. Mr Donnelly said: ‘Effective partnerships lie at the heart of achieving continuous improvement in policing. Continued co-operation between the PSNI, the Board, the Department of Justice and the wider policing family will be necessary to deliver the policing objectives established by the Justice Minister’.


Section 28 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 requires the Board to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions, and those of the Chief Constable, are exercised, having regard to economy, efficiency and effectiveness. The Board is required to prepare and publish a performance plan for each financial year, detailing how the continuous improvement arrangements are to be implemented. Under the Act, the Board must also prepare and publish a performance summary. This report from the C&AG, the second following the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly, reviews the systems underpinning the plan and performance summary. It is not an audit of PSNI’s performance.

Main Findings

On the performance plan 2011-12 and the performance summary for 2010-11:

  • The Board has put in place 19 performance targets for 2011-12 outlined in the performance plan. The targets are reasonable and have clear deadlines for achievement.
  • The Board’s assessment of its own and the Chief Constable’s performance in
    2010-11 is reasonable, and includes clear detail on the outturn against each performance target.
  • There is a continued focus upon quantitative targets, although the Board and the PSNI have an agreed intention to introduce more qualitative targets in future plans. It will be important to ensure that effective monitoring arrangements are established for any such targets, which will undoubtedly require different monitoring mechanisms.
  • Since my report last year, PSNI has improved its arrangements to ensure the quality of its data for reporting performance against targets.

On the continuous improvement arrangements:

  • There is evidence of considerable effort on both sides in recent months to build the relationship between the Board and the PSNI, particularly since the establishment of the new Board in May 2011. This will require continued focus from the Board and the PSNI.
  • The Board and the PSNI recognise that there is more to do to mainstream continuous improvement in the PSNI’s operations; in particular, improving links between continuous improvement and other significant service delivery initiatives such as the efficiency plan.

Key Recommendations

  • Where quantitive targets are used, the Board and PSNI should seek to strike a balance between being realistic but also challenging in their aspirations for improvement.
  • The new Policing Board and the PSNI have an opportunity to redefine the relationship between them. This should be based on the principles of openness and accountability.
  • The Board and the police should seek to mainstream continuous improvement in the work of the PSNI, in particular through greater integration of continuous improvement work streams with other significant service delivery initiatives.

Notes for Editors

  1. The Comptroller and Auditor General is Head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (the Audit Office). He, and the NIAO, are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of Government Departments and a range of other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to report to the Assembly on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and public bodies use their resources. His reports are published as Assembly papers.
  2. This report is available from the Stationery Office throughout the United Kingdom. It is also available on the Audit Office website at The report is embargoed until 00.01 hrs on Tuesday 20 March 2012.
  3. Background briefing can be obtained from the Audit Office by contacting Neil Gray
    (028 9025 4345) or Billy Fitzsimons (028 9025 1092).