Draft Public Reporting Programme 2024-29

Foreword

We are pleased to present our draft Public Reporting Programme for 2024-25

This covers the 2024-29 financial year. It builds on the strategic approach we adopted in our 2021-2023 programme, and it reflects a flexible approach in our endeavours to remain agile and respond to new and emerging challenges in the public sector. 

This continues to be a particularly challenging environment within which we operate. With further pressure on departmental budgets, there is, more than ever, a need for greater focus on value and quality within a landscape of challenges: political; economic; sustainable and technological. In such an environment, high quality public audit has never been more important. 

It is within this context that our public reporting programme has been set to provide elected representatives, decision makers and citizens with information and assurance about how well public services are run and how public money is spent.

The context of the programme

Our organisation

The NIAO provides the Assembly with independent assurance about the performance and accountability of the public sector and provide insights into how well public services are being delivered.  

More information on the role and work of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the staff of the Northern Ireland Audit Office can be found on the Our Work section of this website.

Draft Corporate Plan 2024-29

In conjunction with this draft Public Reporting Programme, the Office has been developing a new draft Corporate Plan (also open for public consultation). The plan, which is available to read on our website, sets out the NIAO’s three corporate strategic priorities:

  • Support, enhance and promote high standards in public service administration, accountability and financial management;

  • Promote and influence public service reform and improvement; and

  • Be a high-performing, people-focused organisation.

Both the draft Corporate Plan and this draft Public Reporting Programme have been developed in line with the NIAO's Vision, Purpose and Values.

Development of our Public Reporting Programme

Overview

Government priorities and systems in Northern Ireland are continually evolving. Publication of this programme provides our elected representatives, public sector bodies and citizens with advance notice of our public reporting programme and an opportunity to engage with, and prepare for, and contribute to the audit process.

Deciding what to audit is a key part of the independence of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG).  This independence must be underpinned by a robust process to ensure that the selection of topics is objective, relevant, balanced and transparent. 

Our unique position as the independent central and local government auditors enables us to have an in-depth understanding of the delivery of public services. It is important that we have an effective process to build a programme of work that takes a strategic, longer-term view of the challenges facing the public sector, including the impact of decisions taken on future generations. This process is as set out below.

  1. Assessment of Topics:

    1. NIAO Vision

    2. Programme for Government Outcomes

    3. Sector Analysis

    4. Risks identified across government

    5. Economy, efficiency and effectiveness

  2. Engagement Process:

    1. Consult

    2. Inform

    3. Build Awareness

  3. Comptroller and Auditor General’s Consideration

  4. Production of the NIAO Public Reporting Programme

Stakeholder Engagement

In the development of our forward work programme we undertake two-way communication that involves us listening to our stakeholders and keeping them informed. Maintaining our independence and impartiality is important, so it is not about agreeing with stakeholders.  However, it involves recognising and understanding stakeholders’ individual values, beliefs, perceptions, and ideas.  The NIAO will continue to build on stakeholder relationships, delivering real dialogue and interaction.

We take a strategic approach to stakeholder engagement that includes: 

  • principles to guide our engagement approach;

  • a process for conducting engagement activities; and

  • consideration of the level of engagement with various stakeholders, recognising that tools and strategies must be fit-for-purpose and appropriate to the issues on which we are seeking to engage. 

The engagement Process

Who we will engage with, together with the frequency and nature of engagement.:

  • We engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including our political representatives, central government, local government, citizens and other audit agencies.

  • We ensure that we are clear on our purpose for engaging with each stakeholder, as well as the channels of communication that we use to convey our messages to them. 

  • We acknowledge that the needs of each of our stakeholders will be different.  On that basis, we use different ways of engaging with each of them.

  • Beyond our overall message of underlining our independence and impartiality, we have other messages that are relevant to each stakeholder.

Levels of engagement

We recognise that identifying the most appropriate method of stakeholder engagement and the relevant tools and techniques to facilitate the engagement process can vary according to the situation, time, skills and resources.  All engagement methods have their benefits and limitations, and we consider that it is important to select the right one and review it to ensure the method best fits the specific requirement.

Collaboration

We collaborate with a wide range of partners: with the Public Accounts Committee of the NI Assembly on evidence sessions based on our reports; with other regulators which share a similar remit, for example, the Criminal Justice Inspectorate Northern Ireland; with the other state audit agencies in the UK and Ireland; and with various organisations to share knowledge and information.  We are committed to strengthening collaborative working in government, seeking more opportunities to work with others to deliver benefits for stakeholders and citizens. 

Public Reporting Programme 2024-29

Themes

Through the application of our assessment and engagement process to date, the following themes have been identified which will underpin the 2024-29 Public Reporting Programme.

  • Improving Public Services
  • Digital and Skills
  • Climate and Sustainability
  • Governance and Accountability
  • Economy
  • Efficiency
  • Effectiveness

Programme for 2024 - 2025

In line with the themes identified above, the following programme has emerged for 2024-25:

  • Major IT Projects 

  • Radiology Services 

  • Schools Estate – maintenance

  • Quality of Education 

  • Homelessness

  • Active Travel 

  • Environmental Protection

  • Public Bodies’ response to Misrepresented Soil Analysis 

  • Northern Ireland Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme: Assessing progress with the implementation of the Public Inquiry recommendations (follow-up)

  • Strategic Review of Energy Efficiency       

  • PSNI - Fleet Management

  • Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report on Financial Audit Findings 2024 - Central Government

  • Local Government Auditor’s Report 2024

  • Audit Committee Effectiveness – A Good Practice Guide

  • Road openings by utilities

  • Continuous Improvement in Policing

  • Building Skills for a Modern Economy

  • Ambulance Handovers

  • National Fraud Initiative 

  • Waste Crime