Performance Measurement and Reporting in the Rate Collection Agency

Mr John Dowdall, Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland and Head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office, today reported the results of his examination into performance measurement and reporting in the Rate Collection Agency.

The Agency is responsible for the collection of rates totalling some £456m in respect of 725,000 properties. It also administers the Housing Benefit Scheme applying to owner occupiers. The cost of running the Agency is just over £8m per year. The NIAO's examination covered the Agency's performance since it was established in 1991 until 31 March 1999 and included a review of the arrangements for setting performance targets and analysis of reported performance against those targets.

The Report shows that the Agency achieved some 75% of the key performance targets set during the period. It coped with an increasing workload while reducing staff numbers and costs and has thus improved efficiency in its two main functions. However the NIAO noted that errors had been made in the calculation of unit costs in administering the Housing Benefit Scheme. The Agency has undertaken to correct these and publish the correct information in its next Annual Report.

The Agency's main target is to recover a high percentage of rates due and has been consistently achieving somewhere in the order of 98%. This compares very favourably with the performance of local authorities in Great Britain.

This study has helped the NIAO to identify good practice points which could be applied generally to other Executive Agencies. These include:

  • the value of clearly stated objectives, key targets and measurable outputs;
  • early publication of key targets;
  • the value in publishing data on a consistent basis to facilitate trend analysis;
  • the need for challenging targets;
  • the need to fully explain significant variations between targets and output in Annual Reports; and
  • the need for published information to be independently validated and accurately reported.