In 2007, the five UK audit agencies (the Audit Commission, Audit Scotland, the National Audit Office, the Northern Ireland Audit Office and the Wales Audit Office) jointly launched a set of indicators for each of five corporate service activities – estates management, finance, human resources, ICT, and procurement. Two further services were subsequently added – communications and legal. The latest version of the indicators and definitions which were available on the Public Audit Forum are from June 2011.
The indicators are widely acknowledged as a reliable source of measurement. Their success may be seen in their widespread adoption on a voluntary basis by public bodies across the UK. Given the maturity of corporate service benchmarking in many sectors, the audit agencies will now step back from their initial role of developing and maintaining indicator sets, and will not be providing further updates beyond June 2011. They will, however, continue to encourage bodies to benchmark their corporate services against these, or equivalent, indicators.
As well as benchmarking activity led by public bodies themselves, benchmarking and data collection services have been provided by third party providers such as CIPFA and SOCITM. The audit agencies have not collected data and will not play the on-going benchmarking role themselves. However, each of the five UK audit agencies will work with their respective sectors to promote benchmarking as a means of securing good value for money in corporate service provision.