Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 covering the period 2008-2011

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Review of the data systems for Public Service Agreement 28 led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: ‘Secure a healthy environment for today and the future’


PSAs are at the centre of the Government’s performance measurement system. They are usually three year agreements, set during the spending review process and negotiated between departments and the Treasury. They set objectives for the priority areas of government’s work.

This PSA is led by Defra, with data provided by Natural England, the Environment Agency and a range of other sources. Each PSA has a Senior Responsible Officer who is responsible for maintaining a sound system of control across Departmental boundaries that supports the achievement of the PSA. The underlying data systems are an important element in this framework of control.

Defra used to be responsible for PSA 27. However, they have now passed this responsibility to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Defra now provide data to DECC to ensure that this PSA is appropriately reported.

The purpose and scope of this review

The Government invited the Comptroller and Auditor General to validate the data systems used by government to monitor and report its performance.  During 2008-09, the National Audit Office (NAO) carried out an examination of the data systems for all the indicators used to report performance against this PSA. This involved a detailed review of the processes and controls governing:

  • The match between the indicators selected to measure performance and the PSA.  The indicators should address all key elements of performance referred to in the PSA;
  • The match between indicators and their data systems.  The data system should produce data that allow the Department to accurately measure the relevant element of performance;
  • For each indicator, the selection, collection, processing and analysis of data.  Control procedures should mitigate all known significant risks to data reliability.  In addition, system processes and controls should be adequately documented to support consistent application over time; and
  • The reporting of results. Outturn data should be presented fairly for all key aspects of performance referred to in the target.  Any significant limitations should be disclosed and the implications for interpreting progress explained.

Our conclusions are summarised in the form of traffic lights. The ratings are based on the extent to which departments have:

  • put in place and operated internal controls over the data systems that are effective and proportionate to the risks involved; and
  • explained clearly any limitations in the quality of its data systems to Parliament

June 2010


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