Aberdeen City Council. Performance Management Process. External Audit Report o: 2008/19

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1 Aberdeen City Council Performance Management Process External Audit Report o: 2008/19 Draft Issued: 11 February 2009 Final Issued: 6 April 2009

2 Contents Pages Pages Management Summary Introduction 1 Background 1 2 Scope of the Audit 2 Objectives of the Audit 3 Audit Approach 3 Overall Conclusion 3 Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations 4 Acknowledgements 4 Disclaimer 4 Main Report Performance Management Framework 5 Single Outcome Agreement 5 6 Team Plans 6 Scorecards 6 7 Other Forms of Performance Management 7 Covalent 8 9 Members Training 9 Reporting 9 10 Best Value Audit Progress 11

3 Management Summary Introduction This is the second year of our five year appointment as External Auditors for Aberdeen City Council. Our previous appointment covered the two years to 2005/06. As part of the agreed Internal Audit Plan for 2007/08, the Performance Management Process was identified as one of 30 new topics agreed for inclusion. However, due to resourcing issues, Internal Audit was not able to carry out this piece of work. As this is an area we sought to place reliance on for our Performance Audit work, we agreed with management that we would undertake to carry out an interim review in this area. Our initial fieldwork was carried out in June and July 2008 and findings were discussed with officers at that time. Formal reporting was delayed due to the impact of other priorities for both Council and Henderson Loggie staff, primarily relating to the Best Value audit and the completion of the 2007/08 accounts and audit. We have now taken the opportunity to update the position with regard to developments during 2008 and this report summarises the previous position and actions taken to strengthen the performance management process. Background Performance Management is a key Best Value criterion. The Best Value report issued in May 2008, whilst recognising that there had been improvement in the Council s performance management systems in 2007/08, stated that the Council was weak in certain performance management areas. These included a lack of consistent performance-focused culture and weaknesses in the Councils arrangements for scrutinising performance. It also noted that staff compliance with performance management systems had not historically been good; however, there was a high level of management commitment to performance management and improvements had been noted in service performance. All Committees have received performance reports since 1999, however, the new Committee structure implemented during 2007 offered the opportunity to develop and implement a new recording and reporting process. A report went before the Continuous Improvement Committee on 11 September 2007 outlining a framework for reporting performance data to each Committee. All Committees currently receive and consider performance reports which have the following components: Director s Overview of Progress (From Chief Executive s Progress Report) Performance Indicator Scorecard with traffic light mechanism, under 4 headings Resources; Impact; Process and Organisation Learning & Development Appendices with detailed drill down information for each indicator in the scorecard Progress of key project led activity Specific additional collection of measures (e.g. SQA results once a year, annual report of all Statutory Performance Indicators) Audit and Inspection reports as appropriate 1

4 Management Summary Background (cont d) In an effort to minimise the volume of reports presented to each meeting, whilst at the same time ensuring that one Committee considered City-wide performance, the Continuous Improvement Committee only receive a timetabled programme of performance reports allowing them to see different aspects of operational performance reported on, in detail, at predetermined points in the year together with exception reporting of performance items outwith the planned programme. The Best Value report noted that the Councils good practice in performance reporting needed to be extended to service and area-based performance reporting. 80% of the reporting currently being made to the Area Committees is shown North, South and Central. An interim Chief Executive took up post in August 2008 and interim management arrangements were put in place on 1 September These were designed to strengthen governance and performance management arrangements and improve the flow of performance information to and between management teams and committees. The new Chief Executive who took up post on 1 December 2008 has already reviewed the management and committee structures and has proposed changes to be implemented during The associated performance reporting will also need to be re-aligned although much of the improved reporting processes already in place are likely to be able to be adapted. At a team level, as part of the development of Service Plans, each team is currently developing a team plan, which is to incorporate a performance scorecard. This is still in its early stages as it is still being fully developed and integrated into all teams across the Council. The Council introduced an electronic Performance Management System Covalent during 2008 which in time will hold all Service Plan and Team Plan actions and scorecards, which can then be updated on an ongoing basis by the responsible officer. A Project Board has been set up to control its full implementation. The system currently includes details of the Corporate Improvement Plan (CIP) (formerly the Transformation Programme), budget savings and the Service Scorecards which are currently reported to Committee. The CMT has agreed a strategic approach for fully implementing the Covalent system at all levels within the Council. Citistat was a system adopted by the Council following a visit to the US where the process was seen in action. Citistat Working Groups were set up to deal with areas of poor performance which were identified by the previous Chief Executive. Following the introduction of the interim managerial arrangements on 1 September 2008, it was decided to put the Citistat process on hold, as the processes involved were seen as a role of the interim Directors of Environment and Infrastructure, Culture and Learning, Housing and Community Safety and Social Work. Scope of the Audit The scope of the audit was to consider the work currently carried out corporately and by the Services of the Council to produce, report and use performance management information. 2

5 Management Summary Objectives of the Audit The objectives of our review were to assess the stage of implementation of the corporate performance management process and to obtain assurance that systems are in place to ensure that: the Corporate Performance Management Process is being followed by all Services; there is a clear action plan in place to fully develop team plans; there is clear action plan in place to fully integrate the Covalent system into the process; regular effective reports are provided to Committee and ECMT; and any action required is followed up in a timely manner. Audit Approach In order to address the above objectives, interviews were held with relevant officers to document the systems and controls in place and the following documentation and systems were reviewed: the reports to Committee detailing the outline of the process; training, guidance and support given to services relating to data gathering and processing; Performance Management reports to Committee; Reports/ reviews from the Citistat process; and the Covalent reporting system. Overall Conclusion From our audit work, we can reasonably conclude that progress is steadily being made in implementing the Corporate Performance Management process throughout all Services of the Council. Discussions are ongoing as to how Service Planning and associated Team Plans are to be developed going forward under the planned changes in management structure. There is an action plan in place to fully integrate the Covalent system into the process, however, resources have been diverted onto other priorities such as the monitoring of budget savings and improvement plans. Regular performance reporting is provided to Committees and officer management teams. As a result of management changes made in September 2008 the meetings of the ECMT are now less frequent as part of an overall move to streamline the flow of information and decision making amongst all the committees and management teams of the Council. From a review of recent Committee reports, which utilise the reporting tools in Covalent, we noted improvements in the quality and clarity of the information presented. This still needs to be fully embedded through the Services and Teams. Evidence from our review demonstrates an improvement in the quality and clarity of performance information presented to Members, with resultant improvement in follow-up actions required. However, there is scope for further improvements to achieve better consistency and quality of reporting. 3

6 Management Summary Summary of Main Findings & Recommendations This report summarises our findings along with the action taken by the Council to date. Consideration should be given as to whether the Council has addressed all the weaknesses identified going forward and whether further areas of best practice can be adopted. In particular, the following points should be considered, to ensure that action plans currently in place are implemented: Complete the review of the detailed arrangements arising from the newly agreed Performance Management and Planning Framework to align with the Council s ongoing change of structures and governance (see para 1.1); The best mechanism for the delivery of the Single Outcome Agreement and the related Performance Indicators need to be considered as part of the SOA development process and linked to decisions around the 2008 SPI direction (see para 2.3); Utilisation of the risk management module within Covalent (see para 6.8); Progression of the work being done by the external ICT research company on Business Intelligence Reporting (see para 6.9); and Members attendance at training on their governance and scrutiny role (see para 7.2). The issues identified in this report will be considered in planning for the Best Value follow up, which is planned to be reported by the Accounts Commission in August Acknowledgements Consider how Service Planning and associated Team Plans are developed under the proposed new management structure, ensuring that there are sufficient resources and that appropriate training has been received (see para 3.3); The full implementation of phase two of the Covalent project, ensuring that all Service and Team Plans are incorporated, and the system is fully usable across the Council. This should achieve more consistency in approach and reporting of performance information to management and Members. The proposal to employ additional staffing resources in relation to the project needs to be progressed (see para 6.6); A rolling programme of training on the Covalent system, in particular for newly recruited or promoted staff (see para 6.7); We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the officers within the Council who assisted us in gathering information for this report. Disclaimer This report sets out the findings from the specific areas covered by our review. Any weaknesses outlined are only those that have come to our attention during the course of normal audit work and are not necessarily, therefore, all the weaknesses that may exist. We take this opportunity to remind you that this report is prepared for the sole use of Aberdeen City Council and the Scrutiny Panel and will be shared with Audit Scotland. No responsibility is assumed by us to any other person who may choose to rely on it for his or her own purposes. 4

7 1. Performance Management Framework 1.1 The Collaborative Leadership and Management System document represents the Council s strategy towards performance management. It details the strategic priorities for the public sector in the North East of Scotland and describes how these priorities will be met through effective planning and joint working. The CMT have agreed a revised version of this document, under the title Performance Management and Planning Framework. Detailed arrangements are being reviewed to align with the Council s ongoing change of structures and governance. 1.2 A planning framework flowchart has been produced as part of this document demonstrating how the ten year Community Plan links to the six Service Plans, which all cover a period of between three to five years. The flowchart highlights the two separate elements comprising the planning process and continuous improvement & service delivery. Under the CMT approved Performance Management & Planning Framework, the planning timing is revised to accommodate particular arrangements in 2008/09 and 2009/10 to respond to the recommendations from External Inspections and audits. 1.3 Managers interviewed during the course of this review believe that there are now closer links between Community and Service Plans. 1.4 The Council has established a Performance Management and Quality Assurance (PMQA) Team with two full time equivalent officers engaged in supporting corporate arrangements for performance management and planning. The Head of PMQA is responsible for ensuring best practice is in place in terms of performance management and planning. 1.5 A planning framework was produced by the PMQA Team during 2008 detailing timescales and stakeholders responsible for the development and delivery of services. It describes how Service Level planning and reporting feeds into the Team planning process. 1.6 Until the council s interim structural arrangements were put in place, additional elements of performance management resource (approximately thirty members of staff) formed a centralised team within the Strategic Leadership Service. Part of their role involved ensuring that the performance management framework was followed throughout the Services. These staff were not line managed by the Head of PMQA, which results in varying standards and priorities. Under the interim structure, these staff have been aligned to the Directors with responsibility for Environment and Infrastructure, Culture and Learning, Housing and Community Safety and Social Work. 2. Single Outcome Agreement 2.1 The Single Outcome Agreement (SOA) was signed by the Council, the Aberdeen City Alliance (TACA) and the Scottish Government in November It lays down a series of local priorities for action in the context of the Scottish Government s national aspirations and spells out how the Council and its community planning partners will work together to meet agreed targets. 5

8 2. Single Outcome Agreement (cont d) 2.2 The first six month monitoring report on the delivery of the SOA for 2008/09 was presented to TACA in January A progress report is due to be presented to the Scottish Government in April and the first public performance report will be published in September. 2.3 The SOA for 2009/2012, including performance indicators (PIs) for measuring the SOA actions in future years, particularly those in relation to actions with partners, are currently being considered. A draft document was submitted to the Scottish Government on 27 th February The development should be linked with the selection of the Statutory Performance Indicators (SPIs) to fulfil the requirements of the 2008 SPI Direction for 2009/10. The 2008 Direction significantly reduces the number of prescribed indicators and requires each Council to select its own suite of indicators to demonstrate implementation of Best Value at corporate and service levels. The best mechanism to manage delivery of the SOA and the related PIs is being considered as part of the SOA development process. 3. Team Plans 3.1 During 2007/08, each team within each Service was required to produce a Team Plan that identifies targets for key outputs and states how progress towards these targets will be measured. The Team Plans should include a scorecard, which has been derived as a result of the Director and Heads of Service deciding upon the priorities to be measured and improved. It is then possible to drill down to more detailed information for each of the indicators in the scorecard to see a further breakdown. 3.2 A deadline was set for each Team to produce a scorecard to be included as part of their Team Plan for 2008/09. Not all Plans were produced within the set timescales or contained a scorecard. Various explanations were given for the lack of progress made in particular the current low level of resources and that variations occur between the Services dependent upon the attitude and skills of the staff concerned. 3.3 We understand that discussions are ongoing as to how Service Planning and associated Team Plans are to be developed going forward under the planned changes in management structure. Team scorecards would allow the operational duties undertaken to correspond to the identified priorities for both the Team and the Service. Attendance at the internal training course should assist in this process, to ensure that each Manager not only prepares the required information, but also understands how to analyse and interpret it. 4. Scorecards 4.1 To monitor the current level of performance against key targets within Service and Team Plans, scorecards are being developed and are regularly reported to the Senior Management Teams (SMTs), the Corporate Management Team (CMT) and to Members at various Committees. 6

9 4. Scorecards (cont d) 4.2 The CMT has agreed that a consistent approach should be taken to the production of scorecards. As a result, the PMQA Team has distributed a standard template to be used as a method of guidance when preparing the scorecards in order to encourage consistent reporting. This is essential as the scorecards are used to report to all major Committees. An internal training course has been introduced aimed at developing the understanding of managers and encourage the use of scorecards. Drop in sessions have also been offered for managers requiring further advice and training. 4.3 The Head of PMQA is confident that the format of the scorecards is good in terms of showing trends, analysis and requiring actions to be completed, however there are still wide variations in the quality of completion. 4.4 Each scorecard contains a traffic light mechanism, which uses the colours red, amber and green to indicate the urgency of particular priorities. As part of the audit, sample scorecards were obtained and examined. It was noted that there are variations throughout the Services regarding the level of explanation given on each scorecard as to the meaning of the traffic lights and that historically Senior Management have on occasions overridden the associated colours if they believe there are circumstances which explain and compensate, therefore reducing the need for review. It was also noted that headings and axis titles were absent from graphs measuring performance, which confuse the meaning of the results. These problems have arisen due to the scorecards initially being developed on a stand alone spreadsheet system. By moving all scorecards onto Covalent, which is currently being progressed (see Section 6 of this report), any overriding will not be possible in the future as there are set parameters within the system for the traffic light indicators and formatting will be consistently applied. 5. Other Forms of Performance Management Lower Level Monitoring 5.1 At a lower level, each member of staff is requested to attend an annual appraisal conducted by their respective line manager. In order to encourage continual communication throughout the Teams, there are also regular one-to-one sessions and Team meetings. Benchmarking 5.2 The Council currently performs both internal and external benchmarking exercises. This has involved comparing performance with other similar and well-performing local authorities. Internal benchmarking includes comparing all six Services and also examining performance measures over time. Complaints 5.3 Complaints are dealt with both at a Service and Corporate level. Each Service will attempt to resolve the complaints within a targeted time period of fifteen days, however if the complaint escalates, it is passed to the corporate centre. The PMQA team has an involvement, ensuring that this process is followed and complaints satisfactorily resolved. Complaints are monitored on a monthly basis as part of the performance monitoring process, with standard indicators being included on all Services scorecards, which are reported to both SMT and the relevant Committee. 7

10 6. Covalent System 6.1 The Council acquired the Covalent system in March This is a performance reporting system, which is widely used throughout Scottish local authorities. One major benefit is that performance information is stored in a central place and is instantly accessible. 6.2 The system has currently been loaded with performance information relating to the Councils Transformation Programme (now called the Corporate Improvement Plan), budgeted savings, and the Service scorecards which are currently reported to Committee. These are now fully operational and are being utilised to monitor performance in these areas through reports provided to management and Members. 6.3 Senior Management have recognised that the demand for usage of Covalent outstrips the resources currently available to complete all requests. The original project is now far larger than planned, in part due to the additional performance measures resulting from budgeted savings monitoring and the CIP/ Transformation Programme. In addition, managers have become better informed about the system s capabilities after attending training sessions and have identified potential efficiency measures relating to how their individual teams work. 6.4 The Council has recognised that a system of tight control is required in order to fulfil the current priorities identified for the Covalent system. A Project Board has been set up, involving two Corporate Directors and is chaired by the Head of PMQA, to control the project and implement the agreed action plan. Top-level commitment is essential to ensure that the action plan is adhered to, additional demands are refused unless deemed essential and originally identified priorities followed through to completion. 6.5 In February 2009, the CMT has agreed a strategic approach to fully implementing the system at all levels within the Council, starting with the actions within the SOA, and then feeding down to the Corporate Plan, Service Plans and Team Plans. 6.6 Although there is a current recruitment freeze within the Council, two temporary posts have been identified as a requirement for the timely completion of phase two of the Covalent project, being the implementation of the use of Covalent across the Council. These members of staff will work closely with the individual Services to ensure that there is a smooth implementation, that all Service and Team Plans are incorporated and that the system is fully usable across the Council. The proposal to employ additional staffing resources in relation to the Covalent project needs to be progressed. 6.7 Detailed written guidance has been documented for the system. The PMQA Team has also provided training on the system. Approximately 150 Council staff have undergone a half day introductory session aimed at familiarising staff to the capabilities of the system. More recently, hands on training has been offered to enable staff to gain a deeper understanding of the system. Also, each Service has been allocated a Systems Administrator. These people have undertaken a trainer s course which allows them to be able to solve minor problems at a local level and provide guidance for staff in their particular Service. The Council should ensure that a rolling programme of training is maintained for staff, especially those newly recruited or promoted. 8

11 6. Covalent System (cont d) 6.8 The Council is currently utilising the modules in Covalent covering Actions and associated Performance Indicators, with named officers responsible for each action assigned within the system. The risk management module has still to be developed. 6.9 The Council is also considering a Business Intelligence Reporting tool, where there would be a single reporting tool across the authority, pulling together information from the various systems currently holding data. A consultant has been commissioned to carry out some preliminary work in this area. 7. Members Training 7.1 For Members to be able to scrutinise the current level of performance, a good understanding is required of the standard formats used within the Council for reporting performance and the various processes followed. In 2005 only 12/42 elected members attended the training relating to performance management. After the 2007 elections, further training sessions were organised and while attendance figures showed an improvement from the previous sessions, still only 15 members attended. 7.2 CIPFA was commissioned to run four sessions for members in late 2008/ early members attended the sessions on Governance/ Scrutiny, 37 attended Introduction to Local Government Finance and 36 attended Audit Committee training. Whilst this is a noted improvement in attendance levels, a final session has been organised for March for all those who have missed the earlier sessions. They should be encouraged to attend to improve their level of skills and understanding. 8. Reporting 8.1 A Continuous Improvement (CI) Committee has been established whose role is to ensure that a minimum level of service is provided City-wide; to identify best practice and act as a conduit for sharing this; and bring challenge to those areas of service where performance is deemed not to be satisfactory. It also acts as a Committee to the CI Service. 8.2 A timetable for reporting performance data has been produced, which allows a controlled stream of information to be reported and reviewed by the CI Committee. This Committee also reviews individual Services Plans. During the audit interviewees commented that they believe the CI Committee to be effective in its role, mainly due to a Chair who is able to challenge Services performance effectively and obtain clearer explanations. 9

12 8. Reporting (cont d) 8.3 Performance information is also received and reviewed by the other Committees of the Council. Each of the core Committees receives scorecards showing the performance of the respective Services against their Service Plans, which are generated from the information held within Covalent. The role of the Service s Director in this process includes reviewing these reports and raising questions aimed at challenging and improving performance. 8.4 Performance against the budgeted savings are reported to the monthly meetings of the Budget Monitoring Board, whose role is to scrutinise the achievement of savings, any budgeted overspends, and the linkage with the CIP/ Transformation Programme. 8.5 From a review of the more recent reporting to Members which utilise the reporting from Covalent, there is a clear improvement in the quality and clarity of the performance information provided to Members. Further work is still required to ensure that this is embedded down to Service and Team levels. 8.6 Previously the Extended Corporate Management Team (ECMT) met quarterly and received regular performance management reports. They provided a list of questions in advance for Services and answers had to be supplied within a set timescale for the following meeting. These meetings are now no longer as frequent. 8.7 The Council has an obligation to publish an Annual Performance Report, which contains details such as statistics relating to expenditure, performance indicators and future targets. The report is available to the public via the Council s website and stakeholders are directed to the report if there is such an enquiry. The Best Value report commented that this report demonstrates a mature approach to corporate public reporting however, is not widely distributed or advertised. As part of the 2009/10 Council Tax notification exercise, the Council intends to distribute a leaflet highlighting key performance information to all citizens of Aberdeen, to achieve wider distribution. 8.8 A separate audit was carried out on the Council s Statutory Performance Indicators (SPIs) to establish the reliability of the indicators. From discussions during this review, there was only a small amount of progress made relating to the unreliable respite indicators, partly due to a shortage of frontline staff. Additional training on the Carefirst system has been provided so that more accurate information is entered onto the system. An exercise is also being carried out to cleanse data on the system. Improvements were observed in the previously unreliable homecare indicator, which now only shows a low error rate. 8.9 As a result of the SWIA report published in June 2008, an action plan has been produced. An additional resource has been recruited with the responsibility for the implementation of the SWIA recommendations. The Council has reported good progress to date internally. This will be followed up in 2009 as part of the joint follow-up of Best Value and other inspection reports. 10

13 9. Best Value Audit Progress 9.1 The Best Value report issued in May 2008 identified performance management as a key area for improvement although it did recognise that the Council has made progress in introducing a corporate performance management framework. 9.2 Steps taken to improve the use of Covalent and interim changes to structures and responsibilities have helped in taking the performance management framework forward during The Best Value report stated that unit cost data is still not routinely available across all service areas. Various options have been presented to the Chief Executive to overcome this weakness. A post designed to identify unit costs was advertised during May The Council received four responses; however a decision was taken not to recruit to the post at that time. During 2007/08 80,000 had been allocated to this task and other options considered, such as hiring in the expertise. An in-house resource is currently being utilised and is working through a prioritised schedule of unit costs. 9.4 The report also noted that better links needed to be established between budgets and service plans. While the Council is attempting to improve these links, it was noted during our review that variations still existed across the Services. A recent step has been to relocate senior finance staff so that they are based closer to the Services and therefore gain a better understanding of the relevant issues. This is a positive step towards realigning budgets and Service expenditure, and identifying potential overspends at an earlier stage. (Also refer to our Report No: 2008/11 Budgetary Process Review). 11

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