Factors influencing changes to performance measures of Australian government agencies

  • Graham Smith

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    How can citizens be assured that governments are effectively delivering the vital public services that citizens rely on? Performance measurement — counting, measuring and assessing — can make governments accountable to citizens. It can also help to improve performance, because what gets measured is more likely to be well-managed. These perceptions have led to increased use of performance management and measurement systems in the public sector; it is almost inconceivable that modern public management would not include an element of performance measurement.
    Despite performance measurement having been for many years mandated by governments, quality is patchy: published measures are frequently poorly defined, subject to distortion, not relevant and sometimes simply not measurable. There is extensive research on performance measures, how they work in various types of organisation and how to implement them. Rules, ‘better practice’ and guidelines are available and resources are usually adequate; yet performance measurement often fails to achieve its objectives of accountability and performance improvement. Also, the empirical basis for the relationship between performance measurement and efficiency is slim.
    The primary purpose of this research is to analyse trends in performance measurement quality for different types of organisations, and to identify potential causes of poor or good performance measurement, using selected Australian government organisations as case studies. The thesis explores these issues through an analysis of published information, principally budget papers and annual reports over a period of six years, together with interviews of key people in selected government agencies. The data are used to determine why and how the quality of performance measures change from year to year and whether the quality of performance measures is related to better organisational performance. The research seeks to understand how performance measurement is influenced by key organisational variables as part of a search for explanations of the causes of good or poor performance information in government. These variables include organisational function, for example, service delivery agencies compared with policy advice bodies; and the impact of external review. The thesis concludes by considering the nature of action by some stakeholders that could improve accountability and so improve the quality of government services that citizens rely on.
    Date of Award2019
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJohn Halligan (Supervisor) & Monir Mir (Supervisor)

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