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Assessing the Quality of Performance Information or Performance Reports

Quality refers to the relevance and reliability of performance information and to the adequacy of performance reports with respect to meeting user needs.

Practice 2b. Assure performance reports: Audit, attest to, assure, or certify external performance reports.

The auditor determines whether reporting and communication of performance information to external stakeholders (e.g., the public, non-executive elected officials) meet internally- or externally-set criteria for effective communication of an entity’s performance.  External criteria may include, for example, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board’s (GASB’s) “Suggested Criteria” for performance reporting, “Reporting Principles” of the CCAF-FCVI (PDF) (formerly the Canadian Comprehensive Auditing Foundation), or the CICA Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) of Canada’s “Statement of Recommended Practice SORP-2: Public Performance Reporting” (PDF). The auditor may engage in this practice in conjunction with practice 2a by testing a sample of performance measures in a public report for reliability or relevance, to test the quality of information reported as one aspect of effective communication.  The auditor may also issue a report, certification, or opinion on the quality of information or effectiveness of reporting and communication.  In addition to auditing standards, such as those promulgated by The IIA, the U.S. GAO, or CICA (in Canada) attestation standards may be used to guide or support this practice. In the United States, attestation standards issued by the AICPA may be used. 

In Alberta, the Auditor General has a multi-year strategy to increase the level of assurance provided for performance information, and has refined its checking procedures over the years for assessing performance measures in the province’s annual “Measuring Up” performance reports and ministry reports.  Resulting increased reliability of the performance information is reflected by increased use by the legislature. … Read more

The British Columbia Auditor General uses a “threshold approach” to assess the quality of reports based on eight principles of a good performance report.  Assessors conclude whether or not each principle has been fundamentally met, consistent with the Auditor Generals previous “learning model,” which rated progress of performance reporting over four stages of development for incorporating the principles. … Read more

The Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Department of Audit developed a series of audit steps and questions linked to key concepts and criteria for assessing reported performance, and used a “two tier” approach: a detailed review of reporting by a few departments a year, a more limited “desk review” of other departments’ reporting. … Read Example from 2004 Guide (PDF)

The Quebec Auditor General’s staff have followed nine principles related to characteristics they look for when reviewing performance reports.  Major findings from reviewing 16 reports by provincial entities included an absence of targets in half the reports, and insufficient use of comparison data. … Read Example from 2004 Guide (PDF)

The Saskatchewan Provincial Auditor’s Office uses a verification checklist to perform its annual review of the reliability and understandability of some of the larger agencies annual reports.  The Provincial Auditor’s Office also shares best practices with deputy ministers responsible for the performance reports. … Read more