Select Committee on Trade and Industry Second Report


60. The process of objective and target setting has been flawed by frequent amendment or deletion of current targets and creation of new ones. As a result —

  • the spring 2001 Report will presumably provide partial figures of achievement in 1999-2000 against the 1998 targets, and complete the information on achievement of those targets in 1998-99:
  • the spring 2002 Report may provide similar information on achievement in 1999-2000 against the 1998 targets. These will by then have in practice been superceded by the new targets set in July 2000. But it will not be in a position to report achievement in 2000 - 2001 against these new targets.

The new 2000 targets represent at least a marginal improvement on the 1998 targets. We applaud the Treasury's declared intention to make them "specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed" (SMART).[92]

61. On closer examination the superstructure of measurable targets and sub-targets below the headline objective is alarmingly fragile. The targets set in 1998 were in a number of cases insufficiently precise, incapable of timely measurement or ill-judged. They were unduly reliant on bespoke surveys, which take time and money to develop, rather than readily available and validated statistics. Where outcome can be measured, some significant targets have been missed. In most cases we are left in the dark at to whether they were met or not. In some cases, we will never know. There is a prospect of never catching up with what has actually happened. The bleak truth is that we cannot tell whether some of the department's crucial objectives over the past three years, such as the promotion of enterprise, innovation and increased productivity, have been achieved.

92  Cm 4808, para 1.15 Back

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