Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
WEDNESDAY 24 APRIL 2002
80. Could you turn please to figure 24 on page
(Mr Chakrabarti) Yes?
81. These are a series of comments from DFID
staff on the importance of Public Service Agreements quoted by
the NAO. The one at the bottom says "I would say the PSA
was the least known document in DFID". What do you have to
say to the member of staff who said that?
(Mr Chakrabarti) I would say that certainly it was
not well known enough because I think this is pretty much what
we would say has happened in DFID over the last few years. The
PSA was not the key tool driving performance management. That
is not to say people could not relate their activities to the
PSA. If you look at page 32, panel 16, you will see the second
criterion quite clearly shows that in those country strategy papers
people could relate their activities to the PSA. What these quotes
are showing is clearly that people are not driven by the PSA.
82. That might be because they were asked to
look at the PSA targets on those specific points.
(Mr Chakrabarti) It may be. I think your basic point
though I do not have any quarrel with. Undoubtedly the PSA has
not driven performance management in DFID to the extent that we
would have liked. That is what we want to change.
83. How about the member of staff who said "The
PSAs are a bit remote to people working on the ground, whereas
IDTs are less time bound and more realistic." Would you agree
with that member of staff?
(Mr Chakrabarti) I do.
84. "More realistic," you agree?
(Mr Chakrabarti) No, I think essentially the PSA does
look very well to the Millennium Development Goals but there has
been a problem, clearly, about the short time period in which
we are trying to measure performance in the PSA. What we are trying
to do with the Treasury is move to a five year timeframe for PSAs
so they become much clearer staging posts on the way to the Millennium
85. How about the member of staff who says "The
PSA is irrelevant . . .," would you agree with that member
(Mr Chakrabarti) No, I would not agree it was irrelevant
but I think it needs to become much more relevant and that is
what I said earlier. We need to have a much clearer link between
the PSA and individuals like the ones quoted here and their objectives.
86. I do not mean to get at you or your Department.
Like Mr Trickett who has just left, I think that these PSAs, which
may or may not be suitable in the health department or the education
department, are probably wholly unsuitable in your Department.
They have been imposed on you and because you have got to play
the Whitehall game you have to go along with it. It does seem
to me that your staff share my opinion, would you not agree?
(Mr Chakrabarti) No. I would say our staff share your
opinion about the past PSAs, the first two PSAs.
87. You have only had two PSAs.
(Mr Chakrabarti) We have actually designed a third
one. We have had a massive exercise in the last few months in
thinking through how to design the new PSA which staff have helped
to build up through workshops on what the targets should look
like. Also we have been putting out a lot of information about
how the PSA relates to their individual objectives. We need to
follow that up with more of that.
88. I think it is true that the NAO has found
looking at your PSAs, which after all have been governing your
Department's activities since 1999this is paragraph 3.14when
they looked at individual project approval documents, they found
that only nine per cent of the project approval documents they
looked at were done by reference to the PSAs?
(Mr Chakrabarti) Most of our project documents started
out before the PSAs were invented.
89. Thank God, they have probably achieved something
on the ground rather than from Treasury targets. How many different
sets of targets, national and international, govern the work of
(Mr Chakrabarti) Essentially the Millennium Development
Goals are key international targets.
90. Those are the UN?
(Mr Chakrabarti) Yes, and they govern the work of
all the donor agencies.
91. What about the International Development
(Mr Chakrabarti) They have been superceded now by
the Millennium Development Goals. There is a sort of link through
to them but they are now the MDGs.
92. Are there any EU targets that you have also?
(Mr Chakrabarti) No. We are focused very much on the
Millennium Development Goals, no others.
93. No World Bank targets?
(Mr Chakrabarti) No. The EU and the World Bank have
all signed up to these same targets.
94. Then you have got these two sets of PSA
targets. It is a huge mass of targets. Is there not a danger that
target setting, particularly in such a complex and diffuse policy
area such as yours, actually distorts behaviour in a bad way rather
than focusing behaviour in a good way?
(Mr Chakrabarti) If we design PSAs badly, yes. The
NAO report quite rightly points out the second PSA was a lot better
in terms of the design, in terms of being more specific, more
measurable, more achievable, more timed, relevant as well. In
that sense I think we are improving but clearly we have not got
there yet and the next PSA, we are trying to map it much more
on to staff objectives, the structure of the organisation so it
does provide a proper incentive framework.
95. Figure 10 in this Report which is on page
24 says that whereas with your first PSA 33 per cent of the measures
were attributable, according to the governance of good practice
criteria, the second set only nine per cent were attributable.
(Mr Chakrabarti) Yes.
96. So there has not been an improvement in
(Mr Chakrabarti) No. I perfectly accept that. I think
in the case of attribution it has got worse between the two PSAs
and in the next PSA we need to try and improve it. I draw your
attention to the beginning of paragraph 2.12 where again the NAO
say the design overall has improved.
97. What about "timely," it has dropped
from 50 per cent to 27 per cent?
(Mr Chakrabarti) Yes, well I think in the next generation
of PSAs clearly we have got to get it better timed.
98. Or "comparable" that has dropped
also, has it not, in that document?
(Mr Chakrabarti) Yes, if you look at panel 11, the
next panel, "Proportion of targets ... which meet the SMART
criteria" which is generally accepted as a way of looking
at whether performance management framework is properly designed,
I think overall we are getting slightly better between the two
99. Are you getting better at playing the Whitehall
game or do you think your actual work on the ground is improving?
(Mr Chakrabarti) I think our actual work on the ground
is improving. I have been away for six years so coming back I
can see this Department is a lot better than it was. This is not
a game, this is very serious stuff for us in terms of how we drive