North West Development Agency (NWDA)

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					                                                            Independent Performance
                                                                         Assessment



HELPING THE NATION SPEND WISELY
                                           North West Development
The National Audit Office is the leading
independent body responsible for           Agency (NWDA)
examining the implementation of
government activities in order to assess
performance, identify good practice and
suggest ways in which public services
                                           CONTENTS                            PAGE
could be improved.                         Preface                                2
The National Audit Office’s Regions,       Executive Summary                      3
Regeneration and Renewal Team covers
the work of the Department for             The context for NWDA’s activities      5
Communities and Local Government, the
                                           Ambition                               7
Housing Corporation, English
Partnerships and the Regional              Prioritisation                         9
Development Agencies.
                                           Capacity                              11
The National Audit Office’s work saves
the taxpayer millions of pounds every      Performance management                13
year, at least £8 for every £1 spent       Achievement                           15
running the Office.
                                           TECHNICAL ANNEX                       18

For further information please contact:
David Corner
Director, Room A378
National Audit Office
157-197 Buckingham Palace Road,
Victoria, London, SW1W 9SP

020 7798 7529
Email: david.corner@nao.gsi.gov.uk




June 2006
Independent Performance Assessment                                                                   June 2006



                                                           months. Government Offices, as the Government’s
                                                           representatives in the regions, will support the RDA
                                                           in their region in its continuous improvement and
1    Preface                                               will alert departments and Ministers to any issues of
                                                           concern that may arise.
1.1.     The National Audit Office (NAO) has
undertaken     this  Independent       Performance         1.6.    We would like to thank the Chairman,
Assessment of the North West Development                   Board members, Chief Executive, Executive
Agency (NWDA) at the request of the Department             Management Team, and the NWDA’s staff for their
of Trade and Industry (DTI), which is the sponsor          help and assistance during this Independent
department for Regional Development Agencies.              Performance Assessment. We would also like to
NWDA is one of nine Regional Development                   thank the numerous stakeholders and partners who
Agencies established under the Regional                    helped us. We are indebted to Duncan Straughan,
Development Agencies Act 1998 to further regional          Executive Director at the South East of England
economic      development,    promote      business        Development Agency, who gave valuable time to
efficiency    and    competitiveness,      increase        serve on our team.
employment and the skills base, and contribute to
regional environmental sustainability.

1.2.      The English Regional Development
Agencies vary significantly in size, geography,
population, and economy. Each Agency operates
within a unique economic environment reflecting
the strengths, activities, infrastructure, and
character of the region. Regional Development
Agencies face diverse challenges with different
budgets, so each needs to respond appropriately to
its specific circumstances.

1.3.     However, all Regional Development
Agencies face a number of common challenges,
including balancing the interests of the region with
national policy requirements, managing the
conflicting demands of different regional
stakeholders, looking outwards to promote the
region while staying focused on what is happening
inside, and responding to new duties imposed by
central government from time to time.           The
Independent Performance Assessment will assess
the organisational performance of each Regional
Development Agency as a strategic driver of their
region’s economic development and in their lead
role with central government department’s
representing all Regional Development Agencies.

1.4.     NWDA will review its improvement plan
in the light of our assessment report.
The revised plan should be forwarded to the NAO
within one month of the date of publication. The
NAO will then consider the extent to which the
plan addresses the areas for improvement identified
in the assessment report and provide the RDA with
advice. NWDA will then formally adopt the plan.

1.5.    As part of the IPA process, each RDA will
include progress in implementing the improvement
plan in its regular performance reports that it puts
to its Board, which are shared with Government
and are placed in the public domain every six
                                                       2
Independent Performance Assessment                                                                    June 2006



                                                           stages of delivery, and a number of key building
2    Executive Summary                                     blocks are in place to sustain its achievements in
                                                           the future.

                                                           2.4.     NWDA has led on the review of the North
2.1.     The North West Development Agency                 West RES during the last 12 months and was the
(NWDA) has scored 20 points out of a possible              first RDA to receive ministerial endorsement. The
maximum of 24. This is equivalent to performing            RES consultation process has been very strong and
strongly overall, as set out below. The Technical          over 6000 people were involved in the consultation
Annex describes the methodology for arriving at            process. A RES Advisory group comprising of 25
this assessment. Section 3 sets out the context to         partners was developed and the group were also
NWDA’s activities while sections 4 to 8 provide            involved in the drafting of the report. All the
more detail about the five themes.                         partners from the RES Advisory group signed up to
                                                           the RES.

                                                           2.5.     There is a shared vision and ambition for
                                                           the region that is well developed. These are about
                                                           making a difference to the economy of a diverse
Theme                    Assessment        Score           region. There is a robust understanding of the
                                                           economic conditions of the region which has been
Ambition                 Performing           4            developed through the RES evidence base. There is
                         strongly                          good leadership both within the Agency and across
                                                           the region at the Executive level; although amongst
Prioritisation           Performing           4            some partners there is a perception that the role
                         strongly                          and responsibilities of the Executives and Non
                                                           Executive Chairman and Board is not clear. The
Capacity                 Performing well      3            NWDA recognises it needs to improve its
                                                           engagement and general communication with sub
Performance              Performing well      3            regional partnerships and stakeholders to ensure it
Management                                                 is not seen as merely telling them what it has done
                                                           or intends to do, but includes them in the process.
Achievement (doubled) Performing well        3 (6)
                                                           2.6.     Strong progress has been made in agreeing
                                                           and identifying the priorities for the region. There
Overall Score            Performing           20           are 122 actions identified in the RES and 45
                         strongly                          transformational priorities, of which NWDA has
                                                           responsibility for 11. The RES has identified lead
                                                           partners for each of the actions and this is a
                                                           significant improvement from earlier strategies.

                                                           2.7.     NWDA is good at painting a big picture of
2.2.     NWDA has prepared a sound self-                   what it wants to achieve and how it is working with
assessment of its activities and involved a number         its partners to deliver this. It has clear ambitions
of stakeholders in its preparation. The NWDA’s             that are understood. The Agency has set a very
assessment is reasonably balanced and they have            clear budget allocation through the development of
been self-critical and picked up on a number of            its Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) and this gives
areas for improvements as well as citing some              clear emphasis to delivering the NWDA priorities.
strong achievements. The nature of the self-               However the SIP could be communicated more
assessment has also been commented upon by                 structurally to partners and stakeholders.
central government departments.
                                                           2.8.      The NWDA appears to be working at full
2.3.     NWDA has a clear vision of what it wants          stretch and will have difficulty taking on any new
to achieve as an organisation and works in                 challenges until it completes its reorganisation and
partnership with others to achieve this. It has a          resolves some capacity issues. It does not currently
track record of success in many areas and has good         have a clear workforce plan/skills audit linked to its
and effective managerial leadership to drive it            priorities although this is being planned. Despite a
forward.     NWDA has recognised that it cannot            feeling of constant reorganisation amongst staff and
stand still and needs to continually improve. It has       partners, the quality and commitment of staff is
embarked on a change programme that is in early            very high and this, along with the leadership shown
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Independent Performance Assessment                           June 2006



by the Chief Executive helps to keep the
organisation moving. Whilst there are training and
development programmes in place and good
internal communication mechanisms, a revised
management training process is essential and this is
being addressed. Financial control is now strong,
after some major issues 3 years ago (which are
covered later), and there is clear evidence of good
corporate governance.

2.9.     There are improvements that need to be
made in the way NWDA manages its performance,
although good progress is being made. The NWDA
has a good track record of achieving outputs and
there is regular reporting of performance to board
and government, but some partners feel that
communication is still not as good as it could be.
There is history of poor communication around the
appraisal process which is beginning to be
addressed. Partners had not been kept informed of
where projects were in the appraisal process and
projects could take months to approve. This led to
a presumption with partners that the RDA had
something to hide. The roll-out of the Systems and
Process Improvement Programme (SAPIP) to
partners will help to address this and progress is
already being made. Although the NWDA has
developed a strong pre-appraisal process to stop
unsuitable projects or initiatives much earlier in the
process, this has not been communicated to all
partners. There is a feeling with partners that
contracts could be much clearer to specify
expected timescales on monitoring reports.

2.10. Some early evaluation work has been done
at a project level, and more recently on Rural
Regeneration and Manufacturing activities. The
lack of evaluation on projects and programmes
means that appraisals and resultant approvals are
made without the benefits of lessons learnt. Whilst
the RDA is now working with the DTI Evaluation
Framework and submitted initial evidence in
March, the Agency does need to build on the
evaluation process which has been embedded as
quickly as possible to improve its programme of
continuous learning and improvement.




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                                                          3.7.     NWDA is the largest of the nine Regional
3    The context for NWDA’s                               Development Agencies across England with a
                                                          budget of £450.3m (gross) (2005/06) and 380 staff.
     activities                                           The Agency’s overheads are approximately £50m
3.1      The North West of England is a diverse           per annum (9%) which is comparable with other
region with an £98bn economy and 6.8 million              RDAs. The region is estimated to receive about
head of population. It is home to 230,000 firms           £55bn per annum of public resource and of this,
and has a predominance of small-medium                    £24bn is for economic development and
enterprises. The region has two major cities,             regeneration through the budgets of the RDA, LSC,
Liverpool and Manchester, large urban settlements         Higher and Further Education, Neighbourhood
in Blackpool and Preston (which are part of a city        renewal, rural, transport and economy related
region) but also has a large rural hinterland in          social protection.
Cumbria, Lancashire and parts of Cheshire.
                                                          3.8.     Like every Regional Development Agency,
3.2.      The region is home to the largest media         NWDA has to respond to a variety of challenges,
hub outside of London (Manchester), the largest           including balancing the economic priorities of the
concentration of advanced manufacturing and               region with national policy requirements, managing
chemicals production in the UK (Lancashire and            the conflicting demands of different regional
Cheshire) and to one of Europe’s leading national         stakeholders, looking outwards to promote the
parks (The Lake District). The rural economy              region while staying focused on what is happening
accounts for 23% of the regions GVA and 40% of            inside, and responding to new duties imposed by
all firms.                                                central government from time to time. All these
                                                          challenges are common to Regional Development
3.3.    The region has been through a major               Agencies; the vital question is how well each
period of restructuring and underperformance and          responds to them.
despite concerted efforts in 2000-2003 when it
grew faster than England (GVA); the region is still       3.9.     The NWDA has gone through considerable
not contributing its full potential to the UK             reorganisation over the past couple of years. The
economy. The gross value added (GVA) per head             current Chairman appointed the Chief Executive in
is 12% lower than the England average, resulting in       2003 in a period where the RDAs internal
an output gap of £13bn.                                   processes and controls were not fit for purpose of
                                                          control.     At that time the RDA did not fully
3.4.     Despite a net 150,000 new jobs, the region       understand the level of commitments it had entered
compared to England as a whole has; 80,000 fewer          into, there were inadequate financial management
people working, 120,000 more people with no               controls, staff were not fully aware of the role they
qualifications, 80,000 fewer people with degree           should be playing, and the perception amongst
level qualifications, 90,000 fewer people working         partners was that the Agency did not understand its
in the knowledge economy and 38,000 fewer                 role or remit. Both the Chairman and Chief
companies.                                                Executive have subsequently appointed a new
                                                          Executive management team that have steadied the
3.5.     The region has world class centres of            Agency and allowed it to adopt robust internal
excellence in 14 Higher Education Institutions            controls and procedures to ensure accurate and
which is 11% of the England total. It is also home        timely management information and data is
to    internationally  competitive     sectors   in       produced. Some of the new processes have meant
biomedical, advanced engineering and materials,           that the Agency has had to deal with areas of
energy and environmental technologies, food,              conflict with some partners, but these have been
creative and digital industries, business and             handled robustly yet sensitively in order to retain
professional services.                                    good partnership working

3.6.     The region is served by the largest              3.10. In response to the Deputy Prime Ministers
motorway network outside of London, and is also           request in 2002, the three northern RDAs of
second behind London in congestion. The region            Yorkshire Forward, One North East and North West
has a strong tourism industry worth £3bn with 18          Development Agency have come together to
million visits a year. The region also has major          unlock the potential for faster economic growth
international gateways through both Manchester            and bridge the £29bn output gap between the north
and Liverpool John Lennon Airports and through            and the rest of the UK. In order to meet the
the docks at Liverpool.                                   challenge, the three RDAs have set themselves an
                                                          ambitious vision which will see the achievement of
                                                          national UK average GVA per head within 25
                                                      5
Independent Performance Assessment                      June 2006



years.   The three RDAs have developed the
“Northern Way growth strategy” which is now
published and they have a steering group which is
chaired by Neville Chamberlain (a former NWDA
Board member) and has representatives from all
three RDAs (at Chair level) and also from
government departments and other interested
bodies.




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Independent Performance Assessment                                                                    June 2006



                                                           The majority of partners interviewed expressed that
4    Ambition                                              their initial feedback on the RES was taken into
                                                           account in the submitted document. The final
Key Sources: Regional Economic Strategy,                   document provides a good overview of the issues
Regional Housing Strategy, Regional Spatial                affecting the north-west region and recognises that
Strategy and Regional Funding Allocations                  these actions are appropriate for the region.
paper
                                                           4.4.    Furthermore, to ensure the document was
                                                           owned and supported by all partners, NWDA set
NWDA is performing strongly in terms of ambition.
                                                           up a writing sub group, in which the RES Advisory
(SCORE 4)
                                                           group partners were involved. This has led to a
                                                           regionally owned report being produced, and all 25
•   Through the Regional Economic Strategy, has            partners signed the final submission that went to
    NWDA set clear and challenging ambitions for           Ministers in January 2006.
    the region?
                                                           4.5.     The RES sets out 21 objectives under five
•   Are ambitions based on a shared understanding
                                                           themed chapters which it believes are necessary to
    amongst NWDA and partner organisations of
                                                           achieve sustainable economic growth – Business,
    regional needs and opportunities?
                                                           Skills and Education, People and Jobs,
•   Does NWDA provide strategic economic                   Infrastructure and Quality of Life. The NWDA
    leadership across the region and ensure                undertook research to collect detailed statistical
    effective partnership working?                         evidence across all areas and sectors to gain a
                                                           sound understanding of the whole region.
•   Does NWDA, with its partners, have an
    integrated and cohesive approach to improving          4.6.     To achieve these key objectives the RES
    regional economic performance?                         Advisory Group had identified 122 actions and 45
4.1.    NWDA has been leading on reviewing the             regional transformational priorities on which
North West RES during the last 12 months and the           resources should be focussed to deliver growth.
RES received Ministerial endorsement in March              Although 45 transformational actions are still seen
2006 (the first RDA to achieve this in the current         by some partners to be too many, to move to this
round of RES reviews). The new RES 2006-2009               level of prioritisation has meant that the region has
was launched on 28 March 2006.                             made tough choices. All partners will focus on
                                                           these transformational actions when developing
4.2.     The RES has 3 main drivers, improving             their own business or strategic plans.
productivity and growing the market; growing the
size and capability of the workforce and creating          4.7.     The RES clearly identifies lead partners for
and maintaining the conditions for sustainable             each of the 122 actions and 45 transformational
growth. Improving productivity and growing the             actions, for which NWDA has responsibility for 11.
market will build on areas of success to increase          This is a significant improvement on earlier
GVA per person employed and therefore reduce               strategies for the region. In addition, the RES
the £13bn gap by £10bn. Growing the size and               Advisory group has identified over 50 key
capability of the workforce will aim to close the          performance indicators and agreed 8 which will
remaining £3bn gap due to fewer people in the              have targets set and be monitored at regional and
region not working.                                        sub regional level on an annual basis. Whilst the
                                                           RES has a three-year timescale, the longer vision for
4.3.      There is a general consensus from partners       the RES is 20 years. Some partners are not clear
and stakeholders that the consultation process has         about whether the targets are looking for short-term
been very strong and is much improved from the             GVA improvement, or whether the RES measures
same process 3 years ago.                  Improved        relate to medium to long term investments for the
communications by the NWDA has allowed key                 region – despite clarity within the RES document.
partners to play key and active roles in                   Also there are concerns that the driving force for
understanding and developing the new RES. To               some actions is to meet national rather than
facilitate this, NWDA set up a RES Advisory Group          regional objectives and that these are a reflection of
which was made up of 25 key partners. Each                 NWDA’s ambitions rather than those of the Region.
partner consulted more widely on the drafts of the
RES with their appropriate stakeholders, to gain           4.8.     The Agency has developed a robust
agreement for the final submission. Over 6,000             sustainable development framework which has
people were involved in the consultation process.          underpinned the RES which is widely available for
                                                           partners use. The framework was developed, based
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Independent Performance Assessment                                                                              June 2006



on a sound and robust evidence base and is being                amongst some of the existing Business Link partners
embedded into the process to ensure that future                 of the way in which the new support mechanisms
sustainability issues are addressed as a priority and           will work, it will offer a much better choice of
at an early stage.                                              customer interface, improve customer satisfaction
                                                                and deliver a much better service which will be
4.9.    The NWDA has worked closely with the                    aligned more closely with the RES. This radical
Regional Assembly and the Government Office                     approach is supported by many partners in both the
North West to achieve synergy between the                       public and private sector and by the evidence seen
Regional Spatial Strategy, the Regional Housing                 by the team in support of the proposed new
Strategy and the RES. There was also excellent                  service.
collaborative working with the North West
Regional Assembly to agree the priorities for the               4.12. Whilst the Agency has developed much
Regional Funding Allocation 2006 submission to                  stronger relationships with key partners through the
Government.                                                     RES consultation process, there are no mechanisms
                                                                available yet to share best practice which is built
4.10. The Agency’s key partners (Sub Regional                   on the evaluation of past interventions.        The
Partners (SRPs) and Urban Regeneration Companies                evaluation framework for the Agency is developed
(URCs)) have aligned their strategies and delivery of           but now needs to be actioned routinely.
economic priorities at the sub regional level to the
RES. However, there is an issue about delegations
across the URCs where the NWDA has been
inconsistent in its approach. The NWDA is in the
process of reviewing its relationship management
to strengthen the day to day working with the key
partners and the external roll out of SAPIP later in
2006 should also address this.

4.11. The NWDA took on responsibilities for
Business Link in 2005. After consultation, the
NWDA decided to completely review the provision
of business support across the Region and has just
gained Board agreement for a complete overhaul of
the process. This will result in a single region wide
entity through which a flexible resource model to
maximise synergies with other providers of business
support and utilise best practice of existing
providers. Whilst there are severe reservations

Summary:



  Strengths                                                 Areas for improvement
  • The RES is based on sound statistical information       • Sharing of best practice, both internally and externally,
    which has a robust evidence base and reflects a           based on the evaluation of past interventions
    general understanding of regional issues                • Despite a high level of buy-in from partners, some private
  • There were high levels of consultation, across the        sector partners still see the RES as a RDA document,
    region on RES from early concept to final draft. Many     rather than a regional one – this could probably be
    partners undertook further detailed consultations         addressed by enhanced communication
    within there own organisations and networks to obtain
    more details comments
  • As a result of the detailed consultation process and
    the use of separate Advisory and writing panels the
    RES ambitions have buy-in and support from partners
    and stakeholders
  • The consultation process allowed Partners to agree
    and recognise that the ambitions are right for the
    region
  • Partners have developed their own ambitions and
    these are clearly linked to those of the Agency
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                                                             5.3.      Through the SRPs and URCs, regional
5    Prioritisation                                          priorities are aligned with and linked to sub
                                                             regional and local priorities. These key partners
Key Sources: Corporate Plan, Business &                      have also submitted business and delivery plans for
Delivery plans, Risk Management Strategy                     2006/07 which clearly demonstrate how they will
                                                             translate the priorities and deliver them in the
NWDA is performing          strongly   in   terms   of       round.
prioritisation. (SCORE 4)
                                                             5.4.     The NWDA’s Corporate Plan is ambitious
                                                             yet realistic and sets out the contribution to
•   Are there clear economic priorities within the
                                                             delivering the RES and nationally set priorities and
    ambition for the region?
                                                             targets. The NWDA has set targets against the DTI
•   Is there a robust corporate strategy expressed           tasking framework and has also supplemented with
    within NWDA’s Corporate Plan to deliver the              additional indicators to show greater impact across
    priorities?                                              the region. Tasking targets are also reflected in
                                                             partners business and delivery plans.         Whilst
•   Is robust action taken to deliver the Regional           NWDA has been able to set target ranges for the
    Economic Strategy?                                       core indicators under the tasking framework, the
5.1.      The    region    has    agreed    on    45         actual indicators have been agreed at a national
transformational priorities for the period 2006/09.          level and are not open for further debate at the
Of these, 11 actions will be directly delivered by           moment.
the NWDA the remainder by key partners. These
priorities are clearly described in the refreshed            5.5.      The NWDA has set organisational
Corporate Plan which was agreed by the Board in              development indicators through its Corporate Plan
March 2006. There have been some criticisms                  and has also set clear budgets and financial
from partners that the NWDA could have played                priorities for the next 3 years through both the
more of a leadership role within the RES Advisory            Corporate Plan and the Strategic Investment Plan.
Group to prioritise these transformational actions or        The Corporate Plan is shared widely with partners
reduce the number of priorities further – although it        and stakeholders and currently the SIP is shared
has been acknowledged that 45 priorities is a                with SRPs. Business planning is integrated with
tremendous improvement on previous years. These              corporate planning and the RDA regularly reports
criticisms are slightly harsh – the RES Advisory             on progress through a variety of mechanisms with
group agreed on the priorities, and there were               partners and stakeholders.
several partners on this group as well as the
NWDA. There have also been some criticisms                   5.6.     The Agency has undertaken a review of its
from partners as to the reasons behind the                   own structure to align itself to the revised RES. By
prioritisations. The RES Advisory group could have           doing this, teams will effectively integrate priorities
improved its communications of its decision                  and resources to the priority areas. Whilst this is an
making process.                                              effective approach for the Agency, some key
                                                             partners are unsure as to why the Agency
5.2.      NWDA has a clear risk management                   constantly seems to be changing its structure and
framework and risks are assessed at both project             there is a worry that continuity of knowledge and
and corporate level.        Whilst the NWDA has              relationships may be lost.
assessed its own priorities through the Corporate
Planning process, no fundamental risk assessment             5.7.     NWDA has reviewed its relationships with
has been undertaken on the RES regional priorities.          SRPs with a view to strengthening the relationship
The RDA could have shown more leadership and                 and is in the process of overseeing the formation of
initiative in using its Risk Management framework            a new partnership in Cumbria which will bring
to do this – e.g. Through the RDAs work on risk              together the existing URC (Westlake Renaissance)
management, and using the orange book as                     and Rural Regeneration Cumbria together with
guidance, partners should be encouraged to adopt             elements of the NWDA own area office at Penrith
the RDAs risk management framework to assess                 to form Cumbria Vision. This new company has
their activities and initiatives. This leads to more         been planned for over 2 years and there is criticism
effective working and a better understanding of the          from some partners that the Agency should have
risks involved in supporting activities at a regional        been stronger in leading the process to put it in
level. This would help to share best practice                place sooner. The logic behind the new company
amongst key stakeholders and partners.                       is sound but it will take time to discover whether
                                                             the new SRP will be able to deliver on the ground.

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Independent Performance Assessment                                                                              June 2006



5.8.      The NWDA has adopted a strong risk
management framework and risks are considered at
all levels across the Agency from Corporate
Planning down to individual projects and
initiatives. There is little evidence that the NWDA
shares its risk management framework with partners
to encourage best practice and ensure that partners
have strong risk frameworks themselves, but this
will be addressed as part of the external roll-out of
SAPIP.

Summary:



  Strengths                                                    Areas for improvement
  • RES 2006 has moved on significantly from previous          • Communications with key partners about prioritisation is
    version with 45 transformational priorities being            not always clear and therefore rationale behind the
    identified, a significant reduction from previous years      decision making process is not always understood
  • The Project Review Group process provides sound
    information around the prioritisation of project
    approvals ensuring they are aligned around the current
    RES
  • Difficult decisions have been made Revised Corporate
    Plan clearly identifies the priorities for action
  • There is clear business planning within the Agency
    linking priorities from the RES to the Corporate plan
    and into detailed projects and activities
  • Process of business planning with SRPs is robust and
    transparent and follows the threads through the RES
    and the RDAs corporate plan. The SRPs have aligned
    their plans with the RES




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Independent Performance Assessment                                                                         June 2006



                                                                energies from its prime function of delivering
6    Capacity                                                   growth to meet these internal challenges. Staff are
                                                                concerned with their own futures rather than the
Key Sources: Corporate Plan, HR Strategy,                       Region’s priorities and are concerned that it may be
Annual Performance Reports, Business &                          driven for economic rather than effectiveness
Delivery Plans                                                  reasons. Stakeholders and partners also point to a
                                                                lack of continuity and loss of corporate knowledge
NWDA is performing well in terms of capacity.                   as a weakness and a risk to delivery.
(SCORE 3)
                                                                6.4.    The Agency has a robust personal appraisal
                                                                system and all staff participate on an annual basis.
•   Is there clear accountability and decision                  Appraisal performance is linked to pay.
    making to support delivery and continuous
    improvement?
                                                                6.5.     Generally the Board works effectively.
•   Is capacity used effectively and developed to               Board members have a wide range of expertise,
    deliver ambitions and priorities?                           bringing both private and public business skills and
                                                                experience to the meetings. In addition the Agency
•   Does NWDA, with its partners, have the                      maintains a number of sub groups to consider
    capacity to achieve change and deliver its                  specific issues. Whilst the Board agenda is wide
    priorities?                                                 and extensive, there is little debate on issues, most
                                                                being agreed beforehand or for information. The
6.1.      NWDA has made a number of
                                                                sub groups are smaller, and are able to effectively
organisational and management changes and has
                                                                review and address many issues and encourage
plans for further improvements in the future to
                                                                debate. The Agency has put in place sound
address issues raised by both staff and some of its
                                                                Corporate Governance procedures which are
partners. However, there are some concerns as to
                                                                monitored and adhered to at all levels. Unlike
how these changes will impact on the Agency’s
                                                                some other RDAs, the Chief Executive is the only
ability to deliver and on its existing staff, especially
                                                                executive member to attend the Board, other
in retaining a skilled and committed workforce.
                                                                members being called and attending as and when
                                                                required. Whilst this is a different approach, it
6.2.     The Agency reorganised a key directorate,
                                                                seems to work well within the Agency and the
the Enterprise, Innovation and Skills Directorate, in
                                                                Chairman feels he makes better use of the
2004/05 to improve its capabilities for delivery. In
                                                                Executive’s time.      We did not receive any
order to align the Agency to enable effective
                                                                comments to contradict this argument.
delivery of the RES, but also to change the way that
policy is provided, and to strengthen partnership
                                                                6.6.     The Chairman and Chief Executive have a
management, the Agency is reviewing its
                                                                high profile across the Region, and show strong
management structure across the rest of the
                                                                leadership in setting the targets and direction of the
organisation. Taking account of the lessons learned
                                                                Agency. Both are generally respected and most
from the previous reorganisation and the change
                                                                partners and stakeholders consider them to be good
management processes adopted, the current review
                                                                communicators and focussed on the objectives of
is being professionally managed, minimising the
                                                                the Region. Some stakeholders however, consider
disruption of staff and functions. Staff that will be
                                                                there is some blurring of responsibilities between
directly affected by the changes are being briefed,
                                                                the Chief Executive and the Chairman.
and all staff are informed of general changes and
timescales. It is planned for the new structures to
                                                                6.7.     Each project and programme has a
be in place by June 2006 so as not to hinder the
                                                                dedicated senior responsible officer allocated to
Agency’s delivery targets as outlined in the
                                                                manage and be responsible for it. Where projects
Corporate Plan.
                                                                are large in size or complexity, a Director will take
                                                                responsibility for it. The Board members are also
6.3.     However the current reorganisation is not
                                                                encouraged to champion themes across the
seen as a necessity by all partners and stakeholders,
                                                                Agency.
especially so soon after that last one in 2005.
Some staff and external stakeholders considered
                                                                6.8.     The strategic capacity of the sub regional
that the last reorganisation did not go as smoothly
                                                                partners has been increased in order to improve the
as it could have done and was not considered a
                                                                effective of the organisations. The NWDA have
success in terms of process, communications and
                                                                funded additional posts or seconded staff where
effectiveness.     The process of reorganising
                                                                necessary. Memorandums of understanding have
consumes resources and could deflect the NWDA’s
                                                                been drawn up with all SRPs.
                                                           11
Independent Performance Assessment                                                                                June 2006



6.9.     There have been a number of changes in                    Agency is addressing these issues. There are plans
key posts with the NWDA bringing in skilled staff                  to undertake a comprehensive staff skill and
and experts at all levels to become more effective                 experience audit and a post of Head of Training
in delivering their objectives, e.g. in HR and Legal               and Development is proposed to ensure training is
Services. Training in key skills, e.g. ICT, key                    more focussed of both the organisation’s needs and
systems and SAPIP has been provided and all                        those of its staff.
relevant staff attended. The NWDA has also
undertaken a major communication exercise with
staff on the rationale of the organisational review
and its effect on them. The Agency has run a series
of training events on the RES, its focus and priorities
and its role in delivering transformational changes.
Where the Agency is lacking is in the provision of
management development training and providing
specific training for staff to progress their individual
careers. Most staff felt that the Agency allowed
them to attend training when requested, but there
was little evidence to track whether such training
linked to staff development or benefited the
organisation. Staff felt there was little opportunity
to progress in the organisation, due to lack of
appropriate training and a lack of knowledge by the
organisation as to what skills were available. The

Summary:



  Strengths                                                    Areas for improvement
  • The Agency has strengthened its management team            • The organisation is seen as constantly reorganising itself
    during 2005/06 and will realign the organisation to          to the detriment of continuity of working with external
    align itself to the priorities in the RES                    partners – communications need to explain the rationale
  • The Agency exhibits strong leadership through the            and the emerging structure to address this.
    Chair, the Chief Executive and senior management           • There has been no workforce skill audit undertaken
    team and this is respected and acknowledged across           though there are plans to address this
    the region                                                 • Whilst training for specific areas is provided (e.g. on
  • The Agency has adopted memorandum of                         SAPIP and ICT) management training for career and
    understanding with key partners to clarify roles and         personal development has not been a priority in the past.
    responsibilities in delivering change                        This is reflected in some managers not actually managing
  • Partnership working has been improved and made               staffing issues
    more effective through increased capacity at sub           • Ad-hoc training is undertaken, but we have not seen any
    regional level                                               evidence to show how this links to priorities
  • Although the Agency is going through a difficult period    • Perceived lack of clarity around role and responsibilities
    with re-organisation, it is being handled very               of Exec and Non Exec members
    professionally, learning from the lessons of previous
    changes. Staff are clear about timelines and responses
    and are generally supportive of the changes
  • Despite constant change, the Agency has a skilled and
    dedicated workforce that appears highly motivated
    and respected
  • The Board works effectively, delegating tasks and
    issues to appropriate sub committees. The corporate
    governance procedures in place are sound.




                                                              12
Independent Performance Assessment                                                                     June 2006



                                                             national level in initiatives which help to share and
7    Performance management                                  disseminate learning and best practice across the
                                                             RDA network. Some examples of this include:
Key Sources: Corporate Plan, Performance                     Chairing the Performance Management Group for 2
Management Framework, Project Appraisal                      years – including the development of the Tasking
system, Annual Performance Report, Risk                      Framework and input into Corporate Planning
management strategy, evaluation framework,                   Guidance, working closely with the Office of
                                                             Project Appraisal Training to develop the Single
communications strategy, Business & Delivery                 Programme Appraisal Guidance, being part of the
plans                                                        initial task group which led on the development of
                                                             the single pot, and learning from SRB partnerships
NWDA is performing well in terms of performance              and evaluation.         In addition, NWDA have
management. (SCORE 3)                                        improved their pre-appraisal process and the
                                                             Project Review Group brings together staff from
•   Is there a consistent, rigorous and open                 across the Agency who can share their learning and
    approach to performance management?                      experiences to improve the projects being assessed.

•   Do NWDA and partner organisations know                   7.4.     NWDA have acknowledged that they can
    how well they and each other are performing              do more to share experiences and best practice and
    against planned / expected outcomes?                     the formation of the new SRP (Cumbria Vision) and
                                                             some of the URCs, will ensure the Agency is well
•   Is knowledge about performance used to drive
                                                             placed to share the learning from other companies
    continuous improvement in outcomes and
                                                             and pass this on to the new ones. There is an
    learning?
                                                             opportunity to improve this area of activity within
7.1.     The Agency undertakes routine monitoring            the new structure of policy and partnership
and review to ensure that both financial and output          directorate.
targets will be met. Key partners also contribute to
national tasking targets and this is clearly                 7.5.    Until    2003,      project   management
documented in business and delivery plans. It                procedures were very weak and led to an over-
appears that most of the partners have developed             commitment of projects against allocation. This in
their own frameworks to monitor progress. NWDA               turn led to some conflicts with partners and the
has developed SAPIP to pull together financial and           Agency was seen to be secretive and not at all
programme management systems with the addition               transparent about what it was doing. The new
of guidance, toolkits and evaluations embedded               Executive team under the direction of the Chief
within it. This was rolled out to all staff during           Executive have worked hard to address this, and
2005/06 and it plans to roll it out to its partners          one of the new processes, SAPIP, addresses project
during 2006 for a more consistent approach.                  management issues across the whole organisation.
                                                             Whilst SAPIP has still to be rolled out to partners,
7.2.     The Agency has fully embedded evaluation            the benefits of the system can be seen and it is
into its processes, as part of the SAPIP toolkit. As         being cited as best practice within the DTI. In
part of the national guidance from DTI, all RDAs             addition, the Agency is also quick to respond to
need to adopt the new evaluation framework and               queries or actions identified in the NAO financial
were asked to submit evidence of recent evaluation           management letters, and the NAO financial team
by March 2006. Whilst some project evaluation is             have confirmed that the financial controls are
undertaken, there is only a limited amount of                strong.
programme level evaluation currently available –
although this is being addressed.             Where          7.6.    Without external SAPIP in place, there is
programme level evaluation has been undertaken,              still a lack of transparency from partner’s
we do not have evidence of the learning from this            perspectives about the Agency’s appraisal process.
being applied at the project appraisal stage yet.            Whilst there are project champions in each of the
Whilst there is little evidence of continuous                area teams who work closely with the key partners,
improvement through learning taking place from               once applications for funding are submitted
evaluation, there is learning taking place through           communications appeared to stop. Of the 20 or so
other methods.                                               partners we spoke to, the majority said there were
                                                             not aware of any timescales for approving projects
7.3.    There is clear evidence that the NWDA is             and they did not know how far projects had got
good at sharing and encouraging best practice and            through the process. This is an issue which is
then applying that as learning in its activities. The        already being addressed through SAPIP.
NWDA have consistently been involved at a
                                                        13
Independent Performance Assessment                                                                               June 2006



 7.7.    The Agency has adopted a new pre-                         and hence decision making.
appraisal process which has reduced the time being
spent in developing projects which do not meet the                 7.10. Since the appointment of the Chairman
RES objectives. A Project Review Group (PRG) has                   and Chief Executive in 2003, there has been greater
been set up and all projects from initial conception               financial rigor in budgeting, management and
to approval are required to be approved by this                    reporting. Financial profiling has been tightened
Group. The overriding criteria adopted by the PRG                  up and now provides a realistic picture of likely
for project approval is whether it meets RES                       spend.     Monthly financial profile reports are
objectives and Corporate Plan priorities. This is a                produced for the Board for information although it
sound process which will help the effectiveness of                 has been noted that the spend profile for February
the Agency. However, partners are not yet fully                    was 40% under target – so we feel there is still an
aware of this, and whilst most of them recognised                  issue with casework officers being overly optimistic
that it would help they were not briefed on how it                 when forecasting project spend on an individual
will work in practice.                                             basis.    The recently adopted Project Kia will
                                                                   provide the Executive team with up to date
7.8.     The Agency has not yet started                            information on the top projects and risks affecting
benchmarking either internally or externally, apart                the Agency and this will also strengthen the overall
from cost per job through major project appraisals.                control on the Agency’s activities.
This is scheduled for 2006 and will form part of the
programme office objectives in 2006/07.                            7.11. Regular reporting takes place within the
                                                                   Agency, but the published performance reports
7.9.     Like seven other RDAs, NWDA has                           tend to focus on factual reporting of progress,
adopted Portfolio Director (PMS) to manage its                     achievements and targets and do not have much
programmes and projects and this appears to be                     qualitative assessment of key corporate risks or
working well for the Agency. This is linked to the                 much critical self-awareness. The Agency has a
financial system so ensures consistency of reporting               good track record of achieving its national targets.
of project spend forecasts. NWDA have also                         The self-assessment for the IPA showed greater self-
adopted a new reporting tool to maximise                           awareness and maturity in publicly accepting areas
management information from the system (Business                   for improvement.
Intelligence Solution). The introduction of SAPIP
has provided a single overarching project
management tool which will improve information

Summary:




 Strengths                                                   Areas for improvement
 • The SAPIP programme has been developed and                • SAPIP has yet to be fully rolled out to SRPs and URCs.
   introduced to address key weaknesses identified in          Currently, there is a lack of awareness of the process, its
   the project management processes of previous years.         aims and benefits
   It will allow the agency and its partners to              • There has been poor communication and a lack of
   understanding and monitor Commitments                       transparency on the criteria and decision making process
 • Project Kia will provide up to date financial, risk and     around project appraisals once applications have been
   project information for all the senior management           submitted for approval. Partners are not currently clear on
   team on an immediate basis                                  Agency’s new pre-appraisal process – to be addressed
 • Agency has sound track record in achieving national         through SAPIP
   performance targets                                       • Following approval, partners and sponsors consider there is
 • Agency produces regular reports internally, and for         a lack of clarity on project timescales and the monitoring
   government, on activities and interventions,                procedures. More needs to be done to inform partners of
   focussing on progress and achievement of targets            the process
 • The Agency has strong financial controls, evidenced       • Now the evaluation process is embedded through SAPIP
   by the NAO Financial team                                   there needs to be programme of evaluation undertaken
 • The Agency consistently shares best practice and            routinely.   This will help for lessons learnt being
   improves learning by participating nationally through       incorporated into the future project development and
   steering groups, and relevant forums such as Project        decision making processes
   Appraisal training and performance management             • No evidence of benchmarking either internally or
                                                             14externally, though there are plans for it to be introduced in
                                                               2006/07
Independent Performance Assessment                                                                        June 2006



                                                              centre for Accelerator science. Daresbury was
8    Achievement                                              recognised in the budget 2006 as being one of the
                                                              UK’s two, major national science and innovation
Key Sources: Annual Report and Accounts,                      sites.
Annual Performance Reports, Achievements
brochure, Sustainable development                             8.3.2. Speke – the Agency has invested £30m in
framework, and Lead Role reports.                             the national bio-manufacturing centre in
                                                              Merseyside. The centre will perform the initial
                                                              manufacture of biopharmaceuticals which could be
NWDA is performing well in terms of achievement.
                                                              used in early trials to speed up the transfer from
(SCORE 3)
                                                              research to commercial exploitation.

•   Has NWDA delivered its contribution to                    8.3.3. Good relations have been formed with the
    achieving the ambitions identified in the                 Higher Education institutions and this has led to
    Regional Economic Strategy as set out in the              greatly improved collaborative working between
    Corporate Plan for the timescales covered by              education providers and industry across the region.
    the assessment?
                                                              8.4.   In addition, the following projects also
•   Has NWDA made progress in achieving its
                                                              show noticeable achievements:
    ambitions in sustainable development?

•   Has NWDA made progress in levering                        8.4.1. Urban regeneration companies – the
    investment into the region against the priorities         Agency has played an instrumental role in
    set out in the RES and has it influenced the              developing the region’s URCs in Liverpool,
    resource allocation of partner organisations?             Manchester and Cumbria. It has also supported the
                                                              newest URCs in Blackpool and Salford. The
•   Has NWDA made progress towards achieving                  Agency is likely to commit over £200m across the
    its ambitions and priorities for its lead role for        URCs in the next 3 years. See paragraphs below
    skills and learning?                                      for actual URC achievements.
8.1.     The Agency has made year on year
progress against its ambitions and priorities set out         8.4.2. To increase its profile and to raise
in the Corporate Plans in 2003/06 and 2005/08.                awareness of achievements and projects the
The Agency has generally achieved its targets in              Agency has a policy of “branding”. Signboards
relation to the previous Tier 3 framework, with an            highlighting the Agency and its partners have been
over achievement against most targets. Although               erected prominently around many ongoing and
some of the targets from the tasking framework                completed projects.
2005/06 may not be achieved there is clear
explanation for this which has been agreed by the             8.4.3. Project Access – the Agency’s broadband
Board. Whilst the NWDA does not have control                  project which will see 100% coverage in Cumbria -
over the national indicators, it has set its own              has been commended as has the Agency’s
targets, and these seem to be reasonably                      innovative approach on promoting the digital
challenging on an annual basis.                               challenge.

8.2.      The Agency currently has traditional                8.4.4. For a number of years NWDA has
delivery arrangements, although new ideas are                 supported Raising Our Game, a successful
being explored with the formation of new special              development programme for public sector staff
entities (Cumbria Vision and Business support).               working in inward investment, economic
                                                              development and regeneration. Since the launch of
8.3.    The Agency has exhibited strong                       RENEW Northwest by the Agency at the
leadership in developing knowledge based science              Sustainable Communities Summit in Manchester in
projects which have been instrumental in their                February 2005, “Raising Our Game” has been
success in delivering a significant impact on the             integrated into RENEW's wider mission to improve
economic conditions of the region.         A few              the quality of regeneration practice in the region.
examples include;                                             RENEW Northwest is working with a wide range of
                                                              region partners to improve the quality of design and
8.3.1. Daresbury – the Agency has invested £50m               the built environment, improve public/private
in a site of international importance in science and          sector delivery skills (focusing on partnership skills,
medical research. The site includes an incubation             community        engagement        and     successful
centre and the Cockcroft institute – the national             commissioning). An important part of RENEW's
                                                              remit is to identify and promote good practice in
                                                         15
Independent Performance Assessment                                                                     June 2006



sustainable communities and it runs master-classes,         new jobs and safeguarded a further 16000 with
workshops and training events which, in 2005/06             capital investment of £2.5bn. The URCs have also
were attended by over 4,000 practitioners and               attracted significant amounts of private sector
decision makers from the region's public, private &         funding for some of the major regeneration
voluntary sectors.                                          schemes in Manchester, Liverpool and West
                                                            Cumbria. Whilst progress has been made on
8.4.5. The Agency has realigned its tourism work            strategy alignment, government departments
to match its sub regional areas. This had led to a          recognise that more still needs to be done to align
much closer working relationship between the SRPs           investment and delivery with key partners. They
and the Tourist associations and a more structured          feel that more could be achieved through reducing
approach to tourism as a whole across the region.           complexity and ensuring that activity is mutually
                                                            supportive and focused on the region’s key
8.4.6. The Agency was the first in the UK to                priorities, although this is not within the sole
establish a Science Council.           The strategy         control of the RDAs.
recognised explicitly the importance of the region’s
strengths in science and innovation in meeting the          8.8.     The working relationship between NWDA
challenge of improving its productivity against the         and the North West Regional Assembly has
background of a steady shift from manufacturing to          improved over the last couple of years, but NWRA
lower productivity service industries.                      feel there is a way to go on coordination and them
                                                            properly being involved in the policy area of the
8.4.7. The Agency has taken on numerous                     region. However, steps are being taken to form a
responsibilities for encouraging the sharing of best        Regional Executive involving the RDA, the
practice and learning across the RDA network. It            Regional Assembly and Government Office.
chaired the Performance Management Group for
over 2 years. It is currently hosting the RDAs              8.9.      The NWDA has widespread support for its
National Secretariat in terms of payroll, staff and         lead role activities. There is positive feedback from
HR, IT and Health and Safety. It is also leading on         DfES where they acknowledge that the Chairman is
the RDAs input to an element of CSR 2007.                   an effective champion for skills on behalf of all the
                                                            RDAs in various forms and skills issues regularly
8.4.8 NWDA has led the development of a cross-              feature on the agenda of Chairs meetings. They
agency approach to the challenges greeting the              also confirm that there is excellent operational links
Nuclear Sector across all relevant organisations in         between the DfES and the other RDAs. The Agency
the region. The Agency has led a detailed analysis          has had a positive and constructive approach to
of the future skills and business support                   building Regional Skills Partnerships in all regions.
requirements of a successful nuclear sector and led         The Learning and Skills Council is realigning its
regional partners in developing proposals to meet           structure and delivery to complement the NWDA’s
these requirements gaining national government              actions. The North West RSP is commended in
support.                                                    bringing the various partners together to address
                                                            skills, employment and business support issues
8.5.    Sustainable development is key to the               within the social and spatial context of the RES.
Agency and over the past five years, it has                 Comments from the other RDAs are also very
reclaimed over 2000 hectares of derelict and                supportive of the approach of the NWDA in its
neglected land and restored it for effective use.           skills lead.
One example is Newlands where a joint venture
between the Agency and the Forestry Commission              8.10. Comments from central government reflect
will see the transformation of 430 hectares of              on the achievements of the RDA. It has helped to
brownfield land into community woodlands.                   build capacity, provided strategic leadership and
                                                            provided support to a range of investment projects
8.6.    The Agency has developed a robust                   in the region.
sustainability tool which is now applied to
appraisals and is included as in the SAPIP toolkit.         8.11.    Whilst   there     are     many     positive
Monitoring also includes elements of sustainability,        achievements, some partners criticise the Agency’s
although this has yet to be included in the                 approach to the rural agenda. The Agency has a
evaluation framework.                                       Market Towns initiative which was launched in
                                                            2003. Perception is that the initiative has taken far
8.7.    The Agency has secured significant                  too long to gather momentum and the outcomes
investment across a range of priorities. Over 280           are not seen to be addressing the priorities in the
Foreign Direct Investments have been attracted to           RES. The same criticism is also levied at the rural
the region and these have generated over 21000              renaissance programme – where rural is not seen to
                                                       16
Independent Performance Assessment                                                                           June 2006



be treated as a strategic issue – but more of a
general theme. Whilst there is some evidence of
rural proofing, more could be done to make rural
activities cross cutting – rather than separate
activities.

Summary:



 Strengths                                                 Areas for improvement
 • Progress on addressing issues and developing its lead   • Ensuring the Market towns initiative and the rural
   role on Skills across the whole RDA network is            renaissance programme gather momentum to achieve the
   nationally recognised                                     priorities in the RES.
 • Project Access acknowledged by Central                  • Aligning investment and delivery with key partners
   Government as being particularly successful in
   Cumbria
 • Strategic leadership evidenced through work on
   HE/FE and links to business
 • Strong leadership on knowledge based sciences and
   clusters have been instrumental in their successful
   delivery
 • A new and robust sustainability framework has been
   developed and is now applied to all appraisals
   relating to the revised RES
 • Significant attraction of private sector and foreign
   finance through inward investment and regeneration
   initiatives
 • The Regional branding initiative highlighted the
   profile and image of the Agency, raising awareness of
   its achievements and partnerships
 • Work at Daresbury and gaining national recognition
   of science work in Budget 2006




                                                           17
Independent Performance Assessment                                                                       June 2006



TECHNICAL ANNEX                                            •            performing strongly (score 4).

Independent Performance Assessment                         1.5.      The theme scores combine to give an
                                                           overall score that gives equal weight to the three
Methodology
                                                           headings. This is achieved by doubling the score
Background                                                 for the single achievement theme, adding all the
                                                           resultant scores together and assigning an overall
1.1.      The National Audit Office (NAO) has              score according to the table below.
undertaken      this  Independent      Performance
Assessment of the North West Development
Agency (NWDA) at the request of the Department
of Trade and Industry (DTI), which is the sponsor              Overall score              Weighted theme total
department for Regional Development Agencies.                  Performing inadequately    6 to 8
The NAO is responsible for advising Government
and Parliament about financial management in                   Performing adequately      9 to 14
public sector bodies. NWDA is one of nine                      Performing well            15 to 19
Regional Development Agencies established under
                                                               Performing strongly        20 to 24
the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 to
further regional economic development, promote
business efficiency and competitiveness, increase
employment and the skills base, and contribute to
regional environmental sustainability.
                                                           Evidence
1.2.       The NAO’s Independent Performance
                                                           1.6.     We reviewed a wide range of information
Assessment is covering the eight Regional
                                                           sources for our assessment, including existing
Development Agencies outside London by March
                                                           documents, observed routine meetings, site visits
2007. The Audit Commission published its Initial
                                                           and tailored interviews and focus groups with
Performance      Assessment      of     the London
                                                           internal and external stakeholders. We tested
Development Agency in November 2004. We are
                                                           NWDA’s awareness of its own position by referring
grateful to colleagues at the Audit Commission for
                                                           to the self-assessment and improvement plan that
their help in designing our Independent
                                                           NWDA prepared before we undertook our
Performance Assessment and to colleagues in the
                                                           assessment. We sought views from other Regional
Regional Development Agencies for their help in
                                                           Development Agencies and the Department for
tailoring our approach to their activities.
                                                           Education and Skills on how well NWDA has
                                                           conducted its lead role. We obtained information
Approach                                                   from the Department of Trade and Industry giving a
1.3.      The Independent Performance Assessment           collective view of NWDA from a range of central
is structured under three headings:                        government organisations. We invited external
                                                           stakeholders to respond to a survey. We consulted
                                                           our colleagues who visit NWDA every year to audit
•   aims (covering the two themes of ambition and
                                                           the accounts, developing insights over an extended
    prioritisation)
                                                           period. We triangulated all these different
•   activities (covering the two themes of capacity        information sources to give a rounded view of
    and performance management) and                        NWDA and, as a further check, our assessment
                                                           team included a senior director from another
•   achievement (covering the single theme of              Regional Development Agency.
    achievement)
                                                           1.7.       In analysing each triangulated information
1.4.    We have assigned a score for each theme
                                                           source, we referred to detailed questions
on the basis of guidance which we prepared in
                                                           underlying each of the five assessment themes, set
agreement with the Regional Development
                                                           out at the start of each report section. We drew
Agencies. The range of possible scores for each
                                                           observations from each source for as many of the
theme are:
                                                           questions as were relevant and balanced this
                                                           against evidence collected from other sources. In
•         performing inadequately (score 1)                arriving at a final score for each theme, we
•         performing adequately (score 2)                  compared the weight of evidence collected against
                                                           illustrative examples of different performance levels
•         performing well (score 3)

                                                      18
Independent Performance Assessment                            June 2006



for each question, agreed in advance with the
Regional Development Agencies.

1.8.       During our assessment, we have:

•       used over 100 information sources, including
       documents, site visits, interviews and focus
       groups;

•      drawn over 400 observations from these
       sources    against individual assessment
       questions;

•      met over 90 external stakeholders in interviews
       and focus groups;

•      met over 80 internal stakeholders in interviews
       and focus groups;

•      made site visits, meeting further internal and
       external stakeholders; and

•      received 38 responses (50% response rate) to
       our stakeholder survey. The distribution was
       drawn from the list of stakeholders provided by
       the Agency and supplemented by the NAO.
Consistency
1.9.    A consistency panel, chaired by a member
of the NAO Management Board, was held on 24
April 2006. The panel, comprising of an
independent consultant, senior National Audit
Office staff experienced in audit methodology,
performance management and financial analysis
and a representative from the DTI, examined our
work in detail to ensure that we have applied the
Independent Performance Assessment guidance
appropriately, used evidence in a consistent
manner and applied the same standards across use
of evidence.




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