Audit Commision lays down public sector data standards

The Audit Commission has launched a set of data quality standards aimed at public sector bodies.

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The Audit Commission has launched a set of data quality standards aimed at public sector bodies.

The voluntary standards were developed in the light of the spending watchdog’s work in the police, NHS, youth offending and social care services, which highlighted the importance of data quality in assessing performance. The standards incorporate recognised good practice.

Recommendations include giving a single senior manager overall strategic responsibility for data quality and for communicating the organisation's commitment to data quality clearly, reinforcing the message that all staff have a responsibility to record data accurately.

Staff should have access to policies, guidance and training on data quality issues, the standards say.

Audit Commission chief executive Steve Bundred said: “Auditors recognise that service providers need reliable, accurate, timely and clear information to make judgements about the efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness of their services. Data quality is increasingly important and these voluntary standards have been put together to help organisations make often complex decisions about their priorities.”

He added: “They are not a rigid set of requirements but are intended to be used flexibly and proportionately, depending on local risks and circumstances.”

The standards would help public sector organisations satisfy themselves that the data they were using to monitor performance was of good quality, Bundred said. Good quality data could also be used “to shape services and account to local people for performance'.

Earlier this year, the Audit Commission warned that public sector managers did not have sufficient information on whether IT and back-office services offered value for money, and issued a set of indicators – also voluntary – that government organisations could use to check.

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