There is an emerging intersection between the challenges of performance measurement and the state of ethical conduct monopolizing headlines these days. The agony play features scandals afflicting all segments of society, not just the controversies surrounding the Senate and Toronto City Hall. Rather than bearing True North, the nation’s moral compass threatens to go south.
The rampant misinformation campaign is confusing, misleading, and demoralizing. Performance measurement is being manipulated to obfuscate evidence of shortcomings or wrongdoing. Commentators are calling for public institutions to embed clear codes of ethical conduct. What are the implications for implementing strategies for open and accountable government?
Last October, CBC Radio ran a news story entitled “Whistleblower lawsuit says CN is cooking its books.” It revealed alleged scams and cover-ups about falsified performance reporting to give CN competitive advantage. The story questioned the corporate culture and role of domineering leaders in imposing “a reign of terror,” with negative effects on staff morale and organizational performance.
At the same time, many managers resist having their performance scrutinized by others. One expert observes that, “… Bill Gates has great enthusiasm for target setting and measuring performance. But safeguards are needed on transmitting or sharing performance information. Principles regarding codes of conduct, external monitoring, and impartial appeal procedures help ensure due process.”
Government at a Glance 2013 is the OECD’s biennial dashboard of key indicators that enable international comparisons of public sector performance. Governance indicators focus on transparency, regulation, service delivery, human resource management, and public service compensation. It is recognized that good indicators help government make tough choices and restore public confidence.
Governance requires more than a quick look, however. IPAC’s Centre of Excellence on Performance Management and Accountability is a forum that seeks to understand and use accountability to improve organizational effectiveness; to learn concepts and applications that enhance transparency and accountability for results; and to research and publish jurisdictional analyses and practical guidance.
Meanwhile, with less than two years until the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, preparations for the post-2015 MDGs are in full swing. The expected outcome is a strong development agenda that builds upon MDG foundations, completes unfinished business, responds to new challenges, and aligns poverty eradication and sustainable development. Success will depend upon transforming society and mobilizing the world from the politics of convenience towards a mission of necessity.