Performance measurement and accountability in an Australian fire service

Louise Kloot (Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Publication date: 27 February 2009

Abstract

Purpose

New public management (NPM) techniques have been widely adopted in Australian public sector organisations. NPM stresses the concept of accountability, and the importance of reporting mechanisms. Government and semi‐government authorities provide annual reports, but the usefulness of these annual reports in assessing operational in addition to financial performance is open to question. This paper aims to ask what performance measures are important in the context of the provision of fire services.

Design/methodology/approach

Using content analysis, this study analyses and evaluates publicly available annual reports of fire services to determine operational and financial performance in the Australian state of Victoria, which has three different fire service organisations.

Findings

The study finds that annual reports are based on financial results, some basic performance measures and narrative describing some operational results. Stakeholders are well served by financial reports, but find difficulty in assessing operational performance trends and comparative operational performance of the three different organisations. Few operational indicators are published, despite prior problems in fire services that have lead to parliamentary enquiries. The lack of publicly available performance measures results in reduced levels of accountability to external stakeholders.

Practical implications

The study indicates that the lack of useful performance measures impacts negatively on the demonstration of accountability to external stakeholders. Fire services management can use this information to improve their reporting and demonstration of accountability to external shareholders such as government and the community.

Originality/value

The study extends the work of Carvalho et al. on the reporting practices and performance measures of Portuguese and British fire services and suggests a range of performance indicators that may be appropriate for fire services to enhance their accountability.

Keywords

Citation

Kloot, L. (2009), "Performance measurement and accountability in an Australian fire service", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 128-145. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550910934538

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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