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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > R > Results-Based Reporting

Results-Based Reporting 

A system of reporting in government which requires departments to provide evidence on their performance in achieving stated goals.

(Aucoin, P. & Jarvis, M. (2004). Results-based reporting: Smart practices for improving public accountability.)


“Results-based reporting in the Canadian context is an integral element of what is now almost a decade old reform effort to improve reporting to Parliament. In 1995, the Government piloted, and subsequently introduced across government, a parliamentary reporting process whereby departmental performance plans and departmental performance reports became two separate but sequentially presented documents. The latter report constituted the basis for results-based reporting; it was meant to provide evidence on the performance of departments in achieving the plans outlined in the former report, that is, their planned “results”. The contemporary reform effort was viewed as improving accountability, both internally to Ministers and managers and externally to Parliament and the public, but was also part of a larger enterprise of results-based management that sought to improve management through improved measurement of results. The Canadian development was not unique, of course; elsewhere in Canada and abroad results-based reporting, in various forms and guises, had been initiated or was on the public agenda."

"The basic design of results-based reporting has now become fairly common across most, if not all, Western democracies. Notwithstanding widespread interest in the principle of results-based reporting and, somewhat surprisingly, continuing high expectations of such reporting, the record of success with this development for the purposes of improving public accountability is also fairly common. Unfortunately, the common record is a disappointing one. At best, there is minimal parliamentary, press or public attention; at worst, none at all. Everywhere, it seems, the limitations in results-based reporting have diminished the utility of what nevertheless has become a major task for public-service organizations, especially where these reports are prepared primarily, if not exclusively, to meet the requirements of public accountability, that is where they are not also used for management purposes. No national jurisdiction appears to have received a high score for its achievements in results-based reporting when independently audited. Although it is common for governments and their public services to receive praise and encouragement by auditors for their efforts to date, the inevitable qualifications that follow are invariably centred on the most basic of issues. Nonetheless, nowhere does there appear to be a major move to cut back on, let alone abandon, the initiative. The high expectations remain unaffected, it seems, by the limited attention given to or use made of these reports in public accountability."

In their paper, Aucoin and Jarvis further argue that "results-based reporting for the purposes of public accountability is too often built on what is essentially a one-dimensional conception of public accountability – a conception that focuses almost exclusively on reporting by those who are responsible and must render an account. In our view, accountability is fundamentally a two-dimensional process (Aucoin and Heintzman 2000; Canada, Auditor General 2002a; Behn 2001). It involves not only those who report but also those who receive reports. The former are obliged to render accounts; the latter are obliged to extract accounts. The latter should not be passive recipients of reports, especially not of reports prepared exclusively by those who are obliged to account to them. Those who receive reports must question these reports. And, they must go further, by way of their own commissioned reviews as well as independently prepared audits of those who report to them. The accountability process, in short, should be an interactive as well as an iterative process.”


Aucoin, P. & Jarvis, M. (2004). Results-based reporting: Smart practices for improving public accountability. Paper prepared for a Political Science Association Conference June 15, 2004.


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