Encouraging Transparency, Accountability And Confidence In Government

Beginning in 2009, the city of Collinsville, Illinois, (pop. 26,000; in southern Illinois near St. Louis) implemented a performance management system that allows it to evaluate what programs are and are not working.

A cross-functional group of employees from every city department, has worked over the past two years to build the foundation for their organization to adequately measure performance. In doing so, the team spent a considerable amount of time identifying a diverse mixture of performance measures and benchmarks that were derived from a variety of sources such as professional associations and industry standards.

The culmination of performance measures provide important information to managers to help them make more informed decisions as to whether a program needs to be expanded, altered, or discontinued. Equally important is the level of accountability that results when these measures are shared with the public in order for citizens to better understand how well programs funded by their tax dollars are performing.

With the information and data obtained through performance measures, the city can answer three fundamental questions:

  1. How are we doing? – A gauge of the most critical indicators for the organization.
  2. Why? – The ability to dig deeper into current issues, successes, or problems in order to understand what led to the results.
  3. What should we be doing? – Set plans, allocate resources, monitor programs, and adapt.

In mid-2010, the city began a process of incorporating performance reviews into each senior staff meeting. Major operational departments present performance results on a rotating schedule, placing individual departments on a bimonthly schedule.

2010 also marked the first year Collinsville completed a community-wide Annual Performance Report. The report is organized to support the city’s strategic planning goals consisting of being a “Financially Sustainable City Providing Superior Municipal Services,” “Safest City in the Region,” having a “Strong Balanced Economy,” “Top Quality Infrastructure,” “Vibrant Uptown” and being the “Preferred Place to Live.” These goals then aim to fulfill the city’s mission, creating alignment and focusing the city’s overall efforts.

The annual report uses a variety of measures, including internal operational performance measures and targets as well as professional associations and industry standards. Data from the ICMA Center for Performance Measurement (ICMA-CPM) and from other professional associations, such as the American Water Works Association, are used to compare the city’s performance to other local governments and organizations nationally.

Integrating performance measurement into the city’s operations has been a very deliberate process as it has allowed city leadership to use information to identify solutions, capitalize on opportunities for improvement, and make better-informed decisions. As the city matures in its efforts of measuring performance, the Collinsville Municipal Index andAnnual Performance Report will become one of the most important means by which performance is shared with the community, therefore encouraging greater transparency, accountability, and confidence in the work of the city.

The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) has a Center for Performance Measurement that assists communities in developing a system to measure performance. The information above was taken from a case study submitted to the ICMA Center. It would be great to see other local governments undertake similar efforts as Collinsville, Illinois. Encouraging transparency, accountability and confidence in government is something all municipalities should strive for. It seems like the ICMA and Collinsville have implemented some excellent ideas, what do you think?

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