The 10 principles of public sector inspection

The principles of inspection in this formal statement are from the Government’s policy on inspection of public services (July 2003). They place the following expectations on inspection providers and on the Departments sponsoring them:

1 The purpose of improvement. There should be an explicit concern on the part of inspectors to contribute to the improvement of the service being inspected. This should guide the focus, method, reporting and follow-up of inspection. In framing recommendations, an inspector should recognise good performance and address any failure appropriately. Inspection should aim to generate data and intelligence that enable Departments more quickly to calibrate the progress of reform in their sectors and make appropriate adjustments.

2 A focus on outcomes, which means considering service delivery to the end users of the services rather than concentrating on internal management arrangements.

3 A user perspective. Inspection should be delivered with a clear focus on the experience of those for whom the service is provided, as well as on internal management arrangements. Inspection should encourage innovation and diversity and not be solely compliance-based.

4 Proportionate to risk. Over time, inspectors should modify the extent of future inspection according to the quality of performance by the service provider. For example, good performers should undergo less inspection, so that resources are concentrated on areas of greatest risk.

5 Inspectors should encourage rigorous self-assessment by managers. Inspectors should challenge the outcomes of managers’ self-assessments, take them into account in the inspection process, and provide a comparative benchmark.

6 Inspectors should use impartial evidence. Evidence, whether quantitative or qualitative, should be validated and credible.

7 Inspectors should disclose the criteria they use to form judgments.

8 Inspectors should be open about their processes, willing to take any complaints seriously, and able to demonstrate a robust quality assurance process.

9 Inspectors should have regard to value for money, their own included.

10 Inspectors should continually learn from experience, in order to become increasingly effective. This can be done by assessing their own impact on the service provider’s ability to improve and by sharing best practice with other inspectors.