New standards to improve the quality of public sector data to aid decision making and increase accountability have been launched by the Audit Commission.
The voluntary standards define the arrangements public bodies can put in place to improve the quality of data they use to manage and report their activities.
The guidelines were developed in the light of previous work in the police, health, youth offending and social care services, which highlighted the importance of data quality in assessing performance.
The Audit Commission said it has incorporated recognised good practices with information gained from a wide consultation within the public sector.
This move has been endorsed by Audit Scotland, the Wales Audit Office, the Northern Ireland Audit Office and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.
Recommendations include giving one senior manager within an organisation overall strategic responsibility for data quality, and communicating the organisation's commitment to data quality clearly, reinforcing the message that all staff have a responsibility to record data accurately.
To help them achieve this, staff should have access to policies, guidance and training on the issue.
Steve Bundred, chief executive of the Audit Commission, said, "Data quality is increasingly important and these voluntary standards have been put together to help organisations make often complex decisions about their priorities.
"They are not a rigid set of requirements but are intended to be used flexibly and proportionately, depending on local risks and circumstances."