The Commonwealth Evaluation Policy (the Policy) aims to embed a culture of evaluation and learning from experience to underpin evidence‑based policy and delivery. It applies to all Commonwealth entities and companies subject to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act).
The Policy has been developed to support entities to improve evaluation practices and capability, including the quality of performance reporting. This includes strategies to:
- use evaluation as an input to the design of programs
- build evaluation into the ongoing governance of programs.
This is intended to improve the way entities assess implementation, measure the impact of government programs and activities and frame policy decisions on revised or new programs.
The Policy took effect from 1 December 2021.
Principles‑based evaluation approach
The Policy provides a principles-based approach for the conduct of evaluations across the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth entities and companies are expected to deliver support and services for Australians by setting clear objectives for major policies, projects and programs, and consistently measuring progress towards achieving these objectives.
Where an evaluation is undertaken to support this, it should be conducted to a standard that ensures the information is credible and evidence‑based. Data collection, evaluation practices and public use of evaluation findings should also take into account relevant ethical, cultural and privacy considerations.
Commonwealth evaluation principles
The key principles, which taken together, should guide evaluation activity across the Commonwealth to support learning, accountability and decision‑making are detailed below.
Evaluations need to be:
Fit for purpose
- The choice to evaluate and the scale of effort and resources allocated to an evaluation should be proportional to the value, impact, strategic importance and risk profile of the program or activity.
- Methods should differentiate between evaluations to inform program administration and evaluations to inform policy decisions.
- Evaluations to inform program delivery should be designed for the purposes of continuous improvement and accountability against objectives, while evaluation for decision‑making should be designed for the purpose of defining achievable outcomes, taking account of any pilots, prototyping or experience from other jurisdictions.
- A strong understanding of Government policy intent is required, both when evaluation is used as a monitoring tool and when it is an input to new program design.
Robust, ethical and culturally appropriate
- Evaluations should be well‑designed, identify potential evaluator bias and take account of the impact of programs and evaluations on stakeholders.
- Robust data and evidence should provide performance insights and drive continuous improvement for programs in the delivery stage.
- Ethical and culturally appropriate approaches should be considered in all evaluation activities, including for the collection, assessment and use of information.
- Evaluations should be conducted by people who are technically and culturally capable.
- The collection and analysis of evidence should be undertaken in an impartial and systematic way, having regard to the perspectives of all relevant stakeholders.
- Evaluations should adhere to appropriate standards of integrity and independence.
Transparent where appropriate
- To be useful, evaluation findings should be transparent by default unless there are appropriate reasons for not releasing information publicly.
- To support continuous improvement, accountability and decision‑making, evaluation findings should be provided to appropriate stakeholders.
Leadership that is positive about learning from performance monitoring and evaluation activities is a necessary condition for delivering effective outcomes and providing quality advice to Government, the Parliament and the public.
Key governance actions to support an evaluative culture include:
- Plan to conduct fit for purpose monitoring and evaluation activities before beginning any program or activity. This includes identifying time‑frames, resources, baseline data and performance information.
- Use strategic, risk‑based approaches to identify, prioritise and schedule evaluation activities.
- Align internal review, assurance and evaluation activities with external requirements, such as reporting requirements under legislation.
- Assign responsibility for considering the outcomes of regular performance monitoring activities or the implementation of findings from any evaluation report. Identify who is responsible for implementation and establish timeframes for actions.
It is important to consider the resources needed to evaluate a program or activity across the policy cycle, whether data collection can be built into existing administrative systems to reduce costs and increase coverage, and any governance arrangements necessary to ensure the evaluative approach remains fit for purpose over time.
The Australian Centre for Evaluation will support ongoing evaluation capability building initiatives for entities across the Commonwealth through guidance, tools, information sessions and advice.
The Policy is supported by an Evaluation Toolkit.
The Evaluation Toolkit includes practical guidance materials and supporting resources to help entities to appropriately monitor and evaluate government programs and activities over the policy cycle. The curated resources and tools are also designed to support people who need to conduct an evaluation.
This toolkit helps entities to meet existing requirements to:
- measure, assess and report on performance under the Commonwealth resource management and performance frameworks, established under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and associated instruments and policies
- use monitoring and evaluation to generate data and robust evidence to drive continuous improvement in accordance with relevant whole‑of‑government policies and frameworks (for example, performance, risk, regulatory, charging, and grants policy frameworks)
- ensure implementation and evaluation planning are properly addressed in proposals considered in the Budget and Cabinet processes, in accordance with the Cabinet Handbook and the Budget Process Operational Rules.