Australia to launch policy evaluation centre to ‘build a better feedback loop in government’

By on 05/06/2023 | Updated on 05/06/2023
Australian coat of arms

The Australian government is to establish a new centre for policy evaluation to help it understand what works in policy delivery, and what can work better.

The Australian Centre for Evaluation (ACE) will be formed to improve the volume, quality, and impact of evaluations across the Australian Public Service (APS), and will work in close collaboration with evaluation units in departments and agencies, as well as internationally.

The unit will be part of the Australian Treasury, and has been allocated AUS$10m (US$6.5m) to establish it over the next four years. The creation of the centre was one of the recommendations of the 2019 independent review of the Australian Public Service led by David Thodey, and forms part of the government’s APS reform plan.

The government said that the investment is also part of a plan to reduce what it called the Australian Public Service’s “over-reliance on consultants”. Ministers have pledged to cut spending on consultants, contractors, legal and travel by AUS$3bn (US$1.95bn). Australian government data indicates it spends over AUS$50m (US$32.6m) each year on evaluation reports from private consultants.

Read more: What you find when you evaluate the effectiveness of government spending

The unit will be focused on “building a better feedback loop within government”, the government said, through measuring “real outcomes, evidence-based policy, and a culture of continuous improvement”.

In particular, the centre will champion high‑quality impact evaluations, such as randomised trials, and promote the existing Commonwealth Evaluation Policy, and provide practical standards and guidance for public servants across government on how to plan for, conduct, and use high-quality evaluation at all stages of the policy cycle.

ACE will also lead efforts across the Australian government to improve evaluation capability, which will include the creation of an evaluation profession in the APS, in line with the existing human resources, data and digital professions.

As well as working with other public sector agencies and academics in Australia to improve the quality of impact evaluation, it is intended the unit will also collaborate with international counterparts, including What Works Centres and Behavioural Insights Teams – such as those in the UK.

Read more: Australian Public Service Commission launches new workforce strategy

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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