Use of evaluation and modelling in government – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Author: Committee of Public Accounts

Related inquiry: Use of evaluation and financial modelling in Government

Date Published: 27 May 2022

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Summary

It is unacceptable that so much government spending is not evaluated and errors continue to be found in government models. We regularly raise concerns about government evaluation and modelling, particularly the variable quality of models and lack of understanding in Government about what is effective in many policy areas. In December 2019, only 8% of the £432 billion spend on major projects had robust impact evaluation plans in place and 64% of spend had no evaluation arrangements. It is too difficult for Parliament and the public to find information about departments’ models or evaluations. Since 2017 only four departments have published lists of their business-critical models, and 60% of models examined did not have any information published about them. Departments are falling short of requirements on transparency and publication of evaluation findings, with more than one-third of chief analysts reporting that they are only sometimes able to publish evaluation findings as required.

We are pleased to see that government and departments are starting to take these issues more seriously; for example, through the creation of the Evaluation Task Force in April 2021 and using the 2020 and 2021 Spending Reviews to incentivise departments to improve evaluation of their work. The plans to strengthen the governance arrangements for the Analysis Functional Standard is another positive step. But there is much more to do to build on this progress and ensure evaluations which bring about improved outcomes, and modelled outputs which are high quality and robust. Without the right incentives, improvements to oversight and culture, and addressing challenges such as sharing data, decisions will continue to be made without being informed by a robust evidence base. This can put value for money unnecessarily at risk.