An Evaluator General for Australia


Nicholas Gruen has been actively advocating an Evaluator General for Australia. In 2016 he published an article in Mandarin magazine, Why Australia Australia Needs an Evaluator General. He writes,

  1. Evaluation would be done by people with domain skills in both evaluation and in the service delivery area who were formally officers of the Office of the Evaluator-General. They would report to both the portfolio agency delivering the program and to the evaluator-general with the EG being the senior partner in the event of irreconcilable disagreement. All data and information gathered would travel to the centre of both the EG’s and the departmental systems. Meanwhile, the portfolio agency would report to their minister but the EG would report to Parliament — as the auditor-general does.”

There has been considerable interest in the idea. in 2018, officials of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, when commenting on a draft review of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act, called for a stronger focus on evaluation, rather than audit, as the function for assessing program impact. They proposed the establishment of an Australian National Evaluation Office headed by an Evaluator General.

Andrew Leigh, a Member of Parliament representing the Labor Party stated in a November 2018 speech that if Labor wins the next election they will create an Evaluator General position within the Treasury. He writes:

  1. “The mandate of the Evaluator General will be to work with departments across the government to conduct high-quality evaluations of government programs – preferably randomised trials.

  2. “The Evaluator-General will collaborate with existing evaluation bodies such as BETA and the Office of Development Effectiveness. It will also work with the Evidence Institute for Schools, a body that Labor has announced we will create within the Department of Education and Training. However, while the Evidence Institute for Schools will both synthesise existing research and produce fresh findings, the focus of the Evaluator-General will be on conducting new evaluations.

  3. “Unlike auditing, good evaluation is very hard to do afterwards. This is particularly true of randomised trials, which must be set up before a program is rolled out. We also see the Evaluator-General as being better able to encourage departments to make effective use of administrative data and if it takes a collaborative approach rather than purely playing an oversight role.

  4. “The Evaluator-General will be funded with $5 million per year, starting in 2019-20.”