It can enhance oversight and accountability of federal programs, improve the effectiveness and efficiency of services, assess which programs are working and which are not, and provide critical information needed for making difficult decisions about them.
With evaluation we are able to assess a current process and implement the necessary changes if needed to improve overall function.
Government Evaluation Form: Assessment
Government evaluation involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of programs, policies, and organizations to improve their effectiveness. It provides a useful and important tool to address the need for credible information, well-grounded decision making, and governmental transparency. Within a government context, the legitimacy of evaluation can be seen as deriving from the structure of the government it serves and from the functions it fills.
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In the United States, evaluation can serve information needs that arise within any of the three branches of government. For example, evaluation can provide information about a new program’s initial outcomes, allowing for better management within the Executive Branch. It can also be used to assess the relative performance of a set of alternative policy options, informing legislative deliberations. The courts may cite evaluation findings as a basis for their judgments. More fundamentally, evaluation can contribute the evidence needed to support the system of checks and balances established by the United States Constitution. For example, evaluation enables congressional oversight and executive accountability, along with the development of new knowledge, innovation, and organizational learning in both branches. This commitment to accountability and transparency, on the one hand, makes evaluation essential to democratic government and, on the other, requires evaluation in a government context to be independent and to resist advocacy for particular positions.
Government evaluation provides needed feedback for managing any program. It uses systematic data collection and analysis to address questions about how well government programs and policies are working, whether they are achieving their objectives, and, no less importantly, why they are or are not effective. Evaluation produces evidence that can be used to compare alternative programs, guide program development and decision making, and reveal effective practices. By its very nature, it supplies the publicly accessible information that is at the heart of transparency and open government.
Since the inception of modern program evaluation, federal agencies have conducted many evaluations and applied their results to make reasoned program decisions. But for the most part, these evaluations have been sporadic, inconsistently applied, and inadequately supported. The units formed to conduct evaluations too often are short lived and under resourced. Training and capacity building for evaluation have been inconsistent across agencies and, in many cases, insufficient to achieve the needed evaluation capacity and sustain it over time.
Yet there is a strong case to be made for a commitment to evaluation as an integral feature of good government, whether the goal is better performance, stronger oversight and accountability, or more data-informed and innovative decision making. The lessons learned in agencies that have applied evaluation constitute a solid knowledge base upon which to build.