A public policy is any action or inaction by the government for the reason of welfare of the people. It can be in the form of policy document, government scheme or program, any event or awareness drive or some structural, functional or behavioural reform. Public Policy Evaluation is one of the most essential stages of the whole policy cycle.
Evaluating public policy by the policy makers becomes necessary not only for rectifying the errors in the policy but also to gain learning for better policy formulation in future.
But, evaluation by all the stakeholders including the public at large becomes important for establishment of accountability in a healthy democracy. This can also aid and complement the evaluation by policy makers and authorised state appointed policy auditors like CAG.
When and Where to evaluate?
In India, we have a culture of evaluating policies over a cup of coffee or tea with friends and family. We have a habit of having political as well as policy debates.
There is also a concept of social audit where various stakeholders together hold an audit of policy implementation. Such audits are statutory obligation under schemes like MGNREGA and PM Poshan Mission 2.0. If you want to conduct social audit of various schemes, you can refer to the Social Audit toolkit here.
Technically, as per the timing of evaluation, an evaluation can occur as pre-audit, concurrent audit or post audit. Pre-audit means proactive cost benefit analysis of the draft policy plan. Concurrent audit means evaluation while the scheme is in execution stage. Post audit means evaluating the execution after the policy has been implemented. Audits at all three stages are necessary for an efficient policy and an accountable governance.
How to Evaluate?
To evaluate a policy, one can ask following questions:
- Are outcomes of the policy defined?
- Does the policy focuses on the outcomes and not only outputs?
- Whether the policy or a major part of it already exists in any other policy?
- Is the technology to execute policy available today with the government?
- Is the policy financially viable?
- Does the policy create any unnecessary administrative burden or challenges?
- Is the policy
- accessible to all the intended beneficiaries?
- affordable to all the intended beneficiaries?
- available to all the intended beneficiaries?
- Are any better alternatives available?
In addition to these, one can put up as many questions specific to that policy. For instance, if a policy infrastructure specific then how many jobs it creates or what negative impact it could have on the environment.
Asking the above mentioned questions while evaluating any policy, can help one make rational opinions about that policy. When the policies of a government are effectively evaluated by the stakeholders, the spirit of participative democracy strengthens leading to informed choices by the voters in elections as opposed to people making decisions based on rumours and fake news. Thus, a vibrant democracy needs effective policy evaluation both formally like social audits, but also informally amongst stakeholders.