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Policy evaluation in a time of fiscal stress: Some reflections from British experience

Abstract

The debate on the use or nonuse of policy evaluation frequently starts from the normative assumption that is a rational and rewarding activity for governments to pursue. Failure to use evaluation is assumed to indicate political and organizational inefficiencies and weaknesses that can, and should, be corrected. This article argues that this is too simplistic an assumption that abstracts evaluation from the political and social context in which it is developed and utilized. In particular, the way that governments develop and use evaluation is conditioned, first by the macroeconomic climate in which they operate and second, by the ways they choose to respond to this and by the microeconomics of the budgetary process. These issues are explored in the context of recent developments in British central government. here a tight fiscal policy and a concern with administrative costs have led to move from top-down rational systems of evaluation to more pragmatic, bottom-up concerns with performance measures and performance indicators. It is concluded that policy evaluation is unlikely to regain and enhance its credibility unless a reshaping of administrative structures and processes take place.

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Authors

Additional information

Andrew Gray and Bill Jenkins are respectively senior lecturer in adminiistrative studies and senior lecturer in interdisciplinary studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury, England. They have worked for a number of years on the development of management reforms in the UK government and have recently been involved in a research project on the evolution of the Financial Management Initiative (FMI) in British central government departments. Their publications includeAdministrative Politics in British Govenment (Wheatsheaf Books, 1985) and articles in such journals asFinancial Accountability and Management, Public Administration, andPublic Money and Management.

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Gray, A., Jenkins, B. Policy evaluation in a time of fiscal stress: Some reflections from British experience. Knowledge in Society 2, 20–30 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02687231

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02687231

Keywords

  • Public Expenditure
  • Policy Evaluation
  • British Government
  • Budgetary Process
  • Public Sector Organization