25 May 2023

Australian Centre for Evaluation to measure what works

The 2023‑24 Budget includes $10 million over four years to establish an Australian Centre for Evaluation (ACE) in the Australian Treasury. The Australian Centre for Evaluation will improve the volume, quality, and impact of evaluations across the Australian Public Service (APS), and work in close collaboration with evaluation units in other departments and agencies.

The Australian Centre for Evaluation will help ensure government programs deliver value for money. The Albanese Government is committed to respecting taxpayers’ money and ensuring that we achieve results for Australians. This means knowing what works, and what can work better.

Building a better feedback loop within government is in the interests of all Australians, and shows our commitment to real outcomes, evidence-based policy, and a culture of continuous improvement. The Australian Centre for Evaluation will put these principles into practice by:

  • Championing high‑quality impact evaluations, such as randomised trials
  • Promoting the Commonwealth Evaluation Policy, and providing practical standards and guidance on how to plan for, conduct, and use high-quality evaluation at all stages of the policy cycle, including design, implementation, delivery and review
  • Overseeing efforts across the Australian Government to improve evaluation capability including, in time, the creation of an APS Evaluation Profession, paralleling existing professional streams on human resources, data and digital
  • Working with agencies to embed high-quality evaluation plans in new policy proposals, supported by direct line of sight on items moving toward Government consideration
  • Engaging with states, territories, local governments, academic experts, and non-government agencies to improve the quality of impact evaluation across Australia
  • Collaborating with international counterparts, including What Works Centres and Behavioural Insights Teams, to ensure that Australia is at the leading edge of impact evaluation worldwide

To drive higher quality evaluations, the Australian Centre for Evaluation will partner with departments and agencies to conduct flagship evaluations on agreed priorities, using randomised trials or similarly rigorous evaluation methods. It will also support agencies to build their capabilities and prepare their own evaluations, multiplying the volume and quality of evaluations APS-wide.

These efforts will demonstrate that better evaluation is possible everywhere, and that all policies and programs benefit from evaluation plans that use the most rigorous methods feasible.

The Australian Centre for Evaluation will fulfil the recommendation of the 2019 Independent Review of the Australian Public Service (Thodey Review) to embed a culture of evaluation in the Australian public service, and forms part of the Government’s Ambitious and Enduring Plan for APS Reform.

Building the APS’ evaluation capabilities are also part of reducing its over-reliance on consultants and delivering on our commitment to cut spending on consultants, contractors, legal and travel by $3 billion. Data from Austender suggests that the Australian Government spends over $50 million each year on evaluation reports from private consultants.