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Evaluation of Government Performance and Public Policies in Spain

Evaluation of Government Performance and Public Policies in Spain by Osvaldo Feinstein y Eduardo Zapico-Goñi

This paper covers selective aspects of Spain’s experience in evaluating government performance and public policies. Rather than a cohesive ―evaluation system,‖ there is instead a constellation of organizations, with evaluation mandates and/or practices, which are not interrelated. These organizations and their respective practices have been evolving without coordination over the past three decades. An evaluation culture is slowly emerging, amid different conceptual approaches used by different organizations that are managing and/or conducting evaluations.

Evaluation activity has been taking place in Spain for years, with a marked acceleration and qualitative shift since 2005. Despite Spain’s standing as an OECD country as well as an EU country, it still has not developed a consolidated evaluation system. This fact points out how long-term and complex is the task of institutionalizing an evaluation system.

The creation of the Spanish Evaluation Agency, AEVAL, did much to advance the goal of institutionalizing evaluation. A section of this paper, therefore, focuses on AEVAL, with a review of its strengths and weaknesses. The hope is that an examination of Spain’s experience will be useful to developing and transition countries in the process of building their own evaluation capacities. The following 11 lessons are drawn from the AEVAL experience, which may be valuable to other countries:

1. Derive inspiration from other experiences but do not attempt to copy them.

2. Take into account that the institutionalization of evaluation requires significant time.

3. Establish advisory bodies as mechanisms for support and legitimation.

4. Incorporate representatives from academic institutions and from the public sector.

5. Involve different levels of government, including sectors and regions.

6. Establish quality control assurance of the evaluations, practices, and systems.

7. Link policy evaluation with the assessment of the quality of services.

8. Use different methods and approaches according to context, needs, and capacities.

9. Institutional location should optimize coordination, accountability, and learning.

10. Develop procedures to link policy evaluation with programming and budgeting.

11. Disseminating evaluations should go beyond simply posting them on the Internet.

Finally, this paper contains several website addresses where readers can obtain additional information on aspects of the paper that most interest them and to follow the Spanish experience as it unfolds.

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