This week, shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh announced that a Labor government would create an office of ‘Evaluator General’ within the Treasury for better evaluation of government programs.
“The mandate of the Evaluator General will be to work with department across the government to conduct high-quality evaluations of government programs – preferably randomised trials,” said Dr Leigh.
In his announcement, Dr Leigh referenced a report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Tax and Revenue that recommended that the tax office “make greater use of behavioural insights techniques, such as randomised controlled trials, before full implementation of new initiatives to determine if such changes are indeed better than current practices, and if so, which changes are the most effective”.
The Evaluator-General will be funded with $5 million per year, starting in 2019-20.
Speaking to Accountants Daily, the Tax Institute’s Professor Robert Deutsch said it was still early days to predict if such an office would be able to live up to its mandate.
“The proposal sounds a bit vague and difficult to comprehend exactly how it will achieve its objectives without more detail,” said Professor Deutsch.
“In a way it is almost like Treasury modelling is trying to do. When we talk about Treasury modelling, my understanding is that they are trying to extrapolate from a fairly narrow testing what the likely outcomes of a particular proposal will be and it is a little bit like what this sounds.
“A $5 million budget is pretty small in the overall scheme of things and what can be done in terms of setting up a functioning office would have to be fairly modest which makes me think that it may not quite do the job that they are hoping it will.”