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View From the Outside CES Annual Conference, Vancouver June 2003 Gerald Halpern Page 1 of 5 View from the Outside Let me give you my personal history for it very much colours my answer to the question of what kind of relationship should exist between evaluation and internal audit. My background begins with psychology and well controlled experiments or at least well controlled for sources of internal invalidity experiments. Then, as an Industrial Psychologist, I moved to experiments in the real word be that the factory or the army training schools or the pre-computer office. That was close enough to the real world so I moved to education but even there we had opportunity for controlled experiments yes even with true random assignment. But in time, thinking I was getting even closer to that which mattered, I moved to government – federal government no less. I was here in 1981 when program evaluation was kick-started into being. Remember program evaluation, the precursor to evaluation? Remember when Treasury Board did the studies? Remember the days of Michael Rayner as Comptroller General All of which is to say that I have worked inside the federal service, that I came to the federal evaluation service as a professional evaluator, that I spent some seven years with the Auditor General as an auditor of evaluation. Now I work as a hired gun. I sell my services to Departments in the Federal Government, to Ministries in the Ontario Government and to Departments of the North West Territories Government and to one agency of the United Nations. All of which is to say that my life experiences are those of an academically focused evaluator who works in the real world of government, who is not tied to a regular paycheque and who has enough business that he has the luxury of losing a client who is not honest in his or her dealings. And now, let me give the bottom line on what I think the relationship should be. I believe that the two should not be merged. I see them as separate functions with very different roles even though the roles are often complementary. As Ernest Chadler has pointed out, IA is an assurance giving function. It is set up to advise management on the adequacy of (1) systems in place for risk management, (2) management control practices and (3) the trustworthiness of information for decision- making and reporting. Michel Laurendeau has described evaluation in terms of providing trustworthy information on programs, policies and initiatives and on demonstrating the results and cost-effectiveness of the programs, policies and initiatives. Demonstrating results means going outside of the department housing the program and examining the results that matter to Canadians – the outcomes. Michel also makes the point that the current policy for evaluation keeps it separate from internal audit. At the risk of being contentious, I am going to restate these differences but in my own words. Internal Audit is centered on whether things are happening as intended. Was the designed operational process put in place? Were the expected results measured and recorded. Were things done right where right is “what was intended”. Even if the wrong things were being done or operations were far from efficient, if the View From the Outside CES Annual Conference, Vancouver June 2003 Gerald Halpern Page 2 of 5 stuff of the Operations Manual was done, then you get brownie points. Stephen Leacock has given us a marvellous example of doing the wrong thing but doing it well. On a dark night, a man was on his hands and knees under a lamppost searching inch by inch for a lost object. A policeman came along and asked what he was doing. Looking for my house keys was the answer. And where did you drop them. Over there by the bushes was the answer . Then why are you looking here? Because the light is better. The Operations Manual was very detailed in the steps to take when searching; but it did not prescribe well where to search. Similarly, audit might verify that the indicators of a performance monitoring system are being used. But it may do this without asking if the indicators being used are in fact the correct indicators. For example, the call centre that records how long is spent on each call (a measure of efficiency) but does not survey clients to se if their needs are satisfied. Evaluation is centered on what does happen and whether what happens is in line with what was expected and whether additional, unexpected things happen. And for the things found to have happened: Are they attributable to the program or policy or initiative. Evaluation too has the lamppost problem in that the evaluators working in government frequently lack the means if shining light upon the real issues. Because they lack portable flashlights, they end up looking under the lamppost. I am going to use my experience base to comment on what I see from the outside. I have been ‘on the outside’ now for eight years, since 1995. Being on the outside is, of course, a misleading label, since I am also on the inside as I work with clients to help them define their problems and seek evidence based solutions. What do I see among the government based evaluators. First I see a great deal of professional incompetence. Second I see a great lack of professional independence. Third I see an acceptance of false gods. I see people employed as evaluation professionals who do not consider it to be their ethical obligation to act in accordance with professional standards – instead they look to career-wise moves and pleasing senior managers. Having described the many, let me quickly underline that I can, without difficulty, name a number of highly professional, competent, dedicated professional evaluators. But they are not the majority. And they are not who come first to mind when I think of the evaluation function in government. Unfortunately, the less than complimentary view that I have given is not new. It has been with us from the beginning of the formal evaluation as shepherded by the Comptroller General of Canada. But even the OCG had antecedents in the federal government. The Treasury Board’s 1969 “Planning, Programming and Budgeting Guide,” was addressed to Deputy Ministers and other senior officials and carried the following action message. Departments were to establish small program planning and evaluation units reporting at or near the deputy head level, staffed by professionals versed in quantitative methods who would analyse the outputs of programs and outline alternative ways of achieving View From the Outside CES Annual Conference, Vancouver June 2003 Gerald Halpern Page 3 of 5 objectives. There was an emphasis on cost-benefit methods. Unfortunately, there was not similar clarity on who the ultimate client was. The 1969 PPB Guide gave rise to an exponential growth of position. In the three years, 1970 to 1973, there arose 3,503 person years classified as planning and evaluation. Of these, 267 were senior executive positions. If the total 3,503 however, only 96 were devoted exclusively to evaluation. In other words, there was little evaluation infrastructure. Treasury Board officials examined the situation and concluded that line managers saw evaluation as threatening and were not prepared to support the function of evaluation unless the evaluators worked on their short term requirements which, of course, was exactly not why evaluators were needed. The TB response was to set up its own Planning Branch – if you won’t do it, we will!. Douglas Hartle headed that Branch and they did a number of number of evaluation studies intended for use by Cabinet. In Hartle’s retrospective assessment, the evaluations had little impact having been suppressed by Program Branch which saw them as a territorial intrusion and by departments not interested in reconsidering existing programs. All of this eventually resulted in the 1977 TB circular “Evaluation of Programs by Departments” and a policy directive to departments to do what they were not doing: conduct evaluations of their programs on a regular basis. About this time the Auditor General announce that federal spending was out of control. The result was the establishment in 1978 of the Office of the Comptroller General Doug Hartle, who by now had returned to academe, testified at the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance (Proceedings, 1990) that the Comptroller General’s Office is not powerful enough to secure from departments competent evaluation reports the centre for evaluation cannot ensure competent evaluations and nothing is happening with them. About the same time, c.1993, Duncan Campbell warned against the existing tendency to have departments and managers determine the nature and the scope of program evaluations, and to shape them according to their needs. (Canadian Centre for management Development, Program Management and Program Evaluation: The Shifting Interface.) Since then, the most important changes have been (a) to leave program evaluation behind in favour of evaluation, (b) to align evaluation with Results for Canadians and (c) to make managers responsible for program evaluation with the exhortation that managers rely on evaluators for technical advice. As a result, we are not much further ahead today than we were 30 years ago. • There is a severe shortage of qualified evaluators. • There is a distinct unwillingness on the part of managers to evaluate beyond operational program monitoring. • There is very little use of evaluation information for decision taking. • There is a continued reluctance to put the recommendations of RMAFs into effect. Would combining evaluation with internal audit change any of that? Not in my opinion. View From the Outside CES Annual Conference, Vancouver June 2003 Gerald Halpern Page 4 of 5 Would creating more positions for evaluation and finding people to fill those positions make a difference? Not in my opinion. Would it make a difference if the new positions were staffed only with competent, independent evaluators? I do not think so but it would provide a larger inventory of frustrated professionals. Would increased budgets to allow increased hiring of consultants make a difference? Not in my opinion. In my view, three conditions are needed and none interface with internal audit: One Internally, we need to give professional evaluators a power base so that they can tell it like it is – tell it to Canadians – without being censored by managers. Why should managers allow that to happen? What reward system could we conceivable have that would encourage Deputy Ministers and Directors-General to do that? Perhaps someone here has an answer for I do not. But I do have a suggestion for the evaluators. Apply the Department of Justice model for placing lawyers in departments. Place into departments competent (i.e. well trained), independent, professionals whose sense of self-worth is tied to their profession (rewards from the discipline not from the department manager). I think we have such people around but not in large numbers and I suspect that with the right conditions, we can attract many more. These professionals would have dual accountability: on the one hand to a Deputy for the addressing the key issues of the department; on the other hand to the Centre of excellence (or some group like it) for the quality of their work. Two My second suggestion is that we truly recognise and acknowledge the real complexity of government programs. This means that we need theory driven evaluation. It means an enhanced role for logic models. It means bringing out all of the goals (political, social, economic, cultural) and explicitly stating them as program goals. It means the preparation of in-depth program model and the serious consideration of the plausibility of achieving intended results. Too many of our program models are paper exercises to meet requirements and not value added products to inform both management and Canadians. Three My third suggestion is that evaluators be prepared to do what the really courageous auditors do – report what they find. When they discover that the program does not acknowledge the full set of goals of a program, they must say so. If admission to the rewards of a program (a contribution, a contract, a grant, a favoured policy) is determined by a Ministerial override, we have to say so. If the goal complexity of a program is mind boggling but legitimate we have to put our minds to work and rise to the challenge. If we are to practice theory based evaluation – and I firmly believe that we should, then we will have to take the time to understand the program and tell it like it is. But we have to understand before we can tell. And our understanding should be based on the program’s reality not on the manager’s wishes. Couple this with a model that truly believes in the Results For Canadians ethos and therefore asks the core questions and does this in full recognition of the goal complexity of government. View From the Outside CES Annual Conference, Vancouver June 2003 Gerald Halpern Page 5 of 5 And what would it mean if these conditions were met? Let’s take the situation at one department as described by Doug Macdonald. One way of describing that department’s management structure is that it is a coalition of fiefdoms more or less independent of each other. Since that kind of structure cannot be dealt with from within, simply by-pass the details of the structure by having evaluation report dually to the apex of the structure for issue prioritisation and to an outside authority for quality control. Here I find myself in full agreement with Doug’s observation that there is a need for “some form of effective external evaluation capability installed in the Canadian federal government to complement the external audit capacity already existing in the Office of the Auditor General.” [This does sound like Douglas Hartle speaking, does it not?] Consider what Michel has told us. The intent is to inculcate into the management and culture of organisations a credible public performance reporting. I certainly agree. And I have no fault to find with the life cycle approach to managing for results. But I do think that there is a serious, fundamental, perhaps fatal, flaw. The Policy states that “To ensure government has timely, strategically focussed, objective and evidence based information on the performance of its policies, programs and initiatives to produce better “Results for Canadians” Sounds good until you realise that the policy serves government, and government managers, rather than Canadians. The information is filtered through the departments, through the very managers whose performance is being evaluated, and then the performance information is released. Some would say, the sanitised performance information is released. As an evaluator working on contract to departments, I could tell you of some experiences with program managers who fight most vigorously to hide all performance reporting that they do not see as complimentary. I especially remember two recent instances. In one, the evaluation shop said to me: that is a good set of findings, they seem to me to be very plausible and backed by evidence. The program manager later simply blew up, called me incompetent and insisted that I change the report. I asked why, he said it was not a fair assessment. I repeated that the evidence had been collected according to a methodology to which he had signed on to but he just repeated that it can’t be correct. I still do not know what the evaluation unit did with the report; I do know that I have not been offered any other assignments. In the other, the program people complained about one portion of the findings and recommendations (the only portion that could possibly be seen as critical of management). After several meetings to discuss, the DG for the evaluation function finally said to the managers: “Find some other way to report the findings, suggest an alternate wording, and Halpern will consider it. I was prepared to do so since I don’t believe that people have to be hit over the head with a mallet and I had already tried to be kind without hiding the basic facts. The manager never did come back with alternative wording. The part of the current evaluation regime that interests me the most is the call for “credible performance reporting”. In the words of the policy: “objective and evidence based information on the performance of … policies, programs and initiatives”. I would not bring together IA and evaluation. I would have each focus on their respective strengths: audit to avoid error (give assurance that processes and report on results are trustworthy) and evaluation to achieve results (measure the right things, measure them well and compare to expectations.
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