Evaluation is a vital tool that can help government make informed decisions about whether to launch, continue, expand or stop an intervention. It can help government to learn what works from past interventions and improve the design and implementation of future ones, thereby improving the likelihood of successfully achieving objectives. Evaluation also supports accountability to Parliament, scrutiny bodies and the public by allowing them to understand the difference being made by public spending.

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This guide provides the National Audit Office’s (NAO’s) perspective on what we look for in terms of evaluation in the different stages of the policy cycle. It will help departments understand how we audit evaluation evidence and the overall evaluation system that departments operate. The framework is not a technical guide for evaluation practitioners. It is intended to complement central government guidance on evaluation, such as the Magenta Book.

We have prepared this guide to help accounting officers, other senior leaders and policymakers understand how the NAO assesses the robustness of the evaluation arrangements in departments. It should support departments in strengthening these arrangements to help government secure value for money from its interventions. This guide is also intended to help scrutiny bodies assess departments’ evaluation arrangements. Our main audiences are:

  • senior leaders in departments who are accountable to Parliament for evaluating the implementation and outcomes of interventions; and
  • Members of Parliament, their staff and other stakeholders, such as departmental Audit and Risk Committees, who wish to hold departments to account.