RegWatchEurope workshop on ex post evaluation

On 15-16 March, representatives from RegWatchEurope secretariats met in Stockholm to discuss how the network can contribute to further develop the legislative process with better regulation tools on national, EU and global level.

The meeting included a workshop on ex post evaluation of legislation, for which the OECD Regulatory Policy Committe, the European Commission Secretariat General and the European Parliament Research Service joined online.

Whereas ex ante regulatory impact assessment aims at investigating the effects of alternative options and requirements of a regulatory initiative, ex post evaluation aims at investigating whether ex ante assessments were accurate, objectives have been reached and requirements still fit for purpose.

Many countries, however, do not have arrangements for systematic ex post evaluation. According to findings in the latest OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook, less than 25 percent of OECD countries systematically assess whether regulations achieve their objectives. Among the conclusions in the report are that ex post evaluation is the weakest regulatory management tool, that there are fundamental gaps in both design and implementation and that this is not seen as part of the regulatory cycle.

The EU legislative system builds on extensive guidelines and tools for better regulation by – and for the use of – the European Commission and is ranked comparatively high by the OECD. Even so, the most recent annual reports of the Regulatory Scrutiny Board (RSB) of the Commission identify several weaknesses. They criticize, among other things, the quality of ex post evaluations. They state that the guidelines are used too mechanically, without sufficient reflection on how to adapt the evaluation criteria to the specific context and how the criteria fit together. In the most recent annual report, the RSB states that the quality of evaluations improved compared to previous years but that there are still flaws. The evaluations that received a negative opinion by the RSB often had design problems, i.e. with definitions of purpose and scope, intervention logic, data collection and consultation, and also with quantification of costs and benefits.

The discussions at the workshop centered around the lack of political demand and incentives for ex post evaluation, as well as lack of evaluation expertise among regulators. The importance of systematic evaluation as a learning process, including the collection of data, was underlined. The need for a stronger link between ex ante and ex post assessments, for example including plans and criteria for evaluation already in regulatory impact assessments accompanying legal proposals and evaluations as a basis for impact assessments were stressed, as was the role of scrutiny bodies to ensure high quality.