Improving Impact Assessments

The First Minister asked the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) to provide advice on improving the Welsh Government’s Impact Assessment (IA) processes. IAs were highlighted by officials as being in need of improvement as part of the Permanent Secretary’s ‘Reducing Complexity’ Programme. Internal work made progress, but pointed to deeper issues that needed to be addressed.

We worked with Dr Clive Grace, an independent consultant and former Deputy Auditor General for Wales, whose analysis has surfaced the structural, cultural, operational, and contextual factors that interact to create the IA ‘system’.

Dr Grace argues that there is a need for a clear, strategic approach. To this end, the report makes a series of recommendations designed to enable a more integrated approach and to reduce complexity:

  • Cabinet Statement of Purpose: an articulation of what the Government wants in terms of assessing the potential consequences of its legislative, policy, investment and budget proposals;
  • The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 to provide a key integrating framework for all assessments of impact;
  • Steward: Creation of the function of ‘steward’ of the overall IA process;
  • Aligning the legal framework: The Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales to align their approach to IAs, with other legal IA requirements kept under review where appropriate;
  • Culture and judgement: The IA process to emphasise the judgement and responsibility of officials, and a reliance on people rather than procedure;
  • Process and procedure: Terminology to be consolidated around ‘IA’, and a single IA front end template and screening process to be created, data and evidence resources to be identified, and a consolidated and searchable IA archive to be created;
  • Design: IA design principles to be developed and (re) promulgated; and
  • Public bodies and other stakeholders should be party to the changes and able to influence and share Government materials and guidance on IAs.