Ministries rarely propose terminating existing policy
Little improvement in insight into impact of government policy
Ministries invest a lot of energy in initiatives to increase insight into the goals of government policy. This is one outcome of Operation Insight into Quality, carried out by the third Rutte government in accordance with the coalition agreement, but the information justifying policy and policy proposals is often insufficient. Furthermore, ministries virtually never ask whether existing government policy is appropriate or whether it would be better to terminate it.
The Netherlands Court of Audit audited more than half of all ministerial initiatives to increase insight into policy results and to learn from them. The audit report was published on 21 April 2021. One of its conclusions is that learning from evaluations is more deeply embedded at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy than at many other ministries. But virtually none of the ministries questioned the desirability of policy or consistently addressed the lessons learned from evaluations.
More than a third of bills contain sufficient information
Of all the 26 bills ministers sent to the House of Representatives from June to November 2020, nearly two-thirds contained insufficient information to justify the policy, according to the Court of Audit.
Policy information is a stubborn problem
In 2019 the Minister of Finance in his role as policy coordinator found that new policy initiatives rarely estimated what effect a policy would have, and that the situation had to be improved because the Government Accounts Act as amended in 2018 requires such estimates to be made in advance. The need for insight into policy efficiency and effectiveness should be self-evident, according to the Court of Audit. It reduces the risk of public money being wasted and of socially undesirable outcomes and enables public accountability. It must therefore be asked whether it would be better to terminate certain policies. The Court concludes in its report that the new government should devote more time and attention to the information provided to justify government policy.
The quality of information justifying policy is often insufficient
Response of the Minister of Finance
In his written response to the audit, the Minister of Finance did not explicitly refer to our recommendations.