Evaluations Have Standards Too: An Introduction to Government Evaluation Standards

Posted by IntegrityM | | Government Evaluation


A few years ago, one of our team members served as the masters of ceremonies at a training program for individuals interested in government evaluation. He periodically mentioned the Blue Book in the transitions between the various presenters. Later, during a break, numerous people asked him about this Blue Book. It was a bit surprising. He had assumed that others interested in government evaluation would know of the Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation issued by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. The assumption was wrong.

As a result, he spent some of his remaining time sharing information about evaluation standards, just as we plan to do here. The emphasis of this article will be on the Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation – affectionately known as the Blue Book because, as you might have guessed, it had a blue cover when still printed. We will also touch on other standards currently in use.

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The Inspector General Reform Act of 2008 required the establishment of and adherence to professional standards for the various disciplines functioning within Federal Offices of Inspector General, which includes inspections and evaluations. Although the Quality Standards existed long before this mandate went into effect, the law’s passage placed greater emphasis on the Quality Standards.

Quite possibly the best known similar set of professional standards are the Government Auditing Standards, which the Government Accountability Office issues. These standards are commonly known as the generally accepted government auditing standards, GAGAS, or the Yellow Book, because – well – the standards had a yellow cover when still published. These standards cover performance audits in addition to financial audits and attestation agreements. Quality Standards for Investigations also exist, as do Quality Standards for Federal Offices of Inspector General.

In a side-by-side comparison, the Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation and the Government Auditing Standards share many common elements. For example:

Independence

Blue Book Yellow Book
In all matters relating to inspection work, the inspection organization and each individual inspector should be free both in fact and appearance from personal, external, and organizational impairments to independence. In all matters relating to the audit work, the audit organization and the individual auditor, whether government or public, must be independent.

Professional Judgment

Blue Book Yellow Book
Due professional judgment should be used in planning and performing inspections and in reporting the results. Auditors must use professional judgment in planning and performing audits and in reporting the results.

Competency

Blue Book Yellow Book
The staff assigned to perform inspection work should collectively possess adequate professional competency for the tasks required. The staff assigned to perform the audit must collectively possess adequate professional competence needed to address the audit objectives and perform the work in accordance with GAGAS.

 

The above are just a few examples of the similarities between the two sets of standards. Therefore, the Blue Book places expectations on evaluators that frequently mirror the expectations placed on auditors by the better known Yellow Book.

Still, the two sets of standards deviate in a few select areas. For example, the Blue Book requires follow-up:

Appropriate followup will be performed to ensure that any inspection recommendations made to Department/Agency officials are adequately considered and appropriately addressed

whereas the Yellow Book places the follow-up burden on the entity to which the audit team addresses the recommendations.

Additionally, the Yellow Book places specific training requirements on auditors:

Auditors performing work in accordance with GAGAS, including planning, directing, performing audit procedures, or reporting on an audit conducted in accordance with GAGAS, should maintain their professional competence through continuing professional education. Therefore, each auditor performing work in accordance with GAGAS should complete, every 2 years, at least 24 hours of CPE that directly relates to government auditing, the government environment, or the specific or unique environment in which the audited entity operates.

whereas the Blue Book offers general guidance for evaluators:

[Offices of Inspector General] should strive to provide inspectors with 80 hours of training biennially, but should minimally provide 40 hours of training biennially. Appropriate training may include evaluation/inspection training, such as program analysis; writing; technical training; and career development training, such as in managerial skills.

To this point, we have mostly focused on evaluation standards contained in the Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation. As these are issued by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, these standards typically apply to Federal evaluation offices and/or companies that conduct federally funded evaluations (although other organizations can, and do, use them). State and local Offices of Inspector General often make use of the Principles and Standards for Offices of Inspector General. This publication contains a chapter on Quality Standards for Inspections, Evaluations, and Reviews. In many respects, these standards are similar in phrasing and purpose to those contained in the Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation.

Additionally, the American Evaluation Association has Guiding Principles for Evaluators, which can be found here. The Joint Committee on Standards for Education Evaluation has Program Evaluation Standards Statements that can be found here. We could go on, but you probably get the point. Irrespective of the standards an evaluator uses, the work the evaluator conducts at least meets that of the work performed by related professional disciplines.

Suffice it to say that evaluations have standards too.

Integrity Management Services makes use of the Quality Standards in all evaluations we perform. Additionally, for audit services, we adhere to the Yellow Book for the audits we produce, and review work products for adherence to the Yellow Book. We also offer training on either set of standards. Contact us today and let us meet all your audit, evaluation, or training needs.

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