The objective of this audit was to assess the effectiveness of the design process and monitoring arrangements for the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) by the relevant entities.
To form a conclusion against this objective, the ANAO adopted three high-level criteria:
- Was sound and timely policy advice provided to government to help inform the development of the Agenda?
- Were appropriate planning and governance arrangements established to support the implementation of the Agenda?
- Is the implementation of the Agenda, and are outcomes to date, being effectively monitored and reported on?
The design process for the National Innovation and Science Agenda allowed the Government to make decisions within short timeframes, and the monitoring arrangements have, in most respects, been effective. The quality of advice to government could have been improved by a better articulation of the evidence base and likely impacts of the proposals, including the likely net benefits of the overall $1.1. billion in proposed expenditure.
The design process for the NISA was timely in supporting a government decision-making process. It was aided by active management by PM&C and the Taskforce, and drew on previous reviews and input from a range of entities. In addition to sector level material, some guidance on the development of policy advice was available within PM&C and Industry, but it was not evident how this material was applied to the work of the Taskforce or to the input provided by entities. The ANAO observed variability in the quality of the advice provided. The better developed proposals included a clear articulation of the evidence base and likely impacts of the proposals and also indicated when the proposal would be reviewed or evaluated. However, much of the advice was general in nature and did not present quantitative or in-depth analysis of problems, expected impacts or how outcomes would be measured.
Suitable planning and governance arrangements for the Agenda were established early in the post-announcement period to support most aspects of implementation. Some elements of the evaluation framework were delayed, including confirmation that entities had identified baseline data and robust evidence collection systems. Current indications are that impact assessment will be affected by variability in the quality of entities' performance measures and data collection systems. Assessing the impact of the package as a whole is also likely to be challenging.
Monitoring and reporting arrangements for the Agenda have, in most respects, been effective. Regular progress reports covering all measures and all responsible entities have been provided to government and other relevant stakeholders. The advice provided drew attention to various implementation risks, including not meeting the publicly announced timeframes. However, in a number of cases, the accompanying 'traffic light' ratings provided a more optimistic view of progress than was supported by the evidence. This included seven measures that did not meet the publicly announced timeframe but were not rated appropriately.