Program Evaluation and supporting assessments

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The Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) recognizes that comprehensive examination of programs is undertaken via a formal evaluation. At times, departments and agencies may require information to answer specific questions and may carry out internal reviews, internal assessments, or program-led assessments. These various assessment approaches do not necessarily meet TBS’ expectations of what is required in a formal evaluation.

Evaluations and supporting assessments

Evaluation is the systematic and neutral collection and analysis of evidence to determine a program’s performance. This requires in-depth examination of the rationale of the program, its program design and delivery. Such an approach involves judging merit, worth or value. Departments and agencies conduct evaluations in order to  assess the degree to which and how a policy, program or initiative or its related service delivery works, with the aim of informing decision making, improvement, innovation, and accountability.  

Program areas in organizations may conduct internal reviews, internal assessments, or program-led assessments of their programs through, for example, research or data analysis. These assessments are distinct from formal evaluations which meet a number of key requirements, as specified by the Policy on Results and the Directive on Results.

To be considered a formal evaluation, assessments usually need to be:

  • Directed by the Head of Evaluation
  • Comprehensive in scope
  • Planned and considered for approval via the Performance Measurement and Evaluation Committee
  • Include multiple lines of evidence
  • Externally peer reviewed
  • Include information required to understand and reasonably sustain findings and conclusions
  • Available on departmental websites in the form of evaluation summaries and full evaluation reports
  • Identified in the Departmental Evaluation Plan
  • Carried out by an evaluation or an evaluation team that possesses the knowledge and competencies required. Competencies for Heads of Evaluation and evaluation specialists are available on the Results Portal
  • Clear in identifying roles and responsibilities that are articulated in writing at the outset of the evaluation
  • When contracted by the Head of Evaluation to external evaluators, that they comply with the Mandatory Procedures for Evaluation and the Standard on Evaluation under the Directive on Results, and are free from any actual or perceived conflict of interest
  • Guided, where relevant, by an advisory or steering committee chaired by the Head of Evaluation or a delegate

When TBS officials refer to an ‘evaluation,’ for example as part of evidence in relation to a Treasury Board submission, they are referring to a formal evaluation that has the characteristics described above. In order to maintain clarity on the difference between recognized formal evaluations and supporting assessments, it is best to avoid using the term ‘evaluation’ when referring to the latter.


Further guidance on evaluation is also available on the Results Portal

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