This evaluation covers WFD’s work on post-legislative scrutiny (PLS) between 2017-22, in the period of WFD’s 2017-22 Strategic Framework. It finds that WFD’s work in PLS is relevant, impactful, and tailored to meet the emerging needs of parliaments as they begin to introduce PLS. WFD has also expanded the research base and strengthened global networks on PLS, creating a significant impact within the parliamentary strengthening community more broadly.
Parliaments make and change laws. They also have a role in checking the implementation of laws and evaluating whether they achieve their intended outcomes. Implementation is complex and does not happen automatically. What is more, parliaments and elected representatives often have little information on what happens after a law is adopted. So, parliaments need mechanisms to effectively monitor the implementation of legislation.
Post-legislative scrutiny (PLS) is the practice of monitoring the implementation and evaluating the impact of laws. The aim is to ensure that laws benefit citizens in the way originally intended by lawmakers. PLS is often carried out by parliamentary committees and is a prominent feature of UK parliamentary democracy. As PLS is recognized as an integral part of the legislative cycle, it is emerging as a new dimension within the legislative and oversight role of parliament.
Since 2017, WFD’s work on PLS has grown to form a core part of the organisation’s democracy delivery approach, integrating into WFD’s programmes and policy support functions. This evaluation assesses the impact of six years of work.
The primary purpose of this evaluation is to better understand how WFD is contributing to its intended outcomes in PLS programming, including identifying what has worked well and what has not worked well, since 2017.
Overview of findings
WFD has built a valued reputation and evidence base in PLS and is successfully using this to advocate internationally for the introduction of PLS pilot inquiries across a range of developing parliaments. WFD has also used this influence to advise on the strategic direction taken by parliaments as they embark on their journeys to undertake their initial PLS pilot inquiries.
Whilst the individual PLS pilot inquiries have enjoyed varied success in achieving either legislative or policy responses from governments, it’s clear that WFD has played an important role in establishing PLS as a viable oversight tool in the contexts examined. This evaluation finds strong evidence that WFD has contributed to enhancing the technical capacity of parliamentarians and parliamentary staff. In light of this, parliaments have warmly embraced PLS but only among a select number of PLS champions within their respective institutional contexts. This has contributed to the introduction of PLS pilot inquiries and the insertion of PLS review clauses in legislation across a range of parliaments (including in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Nepal, North Macedonia and Ukraine, among other nations). In particular, PLS pilot inquiries have been introduced by parliaments looking for ways to exercise oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summary of main findings
- Finding 1: WFD is seen as a thought leader in PLS and has raised the profile of PLS as a parliamentary practice internationally. WFD is widely perceived as an authoritative voice on democracy strengthening that demonstrates thought leadership globally in PLS. WFD has made important contributions to introducing PLS to developing parliaments and increasing demand for piloting PLS inquiries in the contexts it has operated.
- Finding 2: WFD’s work on PLS is contributing to enhancing the technical knowledge and practice of parliaments to undertake PLS. WFD’s investments in developing parliaments’ technical capacity to undertake PLS inquiries have resulted in clear improvements in knowledge among parliamentary stakeholders who have attended WFD’s training. WFD’s activities have played an important role in redefining parliamentary stakeholders’ views on how parliament can exercise oversight and how it could be applied in their roles.
- Finding 3: PLS pilot inquiries are viewed positively as an effective first step to embed institutional memory, legally consolidate PLS and foster political dialogue. WFD has played a valued role in guiding developing parliaments to introduce PLS pilot inquiries – a significant result. These have contributed to embedding institutional memory for future PLS pilot inquiries and promoting discussion on PLS among parliamentary stakeholders.
- Finding 4: WFD’s research has helped to establish typologies of PLS and contributed to defining global standards in parliamentary oversight. WFD has made significant contributions to the conceptual elaboration of PLS, which has supported the development of PLS as a field of study and practice.
- Finding 5: Peer-to-peer learning and study trips are valued at the country, regional and international levels and conducive to building institutional support for PLS. Study visits both to and from the UK and elsewhere are considered to offer a unique opportunity for comparative study and learning that have proved helpful to introduce PLS pilot inquiries and reinforce PLS champions’ support for and commitment to PLS.
- Finding 6: PLS is perceived to be a new, relevant, pragmatic, and highly desirable tool to empower parliaments to introduce mechanisms and use evidence to drive better scrutiny of legislation. PLS is viewed favourably in part because of the new role it affords parliaments, from which it is possible to produce tangible results that enable parliamentary stakeholders to influence the legislative agenda on their own terms.
- Finding 7: Without greater output level monitoring, WFD may miss opportunities to understand how it can best support stakeholders to achieve change and sustain impact. As WFD is not always monitoring the aggregate impact of its PLS activities, it may be missing opportunities to understand key enabling and limiting factors, sustain impact, and guide participants to achieve further change in their institutions.
- Finding 8: WFD is not deriving maximum value from its investments in internal and external e-courses. WFD has developed several e-courses on PLS, including one in three Western Balkan languages. However, each of these remains underpromoted and underutilised.
- Finding 9: Parliaments are subject to continuous change and evolving power dynamics that can reduce parliaments’ oversight capacity and obstruct oversight practices. Political dynamics in parliaments, especially inter-party competition and factionalism were frequently cited as hindering PLS pilot inquiries. Whilst WFD was recognised as adapting well to these challenges, the evaluation also uncovered a sense that WFD could play a more intentional role in breaking down political silos and fostering greater cross-party unanimity.
- Finding 10: WFD adapted its programming to support parliaments with limited established practice of exercising oversight in emergency contexts to introduce and guide scrutiny of emergency and pandemic legislation. In response to the change in context resulting from COVID-19, WFD’s programmes adapted to continue supporting parliaments to improve oversight. WFD achieved perhaps its greatest success of the 2017-22 period by supporting parliamentary committees to exercise scrutiny of emergency legislation.
- Finding 11: WFD’s programme staff have built fruitful relationships with PLS champions, which have uniquely positioned WFD to respond to national priorities despite limited programme budgets not aligning with champions’ ambitions for PLS. WFD’s approach has yielded a close and conversational relationship with influential parliamentary stakeholders, where WFD’s technical guidance and support are regularly sought to help respond to windows of opportunity.
- Finding 12: WFD’s thematic research, particularly on gender-sensitive PLS, is beginning to drive a greater focus on inclusivity in legislative scrutiny. Whilst research on gender-sensitive parliaments has existed for decades, WFD has re-energised the application of this discussion and applied this to PLS specifically, helping to illustrate the role that PLS can play in advancing gender-, human rights- and environment-responsive legislation.
- Finding 13: WFD has facilitated the introduction of PLS pilot inquiries on gender and human rights legislation, but there may be more work to do to ensure parliaments’ scrutiny work is fully gender-, human rights- and environment-responsive. WFD has played a pivotal role in supporting parliaments to scrutinise gender and human rights legislation, especially in the Western Balkans. However, there is more work to do to fully integrate WFD’s thematic research on PLS (e.g., gender) with WFD’s programme work.
- Finding 14: WFD’s work on PLS has provided a framework to help CSOs and NGOs report on issues, share evidence, and advocate for policies and change. By supporting parliaments to introduce consultative PLS pilot inquiries, WFD has provided a (mostly) previously absent framework that has enabled civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to participate in the legislative cycle.
- Finding 15: WFD’s combined GIA and programme funding has enabled it to advocate consistently for PLS, even as programme funding has ebbed and flowed, which has contributed to establishing PLS ecosystems comprising different organisations, parliaments and professionals. Through leveraging its role as an influential global convener and using its GIA funding strategically to complement third-party programme-funded activities, WFD has led the organisation of national, regional and international PLS conferences and contributed to building interdisciplinary networks of PLS experts, academics, legal professionals, CSOs, MPs and parliamentary staff.
WFD has contributed to shaping the development agendas of several developing parliaments, whilst making excellent use of its grant-in-aid (GIA) funding and convening capabilities to establish a global network of PLS practitioners and experts. During the COVID-19 pandemic, WFD’s ability to leverage institutional relationships and adopt an advisory role to many parliamentary stakeholders enabled greater scrutiny of emergency legislation, resulting in enhanced pandemic responses.
The promising results documented in the evaluation report indicate that WFD and its partner parliaments have demonstrated the value of PLS as a concept and oversight tool. WFD’s next steps should focus on reinforcing and scaling results during its current 2022-25 strategy.