The use of efficiency assessment tools: solutions to barriers

Workpackage 3 of the European research project ROSEBUD
Hakkert, Shalom; Wesemann (eds.), Paul
In road safety, as in most other fields, efficiency is an important criterion in political and professional decision making. Tools are available to help choose the policy which gives the highest return on investments. ROSEBUD (Road Safety and Environmental Benefit-Cost and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis for Use in Decision-Making) is a thematic network funded by the European Commission. It is meant to support users at all levels of government in judging the efficiency of road safety measures by making use of Efficiency Assessment Tools (EATs) like Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) and Cost Effectiveness Analysis (CEA). A CBA is meant to answer the integral efficiency question and investigates the social output of a measure or a policy. The monetized value of all effects is compared with the implementation costs of the measure. The CEA is used for the partial efficiency question and estimates the numbers of the casualties saved per invested euro. Policies and decisions are often based on other grounds than effectiveness and efficiency. Workpackage 2 of ROSEBUD identified three groups of barriers that were reason for not using CBAs and CEAs: fundamental barriers, institutional barriers, and technical barriers. A total of 28 individual barriers were found and fitted into these three groups of barriers. A large number of barriers are beyond the scope of ROSEBUD. They either are of a philosophical nature, or they are central elements in a certain system of political decision making. This study, Workpackage 3, looked at the remaining barriers and tried to find practical solutions to overcome them, and to improve the use of EATs. These barriers are: - a lack of generally accepted evaluation techniques; - inadequate treatment of uncertainties; - disputable values of parameters in the analysis (e.g. discount rates); - inadequate methods to deal with distributional effects; - lack of knowledge of relevant impacts; - absence of impartial, institutionalized, quality checks on CBAs; - wrong timing of CBA-information in the decision making process; - costs of CBA; - CBA-information does not come from a reliable source (e.g. monopoly position of CBA conductors); - wrong form of the CBA information (text or figures, tables, diagrams, understandable language, way of offering the information, transparency and accessibility of conclusions); - prejudices among governors and civil servants because of little knowledge about CBAs. This study arrived at a number of solutions which can lead to an increased use of EATs for making road safety policies and decisions. Best practice guidelines Public authorities on the national and EU level can improve the quality and uniformity (comparability) of efficiency assessment studies by establishing 'best practice' guidelines for the methods and techniques. The guidelines can provide some examples of best practice solutions. Examples are: a sensitive type of analysis with scenarios (optimistic, realistic, pessimistic) to handle uncertainties and careful descriptions of the distribution of costs and/or benefits among the various groups that are affected by a measure. They are informal guidelines with no obligation. Creating and maintaining a database To stimulate the application of more uniform and reliable values of safety effects in the EU, it would be useful to establish a database with typical values of the effects, based on international experience. The database should give general values of safety effects on initial steps of CBA/CEA and could assist in comparisons of local effects observed. The database should be accessible to a European network of experts. System of quality control The quality of efficiency assessments can be improved by the introduction of impartial quality control. This can be achieved by the introduction of a board for impartial quality control. Another instrument to improve the quality of CBAs might be the stimulation of a competitive market for institutes executing CBAs, and certifying institutes that are highly specialized in these types of analyses. A system of impartial quality control should be developed as a follow-up to the ROSEBUD project. Support and structure cooperation It is necessary to support and structure the process of close cooperation between decision makers and analysts by introducing an informal professional code for analysts. Decision makers must be trained and educated. 'Tips and tricks' will be provided for understandable reporting on the results of CBAs and CEAs . Legal embedding It is still felt to be too early to generally recommend a legally binding CBA for road safety measures. However, the use of CBA in decision making can be stimulated by legal embedding of this assessment tool in decision making processes where large road investments are involved. In those countries where such an obligation does already exist for large investments in infrastructural projects, it should be included as part of the procedure. The EC could introduce a similar obligation at the EU level.
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Gepubliceerd door
SWOV, Leidschendam


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