Evidence-based audit

Evidence-based audit

Most individuals in their work are subject to routine appraisals (e.g. annually), checking whether they have met the standards expected by their organisation.

Most organisations are also subject to routine appraisals, e.g. companies are subject to the test of survival against their competitors (unless operating as a monopoly), and schools are inspected by Ofsted, banks by the Bank of England, and care homes and hospitals by the relevant supervisory bodies.

But not all services are subject to inspection, and protection of pedestrians is one of them. Without inspections, organisations can become incompetent or arrogant and other forms of malpractice can florish. This seems to be the situation with the road safety service for pedestrians provided by a number of organisations.

There is no reason why non-official bodies should not carry out appraisals of councils or other bodies with pedestrian safety responsibilities. In a democracy, individual citizens and groups of citizens are (with others) the ultimate employers of all officials and politicians (however powerful), and have the right to expect certain minimum standards of performance. They have the right (and if they have specialist knowledge, perhaps an obligation) to speak up about instances of poor performance, so that the poor performance can be corrected.

It seems likely that an appraisal will result in positive outcomes if
  • some clear standards are set by reference to best practice in related areas
  • the appraisal is based on verifiable evidence of performance
  • the organisation or individual is given a chance to correct errors and challenge judgements before the appraisal is widely disseminated, and the appraisal is updated appropriately and documents any residual areas of disagreement.

Rating scale

How might the performance of the various agencies be judged with regard to pedestrian safety?
Here is a suggested five-point scale:
Excellent: Exceeding current best practice in protecting pedestrians e.g. via innovative schemes
Good: Meeting current best practice in protecting pedestrians
Disappointing: Some minor deficiency or deficiencies that should to be corrected, but not likely to lead to harm to pedestrians
Poor: Significant deficiency or deficiencies likely to lead to harm to pedestrians
Very poor: Major deficiency or deficiencies appreciably worse than 'Poor'