On January 1, 2021 amendments and supplements to the Ordinance on the Scope and the Methodology for Carrying out Impact Assessment, adopted by the Council of Ministers on 16 September 2020, entered into force. Changes to the part of the Ordinance which defines the minimum content of the partial ex-ante impact assessment (Art. 16) are made. They are reflected in substantial amendments made to the form for partial ex-ante impact assessment, presented as Annex № 1 to the Ordinance. In a completely different way than before, the form requires the development of multiple options for solving each separate identified problem. The most probable idea of the authors of the amendment is to discipline the persons carrying out impact assessments by introducing new requirements for maximum concreteness and accuracy in the descriptions of the options and hence, in assessing their impacts. In its position paper, presented during the public consultation on the amendments to the Ordinance, the Center for RIA expressed its reservations about such an approach, but our arguments were not accepted. We continue to believe that, from a methodological point of view, such ‘swarming’ of options might lead to a number of problems, such as confusion of the administrations carrying out assessments, difficulties for the decision-makers, inconsistencies or direct contradictions between proposed different solutions to defined problems, etc.
The new provisions about the full ex-ante impact assessment specify the methods for its carrying out (Art. 24) as the amendments are aimed at promoting the quantitative assessment of costs and benefits.
Significant changes are also made in the legal frame of the ex-post impact assessments (evaluations). The process of determining the scope and the structure of the evaluation is regulated in a much more detailed way. The definitions of the criteria for evaluation (achievement of the objectives, efficiency, effectiveness, sustainability and usefulness) are further clarified. An new obligation for setting of “evaluation questions” has been introduced. (Article 37)
A number of new methods for ex-post impact assessment has been developed, such as the group of pragmatic methods, including the monitoring of performance and the theory of change, as well as the group of case study methods, which existed before, but now the methods of monitoring the process and realistic evaluation, consistency analysis, sequel analysis, and qualitative benchmarking are specified.
In general, the amendments to the Ordinance on the Scope and the Methodology for Carrying out Impact Assessments present a next step in improving the legal and methodological framework of the impact assessment in Bulgaria. At the same time, they inevitably complicate the assessment process, which is most evident in the new form for the partial ex-ante impact assessment and in the new less known methods for the ex-post impact assessment. We sincerely hope that the administration will be able to easily overcome these challenges and the changes would not slow down, but rather give a new impetus to the development of regulatory reform in our country.