I read with keen interest Dan Molaodi’s stimulating contribution, which appeared in The Telegraph dated 21 July 2010.
In the said article, the writer raises pertinent issues related to monitoring and evaluation of projects in government.
Central to his argument is lack of robust monitoring and evaluation systems in our government hence ministries have repeatedly failed to monitor projects resulting in huge losses of tax payer’s money.
Molaodi’s observations are spot on.
However, he falls short of pointing out the need for government to adopt and fully embrace a results based monitoring and evaluation approach, the essence of which is to look at outcomes/impacts rather than outputs as emphasized in the traditional monitoring and evaluation.
In the last one or two decades, countries, including some in Southern Africa, have been striving hard to move away from the traditional monitoring and evaluation approach to adopting a more people centered results based monitoring and evaluation approach.
The fundamental difference between the two is that the former, it must be stated, largely deals with focusing on outputs as a measure for success of any policy, programme or project.
In this approach, the concern is more about completion of projects such as building highways, clinics, schools and ensuring that funds allocated to projects are spent. In a nutshell, the approach is more output oriented and its users would therefore, tend to rely more on output indicators to show the extent to which they believe a given project has achieved what it had initially set out to achieve.
Whereas results based monitoring and evaluation (RBME) moves a gear up not only to focus on outputs but also to add another dimension of outcomes/impacts – where emphasis is now more on trying to establish the benefits citizens derive from projects implemented. This forms the pinnacle of accountability where public servants have to, without failure, demonstrate how such projects benefit citizens.
Today’s citizens or taxpayers are no longer amused at being told that projects have been completed: they want to know if money spent on projects can change their lives. Is there really value for money for such projects?
Focus is rightly shifted to how the completed projects have impacted positively to change the lives of citizens. Failure to demonstrate results of such projects is tantamount to admitting failure to have appropriately spent the people’s money!
The latter approach seems more suited to evaluating projects to find out if they will meet the expectations of changing the lives of all citizens in line with Vision 2016- which coincidentally promises prosperity for all by the year 2016.
If you carefully follow developments in South Africa, you will realize that the Jacob Zuma led government has deliberately adopted the results based monitoring and evaluation approach to guide them in the implementation of their policies and programmes.
First, results based monitoring and evaluation policy framework was adopted at cabinet level to guide all the ministries. This shows there was a general buy in by the political leadership in government to adopt this important approach.
By so doing, the leadership committed to supporting activities towards building and sustaining the systems. It therefore goes without saying that they will own up to any success and failures recorded in the process of government delivering services to its people.
For any project that government undertakes, it is imperative that at the outset every ministry/department sets and agrees on output indicators, outcomes and impact indicators to guide on measuring whether taxpayers’ resources to be spent will eventually benefit the citizens. Any project without these should be rejected outright.
Results based monitoring and evaluation systems, I must state, help political leadership in government to appreciate progress at output level without losing direction on where they should be really focusing, that is outcomes and impacts of programmes to change the lives of citizens.
With these systems in place, any sitting President is able to evaluate the performance of policies, programmes and projects. The performance of his/her ministers and permanent secretaries can never escape the radar.
Similarly, the media can have access to such systems and use them to make informed comments without relying on “gut feeling” especially with regard to evaluating the performance of Ministers and Mp’s as it has been the practice over the years.
Most importantly, the system can set the tone for the work of Parliament. For Parliament to be effective, it can use the system as its basis to interrogate policies or laws to see whether the projects the executive embarks upon are of any benefit to ordinary citizens. In other words, it is no longer enough for the executive to account for expenditure alone.
Information on the performance of projects and their impact will be readily available to members of parliament at any point in time. In fact it is mind boggling how the current Parliament and past parliaments have been able to adopt policy after policy and pass law after law without such a system in place to guide them.
As a tool, RBM&E is essential for development. It provides relevant information for decision making. Botswana therefore, needs to fully embrace this approach as a matter of urgency to drive its developmental agenda. The RBM&E culture must permeate all the structures of the public service if government and its partners are to make an impact in the lives of citizens.
Admittedly, the exercise may prove costly but it is a necessary cost. Substantial resources, both financial and human capital, are required to build and sustain a robust RBM&E system.
*Ramothwa works for Vision 2016 Council. He writes in his personal capacity