Outcomes and their quality of government projects is a hotly contested area. Many of the government projects suffer from overrun, inconsistent standards of measurement of evaluation, planning paralysis, greater reliance on ad hoc experts committee with little ownership and weak stake holder consultation. Development agencies including lending banks have embarked upon “program for results” approach with an objective of greater ownership and management by borrowing governments. The objective is quite laudable but comes with lots of assumptions and ignores ground level happening.
In a recent meeting of government officials involved in a project was an eye opener. The government agency had received a development loan and pursued infrastructure, policy and procedural changes. Rural roads have been tarred or cemented, self-income generating buildings such as shops have been constructed, primary schools equipped with better toilets and cultural infrastructure built across the nooks of the state. What was appalling was the governance and project management was weak in initial years. Transfer of a technocrat to head the division to manage the outcomes after two years of initiation of program set the ball rolling. Post completion of the project period the bureaucracy and the expert team guiding the program were caught in a peculiar problem. The lending organization was ready to roll out the next phase of the financing and the state machinery had no clue how to present the achievements in completion reports. Program for results is a results-based financing instrument, tied to prior agreed development indictors. These indicators are identified by the borrowing agency and approved by the lender and often the indicators get changed after approval. Another challenge is the borrowing agencies present a high level roll out plan and do not detail the low level indicators clearly.
A deeper discussion with the concerned officers revealed where the challenge was. Monitoring and evaluation is the key to successful implementation of any government projects. These projects, often spanning multi-years requires management of multiple organs of government machinery simultaneously. Program owners, are often senior bureaucrats who also carry additional burden of managing the day-to-day tasks and a program within its life-cycle can witness transfers or retirement of senior administrators. M&E is often relegated to a data management role, often managing post-hoc information. Project approvals, sequencing of tasks and projects and quality of outcomes is not a proactive function. While per functionary log frames or resultant frameworks are created, annual work plans (RAWB) are not detailed, resulting in diffused ownership and outcomes. The lending agency’s officers need to clearly define the outputs, outcomes and impacts of the program. The government officials need to align their tasks and goals with the results.
Dr TR Madan Mohan