GOOD governance is what development stakeholders and citizens desire to see and be part of. Even governments and their political and technical participants subscribe to the notion that good governance practices are key to enhancing socio-economic growth and development. While there are many factors contributing to the good governance agenda of a country, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) forms one of the most fundamental requirements for pursuing and achieving transformational development. Developed countries and their counterparts in the emerging economies have invested immensely in M&E systems and processes. For many African countries, the efforts to implement functional M&E systems are largely in their embryonic stage. My views today are somewhat generally applicable to developing countries but I take a strong emphasis that Zambia will do well to work at building and strengthening the systems for M&E. This is because good governance can benefit directly from functional M&E systems. In fact, my contention is that in the absence of stronger M&E systems, good governance remains a farfetched endeavour. M&E systems help generate useful data and information that feed into development processes—policy making, decision making, planning, budgeting and learning.
Currently, there are increased linkages between M&E systems and good governance, which come from providing governments and other stakeholders with the desired information on the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness and quality of government policies, projects and programmes. Information from M&E systems contribute to the enhancement of the public sector’s accountability, feedback and learning functions. Here, good governance refers broadly to aspects such as accountability, transparency, combating corruption, inclusiveness and participation, and legal as well as judicial reforms. This increase in demand for M&E information can be attributed to the increasing demand for good governance from providers and consumers of goods and services.
For the past two decades, internal and external development stakeholders have pushed their governments for results, demanding outcomes and impact of implemented policies, programmes and projects. These stakeholders are asking for evidence-based feedback on the status of current and ongoing development interventions. For example, since the mid-2000s, M&E has become more popular among international development organisations and the focus has since been on results and impact of development assistance (in the case of Zambia, foreign & domestic debt). An M&E system provides evidence-based information that is important in informing development policy processes such as planning, targeting, prioritisation, budgeting and expenditures. Similarly, M&E systems are important and relevant not only to individual development agencies, but to many institutions and at different levels of development interventions and processes, regardless of their size and location.
As a result, countries around the world seem to have consensus on the urgent need for functional whole-of-government M&E systems as useful tools for promoting good governance and poverty reduction. To that extent, observations have shown that many countries are building and implementing M&E in pursuit of satisfying growing needs from their citizens and other interested stakeholders. Although these efforts are justifiably being implemented at various levels of development owing to divergent in-country dynamics, that something was being done signified how M&E has been accepted globally as an essential ingredient towards improved public sector management, poverty reduction and overall sustained good governance practices. The benefits associated with M&E come from the use of a range of tools that are supposed to be applied appropriately, depending on the nature of an intervention. M&E uses ongoing or continuing performance monitoring, real-time evaluations supporting continuous learning at all levels of development, performance and financial audits and ex-post evaluations. Furthermore, one of the collectively agreed positions in the 2000 report titled ‘Can Africa claim the 21st century?’ was that improved governance among African countries was one of the most basic requirements for fast-tracking the African development results-based agenda. The report argued in support of improved management, better distribution of economic resources, stronger institutions and programmes that make it possible to compel governments accountable to their citizens.
My view remains that good governance is not an abstract notion; it is a way of conducting affairs that are in the public interest and should be democratically enriching. Good governance relates to a way of doing things or conducting activities that are proper, transparent and accountable. Furthermore, researchers at the World Bank distinguished six dimensions of good governance, namely voice and accountability, government effectiveness, lack of regulatory burden, rule of law, independence of the judiciary, and control of corruption. Thus, for any country and government to conduct itself well in all these parameters, functional M&E arrangements are a necessity. However, this can most likely only come through building and sustaining robust M&E systems whose information is fully utilised by all possible users.
From the above viewpoints, M&E plays a significant role in the transformation process of public sector management systems by inherently advancing the ideals of good governance. Indeed, M&E strengthens concepts of transparency, accountability and improvement at strategic and operational levels and that these resonate well with the tenets of good governance. Further, M&E has been known to support performance management at various levels, thereby contributing to a results-focused approach by providing methodological options in support of the performance management process itself.
It is my plea that, the Zambian government and its cooperating partners will not procrastinate or second guess when it comes to allocating resources towards building a stronger whole-of-government M&E system. With a constrained national treasury, Zambia has no choice but to use credible information (evidence) from M&E products (if they exist). Doing so will help us avoid spending money on less prioritised sectors and programmes. In any case, Zambians are interested in a better Zambia for all, a Zambia where every child will have a dream which is attainable—and not remain a mere dream. With good M&E systems, we can achieve good governance in Africa at large and Zambia in particular. Zambia for development results should be our slogan and commitment!
Dr. Vincent Kanyamuna holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Monitoring and Evaluation and is lecturer and researcher at the University of Zambia, Department of Development Studies.
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