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Unpacking M&E with Kanyamuna: Let’s adopt the culture of results to stop development mediocrity

[By Vincent Kanyamuna]

The poor culture of results in Zambia today is eating us alive. This poor culture of providing and demanding for development results—is evident not only among ordinary Zambians, but more so among our own institutions of governance. Government institutions, civil society, NGOs, the private and informal sectors have all turned out to be uncommitted to a transformational, solid and predictable culture of results. It is our socio-economic death trap as a Zambia, clearly headed for no good, unless there is a transformational shift! Therefore, I submit that the current and future generations should shake-up and (re) direct their efforts towards national (re) building through a vivid and pragmatic pursuit of development results.

It is absolutely astounding to listen to what people spend time on debating today in Zambia. Surprisingly, I get some positive development messages from common men and women. When you listen to call-in radio and TV programmes or indeed, chat with Zambians in market places, streets and homes, they frankly discuss the challenges the country is facing. They do not hesitate to point out their portion of struggle to meet essentials in health, education, nutrition, investment, career, access to clean water, food security, improving household incomes and generally in managing their day-to-day lives. This is true with Zambians in the country side. I always interact with those in rural Zambia, not forgetting many relatives who phone to ask if I could be of help to contribute to their education, health and food needs. But to my uttermost disappointment, those in positions of leadership and influence on the other hand continue to speak unpalatables when viewed using developmental spectacles. For instance, instead of focusing on possible solutions to many of the problems faced in the country today (in agriculture, manufacturing, education, health, crafts, infrastructure, mining, entrepreneurship, technology, etc), politicians, parliament, civil society, academia, and now the Church have all settled for very low-level targets developmentally.

Zambia will never graduate from this socio-economic mediocrity and malaise, for instance, if the core focus of UNZA (varsity) dons becomes their delayed salaries; government cherishing wasting time on fixing UNZALARU and other dissenting voices; politicians finding solace in tribal and regional talks; farmers forever receiving agro inputs months late; police enjoying unprofessionalism; perennial national energy crises; graduates not knowing their next life; Churches praying and fasting in abstraction; citizens conspiring to cause harm to others through ritualism, witchcraft, satanism; destroying our environment with impunity; shutting and threatening to close media houses with opposing news and many other negative vices. There are positive development results all these stakeholders need to focus on. In advanced economies, the resources and skill-sets of all citizens and institutions are pooled to fight poverty in order to attain sustainable development. For Zambia, significantly dividing ourselves on trivialities seem to have carried the day—at the expense of defining for ourselves high level results (desired development outputs, outcomes and impacts).

We invest more in shameful mediocrities of all forms—settling for lowest development goals, nepotism, name-calling, blocking one another, killing domestic business opportunities, self-deceptive Christianity, corruption with impunity, cherishing mass poverty and ignorance, etc. It is extremely unfortunate to watch how we destroy ourselves with passion as a country. We behave like we are fighting for political independence, which we did in 1964 and years before. Higher results of development seem to be farfetched in our country. There is total absence of clearly defined results in what we do in infrastructure, education, health, tourism, trade, manufacturing, empowerment programmes or indeed politics. The quantity and quality of what we do leaves much to be desired—all the time. Why? It is because the culture of providing and demanding for (quality and pure) development results is never entrenched in the population, worse off in our leaders at all levels.

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is a management tool used for assessing performance and effectiveness of projects, programmes and policies implemented by governmental, civil society, private sector and development partner organisations. Through organised and systematic conduct of M&E, organisations are able to generate information useful for intervention identification, design, implementation and management as well as undertaking M&E. By the same token, lack of M&E lead to ill-informed planning, budgeting, policy- and decision-making at all levels of organisational management and governance. In such cases, chaos in form of underdevelopments and losses engulf governments, organisations and businesses. Today, Zambia as an economy and as a people are facing this real challenge head-on! But the desire to build and sustain stronger M&E remains weak for both government and non-government institutions.

Using an M&E lens, I have concluded that the increased spirit of unaccountability has greatly brought us to this undesirable reality of abject poverty, hopelessness and helplessness—as a citizenry and more comprehensively as a Zambian economy. Increased reports and claims of mass corruption by those in positions of authority working for both the public and private sector have become more common in our media news. While it has been difficult to empirically prove with exactness qualitatively and quantitatively the extent or scale of such graft, Zambia has increasingly received these claims. But on the formal side of things, the auditor general’s reports, FIC reports, civil society reports, DEC and ACC reports have revealed alarming levels of accountability challenges by institutions and individuals in our country. From all these reports, only a few cases with insignificant values (worth) have been prosecuted and returned stolen national resources. This is my worry—firstly as a Zambian citizen, and secondly as an M&E practitioner.

My conclusion is that lack of a results culture amongst governance institutions and particularly the people of Zambia has reached alarming levels. When I say this, I am aware of selected few Zambians who have taken it upon themselves to demand for development results. These individuals have even risked their lives and that of their families to go extra miles to demand for accountability from public and private resources. But I am looking at a bigger picture, the whole country—national, provincial, district and sub-district levels. There is an increased spirit of unaccountability for development results. This is despite our Zambian constitution attempting to spell out our freedoms to provide and demand for results from every implemented intervention. Consequently, I have not seen any ‘transformational’ supply and demand for development results from all three arms of government (i.e. executive, legislature & judiciary). What is dominant are business-as-usual attempts to merely scratch on these critical aspirations. At this pace, attaining our Vision 2030 is a dream farfetched! Thus, for me, let’s just seriously adopt the culture of results to stop development mediocrity in Zambia.

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. For comments and views, email: vkanyamuna@unza.zm

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