Unpacking M&E: UPND manifesto positive hope but lacks measurement framework

It is worthy to congratulate the United Party for National Development (UPND) for the launch of their 2021-2026 manifesto. It is not easy to put together a document that seeks to clarify how the party wants to transform the current misfortunes of our country into desired fortunes.

The document is quite elaborate and inspirational. However, the biggest problem I have identified in the summary copy that has been shared is the non-existence and disregard for a measurement framework. For the UPND to give us a carefully thought out list of what they promise the people of Zambia is one thing, BUT to demonstrate upfront how they will deliver their ‘blissful’ campaign promises in year 1, year 2, year 3, year 4 and year 5 is of utmost importance in evidence-based management theories and practice. Therefore, inasmuch as the UPND manifesto gives a fresh sigh of relief for a better Zambia (should they win the 12 August polls), not having in place a robust accompanying results-based measurement framework will render them mere lip-service providers. They will not be different from the Patriotic Front (PF) who in 2011 told Zambians about ‘more money in their pockets’ but up until today the promise has remained a bitter deception.

The UPND manifesto has identified 12 key areas of priority the party seeks to address, namely: 1. Create quality jobs particularly for the youth and women; 2. Eradicate poverty and inequality; 3. Provide universal access to high quality healthcare; 4. Attain macroeconomic stability and prioritise areas of national development; 5. Invest in people through quality education and empowerment; 6. Transform and diversify the economy to meet the aspiration of people; 7. Reduce socio-economic disparities among regions to create a foundation for sustainable development by harnessing resources; and 8. to Eradicate Zesco blackouts through better management of existing facilities, increased investment and diversifying of energy portfolio. Further, the party seeks to 9. Eradicate government waste, corruption and strengthen governance; 10. Eradicate tribal divisions by unifying all Zambians and embracing country diversity; 11. Establish a durable constitutional order that will catalyse political, economic and social development of the country; and 12. Establish good governance norms that promote transparency, consultation and dialogue between the governors and the governed. In both results based management (RBM) as well as monitoring and evaluation (M&E) approaches, these 12 key areas in the UPND manifesto could be taken as desired ‘impacts’ every Zambian would want to enjoy sustainably.

In addition, the manifesto outlines critical socio-economic sectors of priority-economic management; private sector development; micro, small and medium enterprises; job creation; decentralisation; land policy and planning; separation of power; law, justice and security; climate change; and tackling corruption. Others are agriculture and agro-processing; energy; mining; tourism; transport and logistics; manufacturing; education; health and nutrition; youth, women and persons with disabilities; as well as water and sanitation. The UPND further promises to undertake major reforms in the following: public order; electoral reforms; governance; public service; debt and expenditure management; procurement; pension reforms; tax reforms, media, trade policy; and foreign policy.

The party has to be commended for identifying among others these crucial aspects of our development latitude. In any case, the issues UPND covered in their manifesto resonate befittingly with the dreams, hopes and fights of our forefathers and mothers at independence in 1964.

Without watering down the good effort by the UPND, I wish to point out that their manifesto is seriously destined to fail or completely mislead Zambians on what the party intend to achieve for the country. Why did the UPND not develop a clear monitoring and evaluation (M&E) measurement framework embedded within the manifesto? Zambians today are asking the PF; what have you achieved in 10 years? PF officials are lamentably failing to clearly state where they found the country in 2011 against what they have improved to-date. Why is the PF failing to interpret its own manifesto? I remember how Mr Wynter Kabimba as secretary general of the PF used to command civil servants to ensure each government office had on their shelves a PF manifesto. Today, you can laugh at what that command achieved over the years – nothing meaningful! For me, I cannot even laugh because the PF and Mr Kabimba exhibited a great knowledge gap regarding the link between political party manifesto and national socio-economic growth and development.

Speaking from an RBM and M&E viewpoints, the manifestos of the PF in 2011 and 2016 never had any measurement frameworks, M&E frameworks that could be used to match party aspirations with national planning frameworks. Thus, when the PF promises could not be synchronised with the national planning frameworks because their manifesto was an inconsequential generic promissory document, Mr Kabimba and his PF in 2011 forced the civil service to keep the PF manifesto in all government offices. This is also a great lesson not only to the PF, but to all political parties that seek election in the 12 August polls not to compromise on the need to develop clear measurement frameworks to actualise their manifestos. Today, the PF cannot even tell if they have improved people’s lives or made things worse off-it is a paradox.

For the UPND manifesto, the MISSING VITAL is the absence of a credible, realistic and time-bound M&E measurement framework to demonstrate to the Zambian people what a Hakainde Hichilema (HH)-led government would deliver in the first, second, third, fourth and fifth years. It is never enough to only give us a broader and blank cheque-like campaign promise of improving our lives without being specific on when education, health, agriculture, and clean water promises will be delivered to the people. Without an M&E framework, the UPND manifesto should be treated like that of the failed PF manifesto. If the UPND will not have a clear M&E framework and win the elections on 12 August, they will continue to implement the PF manifesto for most of their tenure of office, just like PF did by implementing the MMD agenda. During the manifesto launch, HH spoke with a vicious voice, a voice of what I call a ‘visionary leader’s voice’. But his failure to demonstrate that his party’s manifesto possessed a robust M&E measurement framework, a yardstick which Zambians needed to use to assess and measure his performance remains the biggest worry. He may speak stronger, but like Mr Sata, HH may fail to supervise a predictable and steady growth and development agenda for the country in the absence of a collective broad based M&E framework. Before assuming power, HH and his UPND must demonstrate clarity of a better Zambia not only in their minds and words, but show us the measurement framework. Such a framework should be the reference point in the campaign messages for all candidates in the Party – president, MPs, councilors, etc.

Instead of political parties doing the Zambian people a disservice, I urge the UPND and all other political parties, including the PF not to make ‘loud’ empty campaign promises, especially in the forthcoming election. As I have advocated before, we need political parties with M&E measurement frameworks enshrined in party Mmnifestos and constitutions. A sound manifesto should show the key sectors of priority, key performance indicators (KPIs) per sector, output and outcome level indicators per sector, baseline statuses per indicator, and five-year-term targets per indicator. In addition, give us yearly targets which become annual benchmarks for assessing cumulative performance. At that point, how I wish every Zambian would not accept any party without an M&E measurement framework henceforward. The UPND should make their manifesto smarter not only for themselves, but to make their campaign message measurable and accountable to the masses. Aluta continua for Zambian political parties to develop clear measurement frameworks.

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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