National Evaluation Policy: Towards an Accountable | Sunday Observer

National Evaluation Policy: Towards an Accountable

9 September, 2018

  By Sriyal Nilanka and Randika Lawson De Mel on behalf of the Sri Lanka Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation (SLPFE)

Eighteen years in the making, finally the National Evaluation Policy will be launched on the 17th September 2018 at EvalColombo 2018 by the Hon. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Sri Lanka will be the first South Asian country to have a National Evaluation Policy in its’ policy landscape, paving the way for good governance, transparency, and accountability.

In conversation with Mr Charitha Ratwatte, the Senior Advisor to the Hon. Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and former Secretary of the Treasury, we understand that the need for a robust system of evaluation has been an ongoing conversation within the Government over the years.

Even as far back as 1979, when Mr Ratwatte was the Director General of Youth Services, he too had urged for systems of evaluation and a systematic policy for measuring the success of projects implemented at the time. However, given the political landscape and various bureaucratic obstacles, this has been a laborious process. Amidst the challenges, many have tirelessly worked to make the current National Evaluation Policy a success. Finally, after eighteen years the National Evaluation Policy was approved by the Cabinet members on 26 June 2018.

Agreeing with the experts in the field, Mr Ratwatte believes that a bureaucratic nervousness about accountability and the lack of political will stood in the way of the National Evaluation Policy. After its launch, he firmly believes that a culture of evaluation needs to be fostered for the National Evaluation Policy to take root in the country.

The understanding of evaluation must not be limited to the development sector, says Mr Ratwatte, assessment of success and failure, as well as lessons learnt should also apply to the manufacturing industry, the service sector and everyday life. Only then will we genuinely hold one another accountable for the expected outputs and deliverables of an intervention. The National Evaluation Policy is not about building a system to point fingers of blame at managers, administrators, parliamentarians or our leaders.

On the contrary, it is a system for learning the best practices through a robust scientific understanding, seeking out the best course of action on a project. Robert McNamara CEO of the Ford Motor Company, Secretary Defence of the USA and President of the World Bank, famously said: - “If it cannot be counted, then it does not exist”. Basically, one must be able to count, and number created outputs of any intervention and then look at the quality of deliverability.

Evaluation is the systematic assessment, where social research mixed-methodologies are used to examine the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact, and sustainability of a project. This mixed-methods approach in evaluation helps to produce comprehensive and credible results of a project. Generally, evaluations are conducted before the start of a project (Baseline), middle of a project (Mid-term), and at the end of a project.

In order to create a culture of evaluation and the country’s commitments for National Evaluation Policy systems, Sri Lanka will be hosting EvalColombo 2018, the first-ever global event for parliamentarians on evaluation from 17th to the 19th of September 2018. One of the key objectives of the event is to “promote a dialogue between parliamentarians, government, evaluation practitioners, and civil society to encourage their joint use of evaluations for decision making.”

Over 100 Parliamentarians from across the globe are expected at EvalColombo 2018 along with evaluation professionals and other key stakeholders. EvalColombo 2018 is organised by The Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation (GPFE) in partnership with Sri Lanka Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation (SLPFE), EvalPartners, Prime Minister’s Office of Sri Lanka, Parliament of Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lanka Evaluation Association (SLEvA). EvalColombo 2018 will also provide media personnel with the tools and training to have better conversations about upcoming and ongoing projects. We hope that this practice would take momentum, encouraging every citizen to be actively involved in the progress of the country and the decisions its elected leaders make.