India launches Independent Evaluation Office

Move to have more informed policies and better development outcomes

New Delhi 26 February 2014: Independent evaluations that go beyond assessing deliverables and focus on outcomes are the way forward in making programmes more effective and accountable. They also provide evidence based inputs for better policy making and to improve development outcomes. However, there is a need to change the culture of thinking on evaluation, give more flexibility at local levels and improve the evidence on which development programmes are based.

These were among the key recommendations of the one day launch organized by the recently set up Independent Evaluation Office on the theme 'Independent Evaluation for Informed Policy Making and Better Outcomes' in New Delhi today.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia in his keynote address while launching the IEO said, "Too much of the discussion on government programmes is centered on volume of expenditure incurred and not enough on whether it is delivering results. The IEO would provide a systematic feedback on these not just to the planning Commission or the ministries concerned but to the broader community of stakeholders interestedin improving the effectiveness of development programmes."

The IEO Director General, Ajay Chhibber pointed out that evaluations in areas such as the public distribution system and health issues such as maternal and neonatal mortality ratio are among the first to be undertaken by his team. Others on MGNREGA and JNNURM will follow.

Mr. Chhibber added," India can be a great economic power but must fix its Achilles Heel - which is better delivery of quality public services. In this regard, we can learn from within the country but we must also benchmark ourselves internationally."

Speaking at the launch Gonzalo Hernandez Licona, the head of CONEVAL, Mexico's independent evaluation authority that was mandated by Congress to measure poverty and evaluate social programmes and policies, said, "Our performance is measured by the impact of our evaluations on policy making and by sharing evaluation findings widely helps builds up public pressure to bring about change. "

Health and nutritional security are critical priority areas of concern for India. Nearly half of the country's under-five children are malnourished and it's maternal mortality ratio was 212 per 100,000 live births in 2012 it remains over 100 short of the MDG target of 103 that the government promised to achieve by 2015.

With a strong focus on achieving food and nutritional security ensuring a robust delivery system is of paramount importance. Currently the government spends Rs. 3.65 to deliver Rs. 1 of food while 57% of the Independent Evaluation Office in Delhi subsidized grains do not reach the target group with close to 36 % siphoned off the supply chain.

While there has been a significant decline in overall MMR the national average masks wide regional disparities. MMR is over 300 per 100,000 live births in states like UP/Uttrakhand, Rajasthan and Assam. Over 2 million children die each year before they reach 28 days. However some states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have succeeded in bringing MMR down to around levels of 100 per 100,000 live births. Evaluations in these sectors will provide pointers to why some states do better than others, how national programmes can be made more flexible to be better adapted to suit regional requirements and the policies to make this happen.

In 2013-14, India had budgeted around Rs 200,000 crores ( roughly $ 30 billion) for its flag-ship programs - a significant amount intended to improve a range of basic services such as education, health, sanitation, child support, maternal health, rural roads, access to elec-tricity, housing and guaranteed employment among others. But the results have been mixed at best and quite varied across states and districts. There is an urgency to get this spending more outcome oriented and the IEO's role is to assess ongoing programmes and policies towards this end.

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