Prime minister for independent evaluation of state programmes

September 9th, 2008 - 6:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday pitched for an independent evaluation mechanism for his government’s flagship programmes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme. “We need independent evaluation of many of these programmes based on data that is generated both by the government and by others,” the prime minister said at a function here.

“Ideally the government should be at arm’s length from the process of independent evaluation,” he added.

“We should make full use of common talent pool which exists in our universities, management or research institutions and also in our non governmental organisations,” Singh said at the conference of state and union territories on managing statistics.

He also instructed the Planning Commission, the finance ministry, and the Department of Statistics to “collectively work out details for setting up such an institutional mechanism”.

Since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government came to power in April 2004, India has seen the launch of several multi-billion-rupee programmes such as the NREG, which looks at creating employment, and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) that aims at upgrading health infrastructure in rural areas.

The most important of these, NREGS, launched in February 2006 in 200 districts, was rolled to remaining districts in the current fiscal with Rs.160 billion as budgetary allocation.

The scheme, which has so far generated employment for nearly 27 million poor households, has drawn both bouquets and brickbats for alleged lapses in implementation like discrepancy in wages between states.

“At present, the evaluation function is dispersed over several wings of our government. The ministries in charge of the programme do some evaluation but this cannot be called independent,” the prime minister said.

“The programme evaluation organisation of the Planning Commission also does some ex-post facto evaluation,” he said.

“The government of India has dramatically increased the scale of funding for flagship programmes in the areas of education, health and rural development,” said Singh.

“There is need for much stronger system of independent evaluation that will report on the progress of these major flagship programmes in the areas of employment, education and health that will not only monitor progress against targets, but also suggest ways and means of improving performance to produce better results.”

Singh said development and research institutions needed to be coordinated, and “ideally, the government should be at arms length from the process of independent evaluation”.

He said the government was also “examining data sharing policies to bring all non-strategic information in the public domain”.

“A pro-active policy of disclosure will be in keeping with the spirit of the Right to Information Act. Information collected at huge cost, with taxpayers’ money, should be made available to the general public without their having to ask for it. This will improve the quality of the data, as it will be subject to informed public scrutiny,” Singh added.

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