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  • Writer's pictureClara Richards

Fostering the use of evaluation and research in policy making: the Presidency’s Department of

[Editor’s note: This post was written by Ian Goldman, Head of Evaluation and Research at Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation of the Presidency of South Africa.]

South Africa has had a policy unit in the Presidency for some time, which since the mid-2000s also focused on M&E. This was reinforced in 2009 with a new administration focusing on using M&E to improve services. In parallel a project called the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development (PSPPD) was working with the Presidency and other stakeholders around evidence-based policy making. This work pointed to a problem around supply (for example that researchers do not understand policy priorities and are not accustomed to writing for a government audience) as well as demand, with no systematic process fo identifying evidence gaps and commissioning research and evaluation to address this.

The Department for Performance M&E (now Department of Planning, M&E) was created in the Presidency in 2010 to take forward the M&E agenda. A number of tools have been developed and implemented including focusing on a limited number of priority outcomes, monitoring management performance of national and provincial departments, unannounced visits on the ground to facilities such as clinics or police stations, and a national evaluation system. This is all about expanding supply of M&E evidence. Work has happened in parallel on demand, training Members of Parliament in how they can use M&E evidence to support their oversight function, training the top two levels of the public service in the importance of evidence.

The figure shows how senior decision-makers in South Africa use evidence, drawn from a study on 55 senior officials.


This shows that rigorous evidence is less used, but that these officials are aware of the need for this rigorous evidence. For example Cabinet is responding very positively to the evaluations that are tabled, taking them seriously. Much more work is needed around this, to improve the quality of programming, and to improve current programmes. A key weakness is proving to be programme design, where all too often the political agenda jumps straight to design, rather than a proper analysis of the underlying root causes of problems, options and developing a solid theory of change to address this. DPME has developed a guideline to assist with this. Currently 39 evaluations are underway or completed covering US$5 billion of government expenditure with planning underway for a further 11 covering an additional $2,5 billion. These have the potential to make a significant difference to improving government’s performance as well as accountability.

At P&I we would like to express our sincere condolences for the death of Collins Chabene on March 15th. He was Minister of Public Service and Administration in South Africa. IN 2009 he had been appointed as as the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Monitoring and Evaluation. In this position he was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the 12 outcomes that address the main strategic priorities of South Africa´s Fourth Democratic Government.
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