While the U.S. Agency for International Development is facing rising opposition in Congress, and the legislative reform process has virtually come to a halt, the agency responsible for implementing foreign assistance is proceeding with internal reforms. In a speech on January 19th, Administrator Raj Shah announced a new monitoring and evaluation policy for USAID’s projects abroad. Committed to accountability to stakeholders and learning from past experiences to implement more effective strategies in the future, the new policy will do much to strengthen USAID.
As a part of USAID’s new reform agenda, USAID FORWARD, the new evaluation policy is critical to the knowledge of the agency and the efficacy of the projects. As Administrator Shah acknowledged in the preface to the policy, “this policy will make us better able to identify areas where we are more capable of achieving development results, and those where we have less success and therefore need to improve.” Given that official evaluations submitted to USAID fell by two-thirds and program funding has tripled since 1994, this policy will play a crucial role in revitalizing USAID’s evaluation capacity.
Apart from a clearly delineated organizational structure and hierarchy, the new evaluation policy sets forth new evaluation and monitoring practices as well:
- -The initial design of projects will now take into consideration the evaluations that will ultimately review the efficacy of the project. An average of 3 percent of the project funds will also be made available for the evaluation.
- -In an effort to dispel biased measurement and reporting, evaluations will be conducted by an external entity with no stake in the implementation of the project. However, internal evaluations will still be conducted to contribute to institutional learning.
- -In an effort to support local ownership of development projects, local entities with no affiliation to the projects will be called upon to implement the reviews.
- -To increase transparency, USAID will publish the results and findings of each project’s evaluation for public consumption.
- -Each evaluation will be designed to include both qualitative and quantitative review processes.
As another step along the road to reform, this new evaluation policy helps to make USAID more transparent and accountable, while supporting local capacity at the same time. However, in order to make USAID as effective as possible, more reforms will be necessary.