Towards an outcomes-based policy evaluation framework in South Africa.
Mthiyane, Sihle Goodman Doctor.
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This is a qualitative research study undertaken to explore the extent to which Evidence based and Results based management approaches are being applied in SA in the area of public policy, with the aim of improving policy performance feedback. The orientation of this study was influenced by the problem statement which is stated in Chapter 1 as the general absence of reliable and appropriate performance information that is required to evaluate policy performance and gauge the impact of government‘s policy decisions. Reviewed literature, in Chapter 2, shows that generation and utilisation of reliable performance information, to a large extent, depend on the effectiveness of an evaluation system that is outcomes-based and embedded in a functional evidence-based system. Thus chapter 2 attempts to explain processes (mechanisms and practices) that lead to the availability and utilisation of reliable and credible performance information. Chapter 2 assists the researcher to answer the secondary research question of this study; which is, does embedding a monitoring and evaluation system in an evidence-based system contribute to an outcomes-based and accountable government? This study, though critical of the emerging policy evaluation framework in SA, acknowledges efforts made in the policy arena since 1994 (which is discussed in chapters 3). Thus, in identifying challenges, this study seeks to take a prospective approach that would outline the issues which government must grapple with in order to successfully institutionalise an outcomes based policy evaluation system. In this study institutionalisation of an outcomes-based policy evaluation system refers to the creation of a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system which produces monitoring information and evaluation findings which are judged valuable by key stakeholders, and are used in the pursuit of evidence-based decision making (Mackay 2006:5). Based upon the findings of this study, the researcher concludes that the government has adopted a technocratic approach to monitoring and evaluation, paying little attention to the broader institutional and systemic issues. At the core of the matter is an under-emphasis of the political influence on the effectiveness of the evaluation systems. This study further argues that even the recent public reforms, driven through the newly established Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Ministry, continue to advocate for this technocratic approach with little or no consideration of the political environment within which evaluations are supposed to be executed. Therefore the researcher recommends that in order to institutionalise the Outcomes-Based policy evaluation system, interventions should be made at different levels; that is, political and administrative levels. Political interventions would entail reforming the current electoral system, and strengthening the role and capacity of parliamentary organs. On the other hand, administrative interventions would entail accelerating differentiated evaluation support programmes, strengthening financial accountability and budget allocation mechanisms. This study found that, despite government‘s much publicised intentions of implementing an outcomes-based approach through the GWM&ES, most government departments are far from implementing outcomes-based policy evaluation systems. Evaluation culture is weak and, if done, evaluations only occasionally inform strategic directions of the departments. This in turn discourages departments from conducting evaluations. The extent to which departments have applied the GWM&ES is the subject of this research. Chapters 3 and 4 address this matter and thus assist the researcher to answer the main research question of this study; which is, what strides have been made by SA towards an outcomes-based policy evaluation framework – ―Where are we and what are the gaps?
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