Mr Mondli Gungubele
Address by the
Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele
at the official opening of the
Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) National Evaluation Seminar
15 November 2022, 12:30
Honourable guests, Good morning to all of you.
I thank you for joining us at this year's National Evaluation Seminar.
The National Evaluation Seminar is an important platform for learning and engagement between the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and all the actors in the evaluation community about the institutionalisation of the national evaluation system.
Interactions through this seminar provides an opportunity to share knowledge and best practices in the field of evaluation and to inform what activities, methodologies, approaches and technologies can be adopted, enhanced and applied in the evolving evaluation ecosystem.
In my address in the 2021 National Evaluation Seminar, I likened monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to a human heart, pumping blood to all areas of the body in order to function. Whilst each organ in the body serves a purpose, the heart keeps everything in the body perfectly calibrated. Without a beating heart, our bodies cannot function.
We are living in a fast-changing world. M&E must give us insights to help us lead and contribute to the change and also adapt to change in a dynamic way. For instance, in the path of recovery from the effects of Covid-19 pandemic we are confronted with a challenge to deliver more with less. There is a great imbalance between the limited resources we have on the one hand and the massive requirements on the other. The October 2022 UNDP National Evaluation Capacities Conference has reminded us about the extent to which we have regressed on some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As much as we are facing compounded crises, there are unlimited opportunities for us to innovate and overcome. The multiple crises we are confronted with require us to build resilient communities.
To contribute to the theme of this seminar – “Sustaining the National Evaluation System in Recent Times", let me share some thoughts on what the evaluation community in South Africa can do to strengthen its resilience and maintain a dynamic national evaluation system.
To be most relevant, evaluations evidence must address the most critical areas affecting the country. The themes that are prioritised for evaluation must give us evidence on how various programmes of government affect the state of the people – how they address the triple challenges for development and how they can be improved to better contribute to creating employment, reducing inequality and poverty.
Evaluations must offer us options to address the recurrent challenges of development we are dealing with. A series of bi-annual monitoring report that the DPME produces on the seven priorities of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) is one of the key sources to proactively identify evidence gaps that require a deeper analysis through evaluative methods. Among the key emerging themes in the most recent report are energy supply, sustainability and the just energy transition, industrial policy masterplans, localisation and small business development, economic transformation and competition, quality of basic services at local government, human settlement and spatial development, system of disaster management, and the value chain of the criminal justice system. Implementation failures appear to be common concern across a range of government programmes.
Evaluation evidence also need to be timely so that it makes a contribution at the most appropriate moment when important decisions need to be made. Across the system, there is need to drastically improve the turnaround time from conception of evaluation concepts to the delivery of evaluation results and recommendations.
I am encouraged to hear that we are making progress in implementing approaches of Rapid Evaluation and Evidence Synthesis to expand our evaluation toolkit. I hope that the officials from provincial Offices of the Premier that have received the DPME-sponsored Rapid Evaluation training in December 2021 are applying the knowledge acquired in fast-tracking problem analysis and generating policy options. We must continue building more capacity around these areas.
Efforts to continuously develop, review and update evaluation guidelines and tools is very important in ensuring that our standard practices remain up to date. I am told that since the adoption of the Revised National Evaluation Policy Framework (NEPF) in 2019, five new guidelines have been introduced and nine updated to support the revised NEPF. I must commend the recent joint work between the DPME and the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association (SAMEA) for developing two new guidelines, one on “integrating a transformative equity criterion into evaluation" and the other on “applying the climate and ecosystem health criterion in evaluations". At an international level, the DPME is representing South Africa in a collaborative exercise for the revision of the widely used Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Criteria for Evaluation that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) introduced in 1991.
The value of evaluations is realised when recommendations are implemented and when the knowledge generated is applied. The practice of developing improvement plans is a useful one, but can only be effective if key actions are incorporated into relevant plans, resourced, implemented, tracked and reported timeously to stakeholders. Progress review must enable identification of challenges and new opportunities or better alternative to achieve what was intended. The DPME must continue providing relevant support to facilitate speedy adoption of improvement plans. Existing disseminations platforms, such as the Brown Bag Lunch Sessions, Evaluation Update Newsletters, Policy Briefs and the Annual Report can also be
used to publicise information about progress in implementing improvement plans and the public value derived.
Some fundamental building blocks are in place already but there is also is a great scope for continuous improvement in the functioning of the national evaluation system. The NEPF sets clear guidance for government department at all spheres of government with respect to evaluations. There evaluation training programmes delivered by various South African universities. The DPME has partnership with the National School of Government (NSG) to deliver short courses as well. The Twende Mbele initiative provides an important space for peer learning among the six participating African countries, the Centre for Learning on Evaluation and Results – Anglophone Africa (CLEAR-AA) and the African Development Bank. The DPME activities implemented in collaboration with the South African Monitoring and Evaluation Association (SAMEA) present a lot of potential for the country as reflected in the outcomes of the 2022 SAMEA Conference.
Going forward, the minimum competency framework for evaluators must be developed and implemented in order to strengthen the capacity of aspiring and newly appointed evaluation officials. This will require that the DPME collaborates with key actors in this area, including the National School of Governance, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), the Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority (PSETA) and the relevant universities.
The DPME's role in improving the public trust in government is to steer the national evaluation system that will improve transparency and accountability, and ultimately, predictability. Evaluation reports must be easily accessible to oversight structures such as Parliamentary committees, the Public Service Commission and the Auditor General.
The DPME has commenced the development of the South African Evaluation Evidence Map, which will become a publicly accessible knowledge resource for wider use by evaluation practitioners, research institutes and wider society to assess government performance.
I thank you and wish you all the best in your deliberations during this seminar.