Published in The Financial Express on Wednesday, 17 June 2015.
Complaints about the country’s development administration have been aplenty. Quite a good many of them have been persistent in nature and are loud enough to draw national as well as international attention. Most of the time local experts and international donors have raised questions about the unusual delay in the execution of public sector development projects and the quality of their work in the absence of the required level of ‘transparency and accountability’. The government policymakers have never disputed the complaints made about execution of development projects. But they have unfortunately not been found to be genuinely interested in improving the situation on the ground.
Against this backdrop, the disclosure, made by the planning minister the other day about the possibility of outsourcing the job of monitoring and supervision of development projects that are implemented under the Annual Development Programme (ADP), merits attention. It does indicate to a likely change in the situation. The Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of the ministry of planning is assigned to monitor and evaluate the works of different development projects. But the Division has not been able to do its job properly due to certain limitations, including shortage of manpower and inadequate logistics. Of course, it is hard to rule out the presence of inertia that is usually demonstrated by most government agencies, the IMED not being an exception.
In response to the problems highlighted by some leading economists and senior political leaders at a post-budget dialogue organised by the private policy think-tank, the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), the minister for planning promised a few more changes in development administration to ensure ‘transparency and accountability’.
Only time will say whether he will be able to keep his promises or not. But the developments in the recent past surrounding the implementation of the ADPs, do not make one optimistic enough. Volumes have been said and written about the poor state of affairs with the execution works of development projects. But there has not been any tangible change in the overall situation. In most fiscal years, around 50 per cent of the ADP is implemented in the first ten months and the percentage of implementation goes up to 90 to 95 per cent in the remaining two months.
The efficiency level demonstrated in development spending in the final months of a fiscal year has remained more of a puzzle. But questions have cropped up about the quality of works that are accomplished at a super-speed. And there are also doubts about the destinations of a part of the project funds. However, proper monitoring and supervision of the works about execution of development projects could have helped reduce partly the irregularities surrounding those. Here, a change in the situation would be possible only if appropriate actions are directed towards errant implementing ministries and agencies. But what is needed most is the revamping of the project monitoring and supervision capabilities. Since the government agency concerned has been failing in its avowed tasks, the proposal for outsourcing project monitoring sounds appropriate. However, the selection of right agencies for the purpose might prove a challenging task.