Ineffective results reporting?
Considerable demands for reporting are placed on partners that receive Norwegian development assistance. This is important, as knowledge acquisition is a key principle of results-based management.
Results-based management is one of the development aid administration’s most important tools to ensure effective development assistance. However, the evaluation of results orientation in Norwegian development aid administration shows that the MFA and Norad are more concerned with collecting results information from partners than with using the information to improve Norwegian development assistance.
Responsibility for results
- If Norwegian development aid management is to succeed in its use of results-based management, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of what one aims to achieve, and then select projects in order to achieve these objectives, says Per Øyvind Bastøe, Director of the Evaluation Department.
The evaluation indicates that the organisation and focus of Norwegian development assistance constitutes an obstacle to results orientation. Instead of the aid administration taking responsibility for the achievement of Norway’s development assistance objectives, the responsibility is passed along to the aid recipients when they are asked to report on how they contribute to the overall objectives of Norwegian development aid.
Strict reporting requirements inflict extra work as well as additional costs on both aid recipients and the administration. It emerges from the evaluation that in some cases, aid recipients collect results information that is of no use to themselves, nor do they understand how it can be used, simply to comply with the requirements set by the MFA and Norad.
- The administration is undertaking a great deal of good work to raise the quality of the data that are collected. It is, however, important to plan how the data will be used. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with strict reporting requirements and monitoring of results reporting; on the contrary, they enable transparency and enhance trust in Norwegian development assistance, Bastøe underlines.
The team behind the evaluation found that several fundamental preconditions for results-based management to function are absent in the MFA and Norad.
The team highlights the fact that the MFA does not have a culture of results and learning. By this they mean that employees do not systematically seek out knowledge about what works and why, and use this in decision-making. Other challenges stem from the fact that the decisions are sometimes taken before the results information is available. According to the evaluation, the reason is that there is no shared understanding of what results-based management is, and that the ministry’s leadership does not promote this.
According to the evaluation, Norad has worked more systematically and has good management of programmes and investments, but the directorate also struggles to find a good balance between results requirements for partners and use of the information from the reporting requirements.
Based on the findings of the evaluation, Per Øyvind Bastøe, Director of the Evaluation Department, presents three recommendations to the leadership in the MFA and Norad:
- Firstly, the MFA should clarify the responsibility for operationalisation of development policy at all levels of the development aid administration.
- Secondly, both the MFA and Norad should become better at using results information and evaluations strategically to ensure effective management of portfolios.
- Thirdly, reporting requirements should be reviewed critically to assess the reasons for needing the information that is requested. This is to ensure that the administration does not request more information than is required for the work of the ministry/directorate and the partners.
- The fact is that results orientation is more than just reporting, Bastøe concludes.
- See all the findings in the report here: Evaluation of the Norwegian Aid Administration’s Practice of Results-Based Management