Now, a watchdog to keep a tab on government schemes
Wondering why school kids look pale despite eating good food funded by your education cess? Or want to know where all your tax money goes? Soon, there'll be a watchdog keeping an eye on where the government puts your money.
Perturbed by poor, biased monitoring and evaluation of government schemes, a super regulator - Performance Evaluation Authority of Karnataka (PEAK)- is being set up to carry out impartial and independent evaluation of all public programmes. To be chaired by the chief secretary, the watchdog will have stakeholders from civil society, media and public administration and have a say in project formulation and evaluation. The planning, programme monitoring and statistics department is giving its seven-year-old evaluation policy a rejig to help bring out credible, user-friendly evaluation reports and will also curb corruption at Government offices.
"To look at the apathy towards evaluation, you just have to look back at how serious the departments have been about the schemes. Out of 700 schemes that were to be evaluated in the last 7 years, just 39 studies have been completed. We do not have any reliable study to see whether the schemes are really reaching the target audience," says S Madheswaran, professor at Institute of Social and Economic Change, who has been roped in by the government to change the way government schemes are evaluated.
Last month, he was livid to know how the education department had spent a whopping Rs 80 lakh to carry out evaluation of the midday meals scheme. Another key study on social audit of public service delivery in Karnataka did not kick-off for eight months because the government did not release the first installment to the agency commissioned to take up the study. "We found out that the current evaluation policy had not infused any incentives or penalties for the departments for not seeking evaluation on an ongoing basis and in a transparent manner," adds Madheswaran.
Once PEAK is in place, the evaluation department will be abolished. The watchdog will take over the evaluation of all schemes of nine departments to avoid conflict of interest. A repository of evaluation studies will be set up on lessons learnt over a number of years in particular sectors, say for instance, health or roads. Starting next year, the annual economic survey will have glimpses of the evaluation's outcomes for the flagship schemes.