Tony OdokonyeroUganda is striving to develop Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) capacity in policy tracking and evaluation. This is manifested by progress towards developing a national M&E framework, formation of Uganda Evaluation Association, recognition of M&E in the current National Development Plan, and the awakening of interest in M&E amongst development partners.

Despite the progress, big challenges that require urgent redress still exist  M&E systems in most sectors or ministries are very weak due to absence of M&E department(s), the Management Information System (MIS) tends to be dysfunctional, and many top government officials seem not to appreciate M&E.

Other areas plagued by weak public sector M&E capacity include the limited functional sectoral M&E systems; poor coordination and fragmented efforts unclear/poor indicator definitions poor mechanisms for indicator tracking and reporting; non-uniformity of M&E modus operandi; wanting mechanisms for feedback and data utilization; and acute M&E human resource capacity deficiency.

There is also evidence of incomplete M&E systems in different government policies and sector plans. For example the agriculture DSIP (2010/11-2014/15) lists sketchy indicators for gauging progress of the plan implementation, without set targets, and yet it is on the basis of targets that benchmarks for measuring progress are hinged. It therefore becomes very hard for the citizens to ascertain the extent of progress registered.

Similar gaps exhibited in terms of inadequate M&E framework are also found in other policy documents and plans. An example of this is the strategic sector investment plan for water and sanitation.

It is always lamented that Uganda's biggest policy problem is "policy implementation gaps but I want to think that the absence of proper "checks is the root cause of the laxity in implementation of policies and programmes in the country.

The planners of this nation need to be challenged by the question: "How do we expect efficiency and effectiveness in policy implementation if the implementers operate in an environment where the M&E systems are either non-existent or terribly weak.Certainly, the desired level of implementation can best be realized with proper checks in place, through well designed and functioning M&E systems.

It is timely to remind Uganda's government planners and policy makers that M&E is critical in the development process and therefore its development and operationalization has to be taken seriously. This is a time when the new five-year National Development Plan (NDPII) is being hatched. It is also the time that most sectors are starting to design the next five-year strategic and investment plans. Therefore, it is an opportune moment for Uganda's planners and policy makers to ensure that plans and policies that are currently being revised or designed must incorporate very robust M&E systems for effective tracking and evaluation of the outputs and outcomes of government programmes or policies.

There is no doubt that proper monitoring and evaluation of policies/programmes is a driver of effective implementation and thus, the likelihood of achieving intended results becomes higher. The planners and policy makers must therefore act now lest the country gets messed up in the plans/policies that are meant to guide sectoral operations for the next five years.

Lagging sectors with non-existing or poor M&E systems need to be revolutionized. They can start by drawing lessons from a few sectors such as health and education which have made remarkable progress in operationalizing M&E. Progress in the health sector worth mentioning include the strategic & investment plan (HSSIP) whose concrete M&E plan has set clear targets for health indicators such that health output and outcome indicators are easily monitored and evaluated.

There is also progress in the operationalization of a promising MIS (i.e. the electronic version ? DHIS, and non-electronic HMIS reporting platform). Indeed the health sector is commendable for making the MIS functional from the lowest level of health facility, up to national level. From the education sector, the notable M&E progress that can be emulated is the functioning Education Management Information System (EMIS).

As a way forward, it is imperative that all stakeholders embrace M&E in order to increasingly drive the achievement of development outcomes in Uganda. The Government should make deliberate efforts to fund M&E activities in all sectors.

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