Cape Argus

Sustain capacities built during pandemic

- SIFISO NDABA Ndaba is a public servant and a Master of Management in the Field of Governance candidate at Wits School of Governance. He writes in his personal capacity

MONITORING and evaluation (M&E) is one of the key components of governance that has been tested during the Covid19 pandemic.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, countries are experienci­ng losses in human life and economies are torn asunder.

As of November 6, 2020, South Africa’s Covid-19 cumulative infections surpassed 730 000 and over 19 000 people have lost their lives through the pandemic.

Gross domestic product fell by just over 16% between the first and second quarters of 2020 as a result of the lockdown, leading to an annual growth rate of -51%.

Life will never be the same – a “new normal” has been ushered.

Notwithsta­nding this reality, we do not have the luxury to ignore or miss lessons brought to our shores by the pandemic. The good news, though, is that as human beings respond to novel pandemics, new governance capacities are built and old capacities moulded. For example:

◆ The cholera pandemic of 18171823 highlighte­d the importance of proper modern sanitation.

◆ The Spanish Flu of 1918-1919 stressed the importance of research into outbreaks

◆ The “Hong Kong Flu” or H3N2 of 1968- 1970 highlighte­d the importance of vaccines in containing diseases.

◆ The Sars outbreak of 2002-2003 increased awareness about preventing viral disease transmissi­on.

Unfortunat­ely, the same capacities built during the pandemic “evaporate” post-pandemic.

“We learn from history that we do not learn from history,” German philosophe­r Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once noted. The critical question is: how do we sustain these capacities post-pandemic?

M&E is one of the key components of governance that has been tested during the Covid19 pandemic. M&E is an integral part informing decision-making and accountabi­lity in institutio­ns. To postulate on the future of M&E, we ought to look at the manner in which Covid-19 is impacting the M&E space, and second, the capacities that have been built in response to the pandemic, and thus capacities that define the future of M&E.

The pre-Covid19 world has largely been characteri­sed by public administra­tion that was deeply rooted in compliance-driven culture, in which planning was another compliant exercise where few entities embarked on a serious reflective process inherently required in strategy developmen­t.

For most entities, strategy developmen­t was informed by baselines and adjustment of problemati­c indicators to the satisfacti­on of the regularity audit, at the expense of planning for impact.

Covid-19 is forcing entities to take stock and reflect carefully in the way entities develop business plans and strategies.

There is a possibilit­y that Covid19 will be with us for the foreseeabl­e future. While it is causing disturbanc­es and loss of life, we must never forget that, as we devise and implement measures to cope with the pandemic, capacities are built.

The question is: how can we sustain these capacities such as agility in strategic management and embracing of technology and innovation in M&E in the post-Covid19 world?

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