By Doris Kembabazi
There is an increasing pressure on policy makers to develop more effective policies to best direct and manage resources in more focused and efficient ways that result in improved implementation and outcomes. Evidence-based policy-making is an approach that has become increasingly prevalent in recent years in Africa. It is based on the premise that better policies and better decision-making result when these are based on sound empirical evidence and solid rational analysis. It is also critical to use evidence to improve implementation. Evidence-Based Policy-Making and Implementation (EBPM&I) therefore focuses on establishing rigorously objective evidence as a key informant of policy, but also for improving implementation of public services. Evidence policy making and implementation in Uganda plays an important role, especially in resource-constrained settings where informed decisions on resource allocation are paramount. Several knowledge translation models have been developed, but few have been applied to health policymaking in low income countries like Uganda hence a big challenge to the policy makers.
The desire to use evaluation findings and the importance of credible evidence in decision-making is emphasised in Uganda’s National M&E Policy, the National Development Plan (NDP) and international frameworks, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The rationale for the use of evidence is exemplified by better Government decisions and effectiveness in their implementation; rational decisions in resource allocation in the choice of policies and programmes to implement; and provision of feedback to influence future policies and programmes.
As part of the Twende Mbele African Partnership Programme, the Evidence Based Policy Making and Implementation course in Uganda was an executive course for strategic leaders and top managers in the public service. It is adapted from a University of Cape Town course; designed to assist participants to use evidence to make well informed decisions about policies, programmes, projects and services and to improve government’s impact on society. This was the first time the course was run outside of South Africa and was adapted and piloted in collaboration with UCT.
The Jinja course was officially opened by the Minister General Duties Honourable Mary Karooro Okurut who gave opening remarks on behalf of the Government of Uganda. She acknowledged the benefits of the Twende Mbele initiative and the efforts that had been put in place. She noted that in Uganda, evaluations are beginning to be viewed in a positive light, with growing demand and ownership by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other stakeholders outside the public sector. In this regard a number of evaluations of strategic areas have been undertaken successfully over the last decade.
The course represented great coverage, as 35 Directors of the Ugandan Government attended, equalling more than 80% of the full cohort of Directors. The course was covered in two days with Facilitators from the Department of Planning and Evaluations (DPME) South Africa, Makerere University and Office of the Prime Minister, Uganda.
On the first day, participants were introduced to EPM&I approach and cycle, and to the Diagnosing a Problem tools and day two built on this by inspiring participants with case studies of evidence processes and then exposing them to the Theory of Change and evaluation tools which can be drawn on in subsequent stages in the EPM&I cycle.
This course was the first of its kind to bring together the directors from MDAs and they had a number of suggestions, firstly, they all appreciated the opportunity to have one voice in future policy-making and implementation. Another suggestion was to create a platform to continue sharing and learning from each other on a day to day basis. The participants also decided to work with the Office of the Prime Minister to strengthen M&E systems for example Human Resources and to write a briefing paper specially on the practical strategies to institutionalise use of evidence.
This course will be translated to French and run in Benin in the second half of 2018.