Evaluating the evaluators: The role of independent evaluation in development

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, managing director at the World Bank, visits a project site in Haiti, where a beneficiary shows how they test for clean drinking water. Multilateral development banks have independent evaluation departments to provide assessment of their projects. Photo by: Christelle Chapoy / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

As aid donors tighten their financial belts and focus on value for money, monitoring and evaluation is becoming an increasingly important and scrutinized stage in the development project life cycle, affecting project selection, spending modalities and strategic planning.

Structured, formal and transparent evaluation is often the best way for donors and beneficiaries to tell if a development project achieves its intended goals. While there are significant costs in both time and money, evaluation can also help donors learn from their successes and failures and improve future project execution.

For these reasons, the world’s largest multilateral development institutions, including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank, have sanctioned and implemented independent evaluation departments with the mission to provide an objective assessment of their programs and overall operations and, according to the World Bank, “to identify and disseminate lessons learned from experience.”

IE offices usually report to the institution’s board of directors and not to the president where — ideally — they can exert appropriate influence on operational decision-making. For instance, ADB stresses that IE provides “feedback on performance” while AfDB asserts that it also helps “deliver development activities to the highest possible standards.”

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About the author

  • Lean 2

    Lean Alfred Santos

    Lean Alfred Santos is a Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Prior to joining Devex, he covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics. Lean is based in Manila.