Monitoring Implementation and Evaluating Performance: Experiences from cash social assistance in Moldova
Policymakers and academics alike agree that M&E does not have an inherent value, but assumes importance when information is used to help improve government performance. However, there are few successful examples of the complex processes that governments need to go through in practice in order to set up such M&E systems and, most importantly, make them feed back into the policy process. This paper analyses a specific case study, Moldova's new targeted social assistance for the poor, and shows how effective triangulation of data from different sources - administrative data acting as a backbone, national survey data providing information on outcome indicators and ad-hoc qualitative studies bridging any gaps - can lead to a simple, low cost solution with strong links to policy and immediacy in delivering results. The paper starts with an analysis of the three main 'building blocks' of M&E systems for targeted cash transfer programmes: the identification of key indicators and targets, the choice of adequate data sources and the institutional arrangements that guarantee the production and use of the data. We then give an overview of the implementation of such a comprehensive M&E system in Moldova, outlining key success factors and how M&E was instrumental in informing implementation and improving service delivery. Finally the paper also draws some lessons learned that could be replicated for similar government programmes. Among other lessons, for example, we argue that well designed monitoring systems should take precedence over 'external' evaluations, especially during the initial implementation stages of a reform.