Working Paper
Monitoring and Evaluation Reform under Changing Aid Modalities

Seeking the Middle Ground in Aid-Dependent Low-Income Countries

This paper grew out of our bewilderment with the insouciance with which some in the donor community seem ready to abandon accounting for the use of aid. If one listens to the rhetoric surrounding the new approach to aid, one gets the impression that most of the crucial accounting tasks must be swiftly abandoned by donors and left to recipient governments. This paper does not question the underlying rationale for shifting towards recipient-led priority setting and control over implementation of aid resources, but argues that donors cannot let themselves off the hook so easily with respect to the accountability part of the equation. We argue that in most low-income countries such trust in recipient systems may be dubbed as over-alignment, and that it is neither necessary nor useful. Our argument is however not that old style donor-managed monitoring and evaluation is the only or the best solution. For we are equally puzzled by the stubbornness with which some other donors stick to their old monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in ways that contradict the new insights in aid effectiveness and hamper the emergence of national M&E systems. Why are positions so polarized and why is hardly anyone arguing in favour of intermediate positions? This is what this paper sets out to do: we argue against a radical and rapid implementation of the new rhetoric in low-income countries, but also against a continuation of present accountability practices. Donors have a large and lasting responsibility in accounting for the use of aid funds, both towards the taxpayers in donor countries and towards the targeted beneficiaries in the at best pseudo-democratic and poorly governed low-income recipient countries. they should find new ways to remain firmly involved in M&E, ways that allow, at the same time, embryonic national M&E systems in low-income recipient countries to grow and flourish.