In response to the growing need to better monitor and track the progress of public projects, the Wits School of Governance now offers an online Postgraduate Diploma in Public Management in the field of Monitoring and Evaluation (PDMPM in M&E). Studying this course will give you the skills needed for senior and managerial roles in public administration and management, with special attention paid to the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) process.
This is a specialised version of the Post Graduate Diploma in Public Management (PDPM) course already offered online at Wits. It is aimed at those who have completed a Bachelor’s degree and have at least two years of relevant work experience. It can be done in just 18 months and you can do all eight of the seven-week modules in your own time.
As with that more general PDPM, this is a post-experience diploma that provides you with key skills in public management. Both courses cover all the relevant areas needed for senior roles in public management, such as governance, development, public policy, ethics and leadership. The PDMPM in M&E has an extra focus on M&E-related modules, with an emphasis on data management and data management systems.
In this article, we’ll look at the importance of monitoring and evaluation in ensuring the efficiency of public programmes and how it can have a large impact on society. We’ll also cover examples of M&E in action and go into a bit of detail about what is covered in the PDMPM in M&E course.
Having a reliable M&E process is critical for effective public administration. As the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states, policy monitoring and evaluation has “a critical role to play in the effective design, implementation and delivery of public policies and services”. Many large international groups such as the United Nations and the World Bank have been making use of this process for many years.
Without having reliable ways of tracking the progress of a public project or policy, it is impossible to really know if it has been effective in achieving its goal. This is where M&E plays a key role. When the M&E process has been well thought out, it provides decision-makers and planners with reliable data that can be used to plan further or to adjust and improve current policy.
By monitoring and analysing ongoing projects, those responsible for them can determine how successful their policies are in achieving their goals. An important element of this is that it places the focus on actual outcomes. This forces decision-makers to ensure they don’t merely “throw money at the problem”, which both government departments and private businesses have been guilty of. Although there’s now a big shift away from this, both in South Africa and internationally, the problem still occurs.
Businesses are offered incentives to spend money on corporate social responsibility, but this is often just been seen as a box-ticking exercise. So long as the business can say that it spent a certain amount, there is little concern over what is done with that money. However, those companies that take their corporate social responsibility more seriously want to ensure that their money gets results. Within government and the public sector, there is also an increasing awareness of this, along with growing pressure for more transparency and accountability.
One example of throwing money at a problem, is South Africa’s education system. As a country, we spend a relatively large portion of our national budget on education, but the quality of the government education system lags that of many countries spending less. For comparison, in 2018 we spent 6.16% of our gross domestic product on education, nearly double the 3.33% that Hong Kong spent.
Despite having a large budget, the Department of Basic Education has regularly failed to deliver school textbooks to learners in some parts of the country, among other failures, which has landed it in a landmark court case and brought it to blows with the SA Human Rights Commission in past years.
While monitoring and evaluating public policy might seem like it is mostly theoretical, the work done can have very real consequences. As shown by the above example of education, any improvements brought by better M&E can better the lives and future prospects of an entire generation.
As a clear indication of the importance of M&E in public administration, South Africa has a department almost entirely dedicated to this, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). Previously called the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, the name change reflects the trend that sees M&E as a vital part of the planning process and not something separate.
Part of the department’s work is guided by the National Evaluation Policy Framework, which was signed into law in November 2011. Although more than 10 years old, this is still a relatively new piece of legislation. There is still much work to be done across departments, meaning there is an ongoing need for skilled M&E professionals.
Although there has been criticism of the way that governments around the world have handled their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries including South Africa have sought a scientific approach to policy. This means they have had to continually monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of lockdowns and other measures and have had to adjust policy appropriately as new information emerges. In South Africa, we’ve moved through different levels of lockdown as the government has applied what it called a risk-adjusted strategy based on the latest data on infections, deaths and hospitalisations.
Civil society and NGOs
Outside of government, there are also civil society groups that monitor and evaluate government policy. The Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) makes use of this process to evaluate the effectiveness of government policies. Recent examples of policies that are being monitored and evaluated include the Covid-19 public health policies, land reform policy and provincial budgets.
We earlier mentioned the World Bank as one institution that has already been applying M&E principles for many years. Drawing on experience in many projects around the world, they have put together a collection of case studies that you can read for more examples: World Bank Resilience M&E: Good practice case studies.
The course runs over 18 months and is made up of eight separate modules that run for seven weeks each. In order to qualify for this course, you will need to have completed a Bachelor’s level degree and have done two years of relevant work experience. If you pass the course with at least 65%, you may go on to study a Master’s level qualification at Wits.
We’ll cover each course briefly below and you can click on the name to jump to that section. Alternatively, have a look in more detail on the PDMPM course page.
- Governance, leadership and public value
- Public policy
- Public finance and performance-based budgeting
- Analytical methods
- Monitoring systems
- Monitoring and evaluation evidence in policy management
These are the eight modules that make up the PDMPM. The selection of modules covers general issues of public administration while placing a focus on M&E, with theory and real-world practical advice.
This module gives a thorough understanding of government functions and interaction within the private sector and civil society on local, regional and national levels. It also looks at challenges around public administration and how different models of governance and leadership impact the spread of economic and other resources across society. Students will also learn how this contributes to the creation of public value.
The public policy module examines the concepts and theoretical frameworks of public policy. It also looks at models of public policy-making and analysis with real-world examples in South Africa, Africa and globally. The course will provide students with the technical skills required to evaluate policy, manage vested interests, maintain relations and coordinate projects across multiple departments. M&E, consultation and public relations are also included.
Here students will be introduced to key concepts in public finance and public sector economics. Topics include the role of the state in the economy, public expenditure, taxation and fiscal policy. Key areas of social policy are also investigated such as education, health and social security,
Different concepts and current debates about development are covered in this module, as well as the role of both the state and markets in development. It deals with the role of local communities, global actors, private and NGO sectors as well as the impacts of opening up of markets and economic deregulation. Students will also address challenges to managing development in emerging economies like South Africa, including ways to tackle many forms of inequality.
To effectively assess and measure policy requires good analytical skills. This module covers the analysis and interpretation of quantitative data relevant to public policy. Students will learn how to make decisions and communicate findings based on the statistical interpretation of data.
This module looks at the application of evaluation in a range of public and development management contexts, as well as various forms and approaches to evaluation. Coverage is given to debates around evaluation theory and practice and issues in evaluation faced by sub-Saharan Africa.
Whether commissioning, managing, designing or implementing a monitoring system, large amounts of information need to be handled. This module focuses on routine data monitoring, data management and data reporting. It covers a range of monitoring systems used in different contexts in the public sector and civil society.
This module addresses crucial questions on the use of research in public policy, teaching students methods to strengthen the link between research and public policy. It also provides a solid grounding in theoretical and conceptual debates around M&E and its use for public policy.
If you would like to study the PDMPM in M&E and you meet all of the admission criteria, you can apply now. Once you’ve applied and paid the first instalment of your course fees, you can begin your studies within no more than two months.
If you’re interested in studying a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Management without specialising in M&E, you can read more about the Wits online Post Graduate Diploma in Public Management. Alternatively, you might instead be interested in the Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration course.