New Delhi: The Centre has decided to set up an autonomous body to evaluate flagship programmes in the fields of health, education and rural development. This body will also suggest ways to improve the performance of such programmes.
For the people: A file photo of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Subhav Shukla/PTI
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a conference on Tuesday that he had asked the Planning Commission, finance ministry and the department of statistics to work out the details of such an institutional mechanism.
“Ideally, the government should be at an arm’s length from the process of independent evaluation and we should make full use of the common talent pool which exists in our universities, management or research institutions and also in our NGOs (non-governmental organizations),” the Prime Minister said.
The Planning Commission, the apex planning body, and respective ministries now evaluate such centrally funded programmes.
“In principle, it is a good idea. But if individuals and organizations are hand-picked based on their political bias, then the credibility of such a mechanism will suffer,” said Praveen Jha, associate professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
A Planning Commission official said, requesting anonymity, that he is not aware of any directive from the Prime Minister’s Office to set up an independent evaluation body.
The Centre has provided Rs85,000 crore in the 2008 Budget for flagship programmes such as Bharat Nirman, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Midday Meal Scheme, National Rural Health Mission and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
Singh also said the government is looking at bringing all non-strategic information into the public domain. “Information collected at huge cost, with the taxpayers’ money, should be made available to the public without their having to ask for it,” he said.