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Independent Country Programme Evaluation: Bangladesh
Commissioning Unit: Independent Evaluation Office
Evaluation Plan: 2018-2021
Evaluation Type: ICPE/ADR
Completion Date: 12/2019
Unit Responsible for providing Management Response: Bangladesh
Documents Related to overall Management Response:
1. Recommendation:

The country office should address fragmentation in its portfolio by:

• Minimizing the number of small projects that rely mostly or exclusively on core funding;

• Reducing the number of projects it manages;

• Developing larger, more integrated and more flexible programmes.

In developing its next country programme document, UNDP will need to consider how many different agendas it can effectively pursue with the resources it has to work with, and be more disciplined in its choice of objectives to pursue, and partners to work with. Fragmentation of the programme is affecting the quality of delivery and partnerships, factors that will reduce the attractiveness of UNDP as a development partner over the long term.

UNDP should use its SDG platform as a basis for the consolidation of its governance support within a single governance project. The design for this work should be flexible but underpinned by an analysis of what UNDP considers to be the highest priority areas for investment, given the prevailing political economy and constraints of Bangladesh, and the role that UNDP can realistically play given available resources.

In the expansion of its work on the Rohingya crisis, UNDP should be mindful of the need to work within the scope of the expertise and capability it has built within its existing programme, rather than risk over-extending itself into too many new or different areas. UNDP should seek to integrate the focus on the development needs of host communities within its major development programmes and look for opportunities to complement and enhance the work being undertaken by other donors, rather than focusing too heavily on resource mobilization and delivery.

Consolidating the portfolio will require working with the Government of Bangladesh and donors to buy into larger, more flexible integrated programmes.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/03/03] [Last Updated: 2020/05/13]

Agreed. The Country Office (CO) is progressively moving towards a more integrated programming approach. However, given certain operational realities of programming and resource mobilization, it is unable to make a quick and full transition. These realities include 1) numerous pilots/preparatory grant initiatives under various vertical funds, which are corporate priorities; 2) demands from donor partners to have contribution-specific projects and thereby ensuring complete visibility for them; 3) requests from the client government for urgent support, which are normally funded through core resources and are relatively small scale. Therefore, the CO is currently trying to reduce transaction costs by pooling resources, especially in areas such as M&E, Communications and certain areas of the Operations.

To ensure more integrated approaches for achieving outcomes/delivery results, the CO has been taking a portfolio approach of programming, such as in climate change adaptation and mitigation. The CO is also trying to build more synergies between projects operating in the same geographical location and/or same authorities. For example, targeting the same beneficiary households/communities is also being considered to maximize collective impacts. The CO is also using harmonized approaches across the projects to common processes, such as cash transfers. The CO will expand such efforts, taking the new CPD development as an opportunity to strengthen the programme approach.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Adopt integrated programming approaches for planning and implementation more systematically in the new CPD currently under formulation
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2021/04/05]
CO CPD Core team 2021/07 Completed One year extension of UNDAF (until December 2021) was approved by the UNDS Regional Directors in June 2020. The new CPD preparation process has also been adjusted accordingly, which affects planned completion date of this key action. The CO has drafted the new CPD, incorporating integrated programming approaches. History
Conduct a portfolio analysis for clustering of projects under the same themes/geographic areas/partners for maximizing synergies and adopting common approaches to programming and implementation and for sharing and mobilizing resources
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2020/08/30]
CO Working Group/ CO M&E Network Group 2020/08 Completed Portfolio data mapping (i.e. geographic locations and thematic areas) of projects have been completed to help to maximize synergies among different projects and enhance common approach. In addition, the Sundarbans group has been formed in early 2020, which consists of multiple projects working in Khulna region where many projects have their operations. This group has started to work as a platform where different projects discuss the common issues, which will help to facilitate adoption of common approach to programming and implementation and for sharing and mobilizing resources. History
2. Recommendation:

The country office should improve the quality of project monitoring and evaluation by:

• Increasing investment in ensuring high-quality monitoring and evaluation expertise is available for supporting implementation across the programme;

• Ensuring all projects have results frameworks that reflect approved funding allocations, to provide a basis for monitoring and accounting for results;

• Establishing a standard format for performance reporting that clearly distinguishes between inputs and activities, and the outputs, outcomes and impacts they underpin, and only includes results that can be reasonably attributed to UNDP’s contributions;

• Ensuring appropriate attention is paid to the quality of outcomes achieved, rather than simply numbers of results achieved (i.e. people trained), and to challenges.

Currently, accountability at the project and programme level is being undermined by weak results frameworks and poor quality of reporting. Reporting exhibits an excessive preoccupation with numbers, at the expense of a focus on the quality and relevance of the results achieved against objectives.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/03/03] [Last Updated: 2020/05/13]

Agreed. This was a priority consideration in the 2020 annual work planning process. A planning workshop involving all project managers and M&E specialists was organized. This has helped to not only improve quality of annual work planning with proper M&E framework but also maximize operational synergies such as joint field visits for monitoring. While resource constraints will not allow expansion of M&E capacities at the CO level, investments will be made in training and capacity enhancement of the existing M&E staff at all levels. Further, the office is already mobilizing short-term supports of senior professionals drawn from the Bangkok Regional Hub and elsewhere.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Revise ToR of M&E network for increasing its effectiveness
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2020/08/30]
CO M&E 2020/08 Completed ToR of M&E network has been revised. Mutual learning/ peer learning aspects have been more emphasized than before to further enhance knowledge sharing among project M&E officers. History
Make capacity building investment for M&E staff
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2020/07/31]
CO M&E Network Group 2020/07 Completed CO organized a series of capacity building events for M&E staff in 2020, including AWP planning workshop, M&E network meetings, orientation meetings for newly recruited project M&E staff, and individual consultations with the respective M&E staff. Many of these events were organized virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an ongoing initiative and the CO will carry on its efforts. History
Enhance practice of peer review system of results frameworks and project reports
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2020/07/31]
CO M&E Network Group 2020/08 Completed Review system of results framework and project reports has been strengthened. As a regular practice, quarterly project progress reports are being reviewed by M&E staff and discussed among multiple M&E officers. Peer review of results framework has also been further strengthened (i.e. a new results framework of K4DM phase II project was designed and reviewed by M&E specialists from CO and other projects in June/July 2020). History
Develop a standard approach for project progress reporting
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2021/03/03]
CO M&E 2020/01 Completed A standard template of quarterly project progress reporting was developed and introduced in early 2020. With the new template, quarterly project progress reporting has been practiced among ongoing projects. History
3. Recommendation:

To maximize the potential impacts of programme interventions, especially, but not exclusively in the case of pilots or geographically delimited interventions, UNDP should:

• Avoid engaging in small pilots of untested interventions that have limited prospects of influencing Bangladesh Government policies or programmes;

• Increase attention to the feasibility of increasing the scale of proven interventions, reflecting on the institutional capacity to replicate them at a larger scale.

In the case of the village courts and SWAPNO programmes, UNDP has developed effective models that have relevance to, and could potentially provide a basis for system-wide impacts. To maximize the potential system-wide benefits of its work, UNDP needs to move beyond simply testing the effectiveness of its interventions, to focus on the feasibility of adopting proven interventions at a larger scale. Currently, there is too much focus on implementing small-scale pilots of unproven interventions that are not accompanied by a sufficient focus on learning, thus limiting prospects for achieving a wider impact. Looking forward, UNDP should only get involved in service delivery projects if there is a strong learning dimension to them, and prospect to use this as a way to influence delivery at scale.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/03/03] [Last Updated: 2020/05/13]

Partially agreed. We still see value in conducting pilots to test proof of concepts and ideas and will continue to do so given the rapidly changing development contexts. At the same time, scalability will be considered as one of the major assessment criteria while designing pilots.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Introduce more systematic approach to lesson learning and incorporating lessons from pilots in: a) new programme formulation; b) revision of existing projects
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2020/07/31]
CO Strategy & Policy unit/ CO M&E 2020/07 Completed Practice and approach for extracting lessons learned from pilots and projects have been enhanced. CO/ clusters have applied this practice to project review and reporting to ensure lessons learned from pilots and projects are incorporated in the new programming and revision of the existing projects. History
Revise current practices of project appraisal/review to include specific criteria on lesson learning from pilots
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2021/02/25]
CO Strategy & Policy unit/ CO M&E 2021/01 Completed Lessons learned from pilots and previous phases have become important components of project review and project quality assurance. History
Conduct a systematic review of the past pilots to examine design thinking behind the pilots
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2021/04/27]
CO Strategy & Policy unit/ CO M&E 2021/07 Completed The pilots have been reviewed at the programme/project level to facilitate the portfolio/project development. History
4. Recommendation:

The country office should increase its focus on promoting gender equality in its programmes, and in its business environment. To ensure it has a foundation for doing so, the country office should:

• Increase the resources it commits to ensuring appropriate attention to gender equality in programme design and delivery and in its business environment;

• Ensure active measures are taken to address the imbalance in staffing, and marked differences in the satisfaction of male and female staff evident in staff survey results;

• Annually review and update gender marker coding so that the data provides an accurate picture of the level of focus on gender equality of the country programme.

There is strong evidence that the country office needs to make a more concerted effort than it is currently making, to address gender imbalances in staffing, and workplace satisfaction.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/03/03] [Last Updated: 2020/05/13]

Fully agreed. The CO will expand its efforts to enhance gender equality in both programme and operations. The CO will increase investment in gender-related activities, including deployment of dedicated gender expertise at the CO. The CO will also continue its efforts to improve gender parity at all levels, especially in the field where it is difficult to attract and retain women in the workforce. This will require innovative approaches, including introduction of incentives.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Undertake gender audit for both programme and operations
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2022/01/26]
CO Gender team 2022/12 Initiated The process is delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. History
Create a full-time gender specialist position in the CO
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2020/08/30]
CO Management 2020/05 Completed A full-time gender analyst position has been added in the CO's new organogram as part of the organizational strengthening exercise. A gender specialist from a project has been in place as a CO gender focal point for the time being. History
Make recruitment processes flexible and work environment more conducive to attract and retain female candidates
[Added: 2020/04/27] [Last Updated: 2020/08/25]
CO Operations/HR unit 2020/08 Completed 1. The CO is encouraging female candidates to apply and mentioning it in our each and every vacancy announcement. 2. To ensure female candidates’ participation, the CO is ensuring flexibility in W/T passing threshold or increase number candidates for the interview phase. 3. The CO is allowing interview panel members to brief the interview questions in the local language if a female candidate faces difficulty in understanding it in English. History

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