Monitoring and reporting on programme/project implementation and performance are key elements of results-based management, and components of the programme/project management cycle. Results-based management is concerned with both the achievement of results and the evidence-based measurement of these achievements. This section of the Handbook seeks to promote a common understanding of the key concepts, tools, steps and responsibilities for results based monitoring and reporting on the six-year strategic plan, the biennial work programme and budget, as well as projects in UN-Habitat. Its emphasis is on how to implement results-based monitoring and reporting at corporate or programme level.
Results-based monitoring and reporting are mandated functions of the United Nations Secretariat and the Governing Council of UN-Habitat. UN-Habitat monitors and reports progress on the implementation of the six-year strategic plan and on the biennial programme of work and budget, in response to various mandates and resolutions, including:
- The Secretary-General’s bulletin of 19 April 2000 entitled “Regulations and Rules Governing Programme Planning, the Programme Aspects of the Budget, the Monitoring of Implementation and the Methods of Evaluation” (ST/SGB/2000/8) and updated in 2016 as ST/SGB/2016/6.
- UN-Habitat Governing Council resolutions 22/7 April 2009, 23/11 April 2011, 24/15 of April, 2013 and 25/3 of April 2015 that request the Executive Director to report regularly to Member States through the Committee of Permanent Representatives and to the Governing Council, progress on the implementation of the strategic plan and the work programme and budget.
3.1.1 What is results-based monitoring?
Monitoring of programme/project implementation is an integral part of results-based planning and budgeting practiced in the United Nations. Monitoring may be defined as a continuing function that uses systematic collection of data on specified indicators to provide management and the main stakeholders of an ongoing development intervention with indications of the extent of progress and achievement of objectives (planned results), and progress in the use of allocated funds (DAC/OECD).
Results based monitoring involves two main levels (figure 31):
- Tracking implementation or operational monitoring
- Tracking results or results monitoring
In order to track both implementation and results, we must measure performance and record results. Tracking progress in implementation of a programme or project entails tracking compliance with the implementation plan. It focuses on inputs, activities and delivery of outputs. Results monitoring on the other hand focuses on progress towards achievement of the planned results.
Results-based monitoring uses indicators to track actual results, against planned results, and provide periodic information on progress towards achievement of expected results. It provides information on where an intervention is at any given time relative to targets and expected results.
Figure 31: Levels of monitoring
In line with results-based planning, which applies SMART criteria in the definition of the strategic results/objectives and performance indicators, the criteria for the monitoring systems adopted by UN-Habitat must also be SMART. The programme performance plan for the six-year plan 2014-2019 reflects the application of these basic principles for results-based monitoring (annex 7 - an example for one Expected Accomplishment)
- Specific: The monitoring system captures the essence of the desired outcome (results) by clearly relating results to the achievement of specific objectives.
- Measurable: The monitoring systems can measure whether the expected change occurred.
- Attainable: The monitoring system identifies what changes occurred as a result of an intervention. Attribution requires that changes in the development issue can be linked to the intervention.
- Relevant and Results-oriented: The monitoring system establishes levels of performance that are likely to be achieved in a practical manner. Will programme participants, partners, funders, beneficiaries view the outcome as meaningful or beneficial? Will they value the desired outcome as a reflection of their expectations?
- Time-Bound: Results are never open-ended. The monitoring system allows progress to be tracked at the desired frequency for the specified period and reflects expectations of stakeholders.
The purpose of monitoring is to provide early information on progress or lack of progress towards achieving the intended objectives, outcomes and outputs. By tracking progress, monitoring helps identify implementation issues that warrant decisions at different levels of management. In this way, it provides regular feedback and progress on performance to management and stakeholders that facilitate decision-making and learning for programme improvement. Information from monitoring serves as a critical input for evaluation.
3.1.2 What is results-based reporting?
Results-based reporting refers to the process of analyzing and interpreting programme/project performance data collected during monitoring, and communicating progress on programme implementation and achievement of results to key stakeholders such as partners, donors, governing bodies, beneficiaries and management, using various relevant reporting formats.
Application of the results-based management approach in reporting on the strategic plan and biennial work programme and budget involves: (i) describing the overall progress towards achievement of expected accomplishments and strategic level results for a specific period, using the indicators of achievement; (ii) identifying the actual result/changes achieved during the reporting period; (iii) analyzing and explaining the difference between what was expected and what was actually achieved by making comparisons between what was achieved against the baselines and set targets for the reporting period; and (iv) identifying any changes to be made during the next period in order to increase the likelihood of achieving the expected results.
Data collection, analysis and interpretation are essential for monitoring programme/project implementation, and tracking and reporting results. Based on the expectations set by the indicators of achievement, data collection plans and methodology are put in place during the planning stage. Data analysis and interpretation entails systematically providing answers to the following questions:
- What is the overall picture/change the data is showing?
- What are the trends and conclusions that can be drawn? Report results in comparison to earlier achievements and to your baseline and targets.
- Can the conclusion drawn be verified? Use the most important and relevant data and findings from evaluations to support performance reporting.
Monitoring reports provide the means for regular feedback and early indications of progress (or lack thereof) in achievement of intended results, which facilitates decision-making and learning for programme/project improvement. Information from monitoring also serves as a critical input to evaluation.
The Purpose of monitoring and reporting in UN-Habitat is to:
- Promote accountability for the achievement of objectives to governing bodies, donors, partners, beneficiaries and other stakeholders through the annual reports on the implementation of the strategic plan, programme performance reports on the biennial work programme and budget, as well as progress reports on project implementation;
- Provide information for decision making to management, governing bodies, donors and other stakeholders to improve the performance of the organization;
- Prepare the Secretary General’s programme performance reports to the General Assembly (mid-biennium and end of each biennium);
- Provide evidence-based programme performance information that is credible, reliable and useful, and is critical for evaluation;
- Provide information (particularly results monitoring) for advocacy to change policies or programmes;
- Form the basis for knowledge sharing, reflection, and learning from successes and best practices, as well failures, to make future programming and implementation more effective.
Figure 32: The Significance of Monitoring and Reporting