Using quality data and information to make public decisions has become a global practice in government policy making. Evidence-based policy making is an approach that proposes building public plans and programmes on the results of research, monitoring and evaluations and in consultation with different actors. This decision-making process contributes to a more systemic understanding of the problems being addressed and can help improve the effectiveness of government action.
Evaluating the impact, processes and design of plans and public programmes is a method of generating evidence about the performance of government initiatives. However, in Argentina not all institutions have the same abilities to produce, sustain, and use information from diverse sources. On the supply side, public institutions do not always have the capacity to collect reliable and quality data in the short and long term. On the demand side, public debate does not always insist on policy decisions being backed up by evidence.
During the period from 2015 to 2019, the organizational framework enabling monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in Argentina was improved by the enactment of the Access to Public Information Law, the creation of the Congressional Budget Office and the sanction of the Annual M&E Plan implemented by the Office of the Information, Evaluation and Monitoring System of Social Programmes (SIEMPRO) in the National Council for the Coordination of Social Policies (CNCPS). All these regulations constitute significant innovations towards the development of a national evaluation policy. However, a law representing a broader framework for monitoring government activity is still pending.
During this time, the number and quality of institutional actors at the governmental level performing M&E increased. Nevertheless, their budgets are still too limited to exercise these functions in a comprehensive manner. In addition, the practice of M&E advanced in two specific aspects: i) there is more specialization of the monitoring functions towards oversight and administration management; and ii) the evaluation of education and social policies increased. The least developed aspect of the M&E functions is the lack of systematic usage of the collected data. There has not been an institutionalized and regular process through which the lessons learned by M&E lead to changes in policies.
Strengthening and extending the evaluation culture in Argentina requires overcoming these pre-existing challenges in terms of policies, institutions and regulations. To this end, it is necessary to promote a national evaluation policy that integrates and coordinates the M&E functions in a ruling agency under the Chief of Staff, strengthens the culture of evaluation in the National Public Administration (NPA), constructs evaluability parameters for policies, enhances officers´ capacities, ensures quality policies and informs the national development plan.