Professional association aims to ensure accountability

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A professional association aimed at ensuring accountability, improving project and program implementation and support  the overall development of the country has been established in Ethiopia.  Graduates of the first monitoring and evaluation school in Africa, second in the world after the one in Brazil, formed the Ethiopian Monitoring and Evaluation Association (EMEA). The association held its inaugural general assembly last week at Kaleb Hotel. 
“In view of the growing emphasis on the health sector of Ethiopia to closely monitor and evaluate government interventions in relation to poverty reduction including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to health, the absence of appropriate professionals and strong professional alliances has been a major bottleneck for developing a Monitoring and Evaluation system,” says Dereje Mamo, President of EMEA. “The Monitoring and Evaluation profession is not well recognized and promoted in all development sectors. Thus, our association is established to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation system of the country through capacity building and strengthening partnerships among monitoring and evaluation professionals and practitioners so that officials will be accountable and no public resources will be wasted without convincing reasons,” added the president of the professional association. 
According to pundits, professional societies play a pivotal role in the development and upholding of professional standards.  It is believed that such associations safeguard against unethical practices and the unwise use of resources by availing relevant information to policy and decision makers.
Since 2005, one of the major health sector reform agenda of the Ethiopian government has been focusing on Health Monitoring and Evaluation, the development of a Health Management Information System (HMIS) and Human Resource Capacity Building as essential components to lead the reform.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has been consistent in its commitment to improve the health status of the Ethiopian population through the development and implementation of MDG-based consecutive Health Sector Development Programs (HSDPs). HSDPs aim to achieve one national plan, one coordinating body, and one national monitoring and evaluation system. To realize these important core interventions, system development and capacity building have been the main preoccupation of the ministry.
Monitoring and Evaluation is one of the important practices in development. It plays a key role in ensuring policies and plans are done according to plan and allotted resources. It further helps to measure achievements of established objectives and ensures progress on the right track. Moreover, it is a management tool that guarantees the public receives the benefits from the various interventions being undertaken by the development actors. It does this by activating development monitors on development actors and evaluating whether they have effectively been held accountable to the public and financiers.
The process of implementing successful developmental programs has many steps. These steps are; clear identification of the problem, identification of feasible solutions, priority setting, determination of the type and quantity of inputs, determination of the type and quantity of human resources, establishment of monitoring systems, and above all, the implementation of formative research to design and adapt materials and resources.   Each step in this process needs to be managed through a well-established monitoring and evaluation system. 
Although monitoring and evaluation became a major new field of scientific endeavor, primarily because of issues related with accountability, the focus was mostly on monitoring expenditure of public or private funds. Recently, the field has grown into a major scientific movement incorporating management and organization science, economics and other social sciences and epidemiology.  It has been demonstrated that it plays a critical role in the regular improvement of quality of services and programs. 
Monitoring and evaluation is a managerial tool that helps improve performance and ensures accountability at all levels of an institutional structure. It has drawn attention and emphasis since the 1970s. Traditionally, monitoring and evaluation has been practiced for decades in Ethiopia, especially by NGOs. However, nowadays it is being valued by both public sectors and NGOs.
Consequently, the government of Ethiopia has launched the first school of Monitoring and Evaluation at Jimma University. It is the first of its kind in Africa, and the second in the world after initially being started and becoming successful in Brazil, under the leadership of the Brazilian National School of Public Health; Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ).
Jimma University established the first Monitoring and Evaluation post-graduate training program, at the level of Master of Science, five years ago. It is the first in the academic history of not only of the country but also for the continent. Since then, more than 150 professionals have graduated in five batches, of which 17 are from different African countries. According to a practitioner, these graduates are playing a key role in improving the monitoring and evaluation system of Ethiopia’s health sector in particular, and Africa’s, in general.
EMEA reviewed and endorsed its annual plan, formed five subcommittees, pinpointed points needed to be improved in its bylaws, and decided upon criteria for registration and annual fees in its inaugural general assembly.