He made the comment during his keynote address at the GovCFO Summit 2012, which takes place on 12 and 13 of July in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The event, convened by FutureGov Asia Pacific Magazine, gives the platform where 100 Chief Finance Officers and Finance Directors from different countries across the region gather to share experiences and discuss common challenges.
He explained that when projects are planned and carried out, oftentimes the focus of evaluation is on the technical and financial side, rather than the outcomes they deliver to different segments of the society.
Thomas’s team reviews ADB’s operations to assess their effectiveness, learn from past experience, and improve the development of future policies, strategies, programs, and projects
Thomas said that the region faces three challenges in its effort to sustain robust growth: growing inequalities, rising frequency and intensity of climate-related disasters, as well as urgent need to improve governance.
“Governance is an overarching factor which determines how well we respond to other challenges,” stressed Thomas. “The region we live in has enjoyed robust growth in the past two decades, but we can’t take it for granted and assume that it will automatically continue.”
However, across the region there are vast differences local and national governments need to take into account. The authorities will also need to carefully evaluate the role of external financial agencies and develop capacity within their jurisdiction. Thomas summarised five areas where actions should be taken to improve public sector outcomes:
Right incentives – Although many are arguing against giving incentives to people to perform part of their job scope, Thomas pointed that in pragmatic terms, giving the incentives in many cases actually drive up the outcomes significantly.
Transparency and participation
Public sector management – including collaborative effort in public finance management, exploring non-traditional means for transparency and participation, and support research for locally-derived research. “Quite often making decisions based on applying global research to local settings does harm rather than good because the particular influencing factors in the locality might not be properly considered,” stressed Thomas.
Monitoring and evaluation – “Things are hard to stick if we do not have proper evaluation,” said Thomas, who made the example of Bolsa Familia, a welfare scheme in Mexico. The evaluation showed the results of the programme, making it hard for the government to stop the programme.
Connecting the dots – “We are very focused on our own areas, but a lot of the projects public sector conducts have positive outcomes in other areas,” Thomas said. “If the concerning agencies can come together it will not only make planning much more effective, but also provide motivation to continue the good work.”