Towards EDPRS Ideals - Imihigo: A blend between tradition and modernity

Management By Objectives (MBO), the Rwanda way By Paul Ntambara President Paul Kagame, in his State Of the Nation Address delivered February this year stated: “It would be correct to say that in rebuilding Rwanda after the 1994 genocide we started from scratch...we had to start the country afresh.”

Management By Objectives (MBO), the Rwanda way

By Paul Ntambara

President Paul Kagame, in his State Of the Nation Address delivered February this year stated: “It would be correct to say that in rebuilding Rwanda after the 1994 genocide we started from scratch...we had to start the country afresh.”
Starting from scratch the Country did! Inheriting a dysfunctional local government system, the post genocide government had to borrow from its rich traditions to find concepts to use in resolving conflicts, implementing development programmes, and improving public sector effectiveness and accountability. This drive saw the rebirth of rituals like Gacaca, Abunzi, Ubudehe, Umuganda and Imihigo.

In May 2000, the Government of Rwanda adopted decentralisation policy that details a process of transferring powers, authority, functions, responsibilities and the requisite resources from central government to local governments or administrative divisions.

In order to accelerate implementation of priority programs identified, one of the key tools introduced by government in 2006 for reinforcing the local government was the performance-based approach ‘Imihigo’. Performance-based approach or the Imihigo ritual was found to be a genuine and meaningful way to give the population a chance to understand and to take and active part in this decentralization reform in order to improve public sector effectiveness. 

Imihigo is as old as pre-colonial Rwanda. Imihigo is a cultural practice in the ancient tradition of Rwanda where an individual would set himself/herself targets to be achieved within a specific period of time and to do so by following some principles and having determination to overcome the possible challenges.

Through this approach local governments articulate their own objectives on annual basis, which reflect both national and local priorities and they develop realistic strategies to achieve these objectives. The main objective is to create citizen centered governance and public service delivery.

In the modern day Rwanda, the Imihigo practice was adopted as a means of planning to accelerate the progress towards economic development and poverty reduction. Imihigo has a strong focus on results which makes it an invaluable tool in the planning, accountability and monitoring and evaluation processes.

Justus Kangwangye, the Mayor of Rulindo district and President of the Rwandese Association of Local Government Authorities says that Imihigo has been pivotal in the decentralisation drive.

“Performance contracts have brought in a new dimension to the whole concept of service delivery. The culture of planning and accountability has been entrenched in local administration,” he says.

Today, Imihigo is used to design a series of performance management contracts signed between the president of the republic and the district mayors on behalf of their constituents. The public engagement is recorded publicly in a written contract that presents a set of development targets backed by specific performance indicators over a period of one year. It is a genuine Rwandese response to address the challenge of reforming local government and managing change.

Government uses Imihigo to promote accountability and continued improvement of the level of service provided in the public sectors. The approach shares many characteristics with results-based management tools.

Imihigo identifies a set of clear priorities, presents a set of specific targets backed by measurable performance indicators. Each Imihigo undergoes a well-defined process of performance monitoring and evaluation.

Imihigo constitutes an efficient accountability mechanism and an incentive for local government leaders and their population to implement the decentralization policies and to meet local and national development targets.

At the end of the fiscal year, the district is evaluated according the progress it has made towards fulfilling its commitments in four key areas namely; Justice, Social Welfare, Good Governance and Economic Development. The purpose is to check that what was being said and promised in the meetings by the local administration was actually being carried out on the ground in fulfillment of the pledges in the performance contract.

“Performance contracts have greatly helped in the development of local communities. Leaders vow to accomplish set objectives and are evaluated to what extent they have achieved these objectives,” says Ignace Ntakirutimana, Resident, Mbazi sector in Huye district.

For Solina Mukanyarwaya, a subsistence farmer, Performance contracts push local leaders to be accountable to the people they lead. She says that Imihigo benefits the local people who are the beneficiaries.
“When a school or hospital is built, roads repaired, it is us the local residents who benefit. However residents should be more involved in the process of identifying key sectors to be prioritized,” she says

Imihigo evaluation creates a perspective of how policy on paper relates to policy on the ground. Since it was introduced in 2006, Imihigo has been very effective in improving services in the public sectors at the district level and is considered a key pillar in the decentralization process for Rwanda.The Imihigo process ensures the full participation and ownership of citizens since priorities are developed from grassroots level.

Preparation and adoption of Imihigo

Level  Who prepares Who adopts
Individual Individual Individual/Head of the household
Family  Family Head of the household
Village  Village Executive Committee Cell Executive Secretary
Cell Cell Executive Secretary  Cell Council and Sector Executive Secretary
Sector Community Development Committee (CDC) and Sector Executive Secretary agreed with the Sector Joint Action Development Forum (JADF) Sector Council and District Executive Committee
District Community Development Committee (CDC), District Joint Action Development Forum (JADF) and District Executive Committee  District Council and Governor of Province or Mayor of KC
(technical input/guidance will be provided by Quality Assurance Technical Team)
Province/Kigali City Governor of Province or Mayor of KC assisted by Province Executive Secretary Province Coordination Committee (Governor, Donors, Mayors, District Executive Committees), Council for Kigali City
(technical input/guidance will be provided by Quality Assurance Technical Team)

Imihigo at a glance
Imihigo is as old as pre-colonial Rwanda. Imihigo is a cultural practice in the ancient tradition of Rwanda where an individual would set himself/herself targets to be achieved within a specific period of time and to do so by following some principles and having determination to overcome the possible challenges.

In the modern day Rwanda, the Imihigo practice was adopted as a means of planning to accelerate the progress towards economic development and poverty reduction. Imihigo has a strong focus on results which makes it an invaluable tool in the planning, accountability and monitoring and evaluation processes.

When elaborating its Imihigo or performance contracts, each local government administrative unit determines its own objectives (with measurable indicators).

It takes into account national priorities as highlighted in the International and National strategic documents such as the MDGs, Vision 2020, EDPRS, District Development Plans (DDPs) and Sector Development Plans.

The Imihigo, at both planning and reporting phases, are presented to the public for purposes of accountability and transparency. The Mayors and Province Governors also sign the Imihigo or performance contracts with H.E the President committing themselves to achieving the set objectives.

The IMIHIGO process ensures the full participation and ownership of citizens since priorities are developed from grassroots level

Why Imihigo
To speed up implementation of local and national development agenda;
To ensure stakeholder ownership of the development agenda;
To promote accountability and transparency;
To promote result oriented performance;
To instill innovation and encourage competitiveness;
To engage stakeholders (citizens, civil society, donors, private sector, etc) in policy formulation and evaluation;
To promote zeal and determination to achieve set goals;
To instill the culture of regular performance evaluation.
Future Imihigo to focus on social economic transformation
As the culture of Imihigo takes root, technocrats at Ministerial level are looking at how Imihigo can be more focused. In a meeting of local government leaders held in July this year, the Minister of local government Hon. James Musoni called on local leaders to be “more result oriented in their planning and day to day activities, by setting specific, measurable, ambitious and achievable, realistic and time-bound targets.”

“Good governance is for development, and we need social and economic sectors for national stability and security, food security and socioeconomic transformation. We expect the forthcoming performance to be developed in a better way with SMART objectives, capable to lead Rwanda towards Vision 2020”, Musoni said.

The 2010-2011 evaluation of performance contracts (Imihigo) revealed a general improvement in agriculture, economic performance; growth in Girinka (One Cow per Family), Mutuelle de Sante coverage, environmental protection and a positive trend in the socio-economic welfare of all Rwandans.

For the fifth time, on July 26 district Mayors and the Mayor of the City of Kigali signed 2011-2012 performance contracts with President Paul Kagame.

Ends

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