The recent decision by government to revisit the tools it uses to assess the implementation of districts’ performance contracts (imihigo) is designed to ensure execution of priority projects, officials have said.
Imihigo, which have been credited with improving accountability and accelerating citizen-centred development, are signed annually between the President of the Republic and district leaders.
The practice, introduced as a home-grown performance management tool in 2006, seeks to promote decentralisation of governance and fast-tracking of development efforts.
Districts are ranked based on the results of the assessment but there have been suggestions that local governments are more interested in good scores as opposed to delivering on their targets.
However, during the recent National Leadership Retreat it was decided that both the nature of content and assessment of Imihigo will be adjusted to reflect the local realities of every district and national priorities.
Speaking to The New Times, Janvier Ndayizeye, the Information and Communication Specialist at the Prime Minister’s Office, said Imihigo will be evaluated based on their quality and developmental impact.
He said that, under the current assessment model, a district could score as high as 80 per cent for constructing a health centre because assessors looked at the health facility, physically, without analysing at its impact.
However, the new method will be more holistic as it will, for instance, consider the impact of such a facility on the number of women giving who give birth from there.
“If a district sets up a health centre, but it has no medical equipment, or medics to attend to patients, [then it has not achieved the target],” he said, stressing that quality of service will be key.
This way, Ndayizeye said, evaluators will be looking at the impact of specific targets as far as improving people’s lives is concerned.
The planning and implementation of Imihigo will also be in line with the National Strategy for Transformation, according to Ndayizeye.
“If it is a health centre, is it actually offering healthcare services to people? If it is a school, are children studying from there? It is the usefulness of the structure that has been put in place which will be considered,” he said.
The Spokesperson for the Ministry of Local Government, Ladislas Ngendahimana, told The New Times that the move is “not informed by ‘failure’ of the current performance contracts approach”.
Imihigo have delivered in many sectors, he said.
But, going forward, he added, the approach needs to be more transformational and aligned with key priorities under the national development blueprint, he said.
Key areas of focus, Ngendahimana said, include participatory planning across local government (districts, sectors, cells, and villages).
“The role of all citizens in planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and accountability will be enhanced. The implementation and assessment of performance contracts is not meant for leaders and some opinion leaders alone,” he pointed out.
On planning for Imihigo at the district level, Ndayizeye said that under the revised approach performance contracts in districts will focus on priority programmes that impact people’s lives.
“For example, a district that needs to urgently tackle the issue of malnutrition that should be its primary target and not construction a road,” he said. “The idea is to give priority to that pressing issue that affects people’s lives the most,” he said.
Gatsibo District mayor Richard Gasana said the changes will bolster efforts that were already underway to improve Imihigo impact on the people.
He said for the last two years his district emphasised public consultation to ensure that targets for the district reflect reality on the ground.
However, Gasana expressed concerns that sometimes residents might prefer immediate needs at the expense of projects with long-term impact, such as infrastructure and manufacturing.
Jean Claude Murenzi, the Mayor of Kayonza District, said the new ways of assessing Imihigo would lead to greater impact.
“A health centre or a school should not be established for the sake of its existence but to serve the people. Leaders should ensure that people use such infrastructures,” he said.
The target for central and local leaders’ performance contracts for the fiscal year 2017/2018 is improving economic, social, and governance sectors.