Influence of monitoring and evaluation on project performance: a case of African virtual university, Kenya
This study was set out to assess the influence of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) on project performance at African Virtual University (AVU). Monitoring and evaluation helps track project performance at any given time and provides reasons for an observed project status. In this study monitoring and evaluation was defined by its activities: M&E planning, M&E training, baseline surveys and information systems while project performance was considered as the degree of goal achievement. The objectives of the study were to establish how M&E plans influence project performance; to assess the influence of M&E training on project performance; to determine how baseline surveys influence project performance; and establish the influence of information systems on project performance. Currently, there is inadequate knowledge on the influence of M&E on project performance a situation that this study addresses. It is hoped an understanding of M&E – Project performance relationship can improve the practice of M&E and consequently project performance among NGOs, learning institutions, students of project management and researchers in M&E. The study also reviewed the evolution of M&E and examined how the discipline has evolved over time. Two projects successfully implemented by AVU, the Multinational Project (MNP) and the Virtual University for Cancer Control Network (VUCCnet) were analysed through a mixed research design of ex-post facto and survey to determine a possible M&E - project performance relationship. All documents for the two projects, the project appraisal reports, inception report, databases and end of project reports were reviewed. This secondary data was supplemented with primary data collected from a survey of two funding agencies, AVU as the implementer and 15 beneficiary institutions. This data was analysed using quantitative and qualitative methods. Results show that monitoring and evaluation as a management function, indeed has influence on project performance. This is demonstrated in activities like M&E planning in which prior to project implementation, appropriate performance indicators are identified and a data collection schedule is devised. How data would be analysed to show project performance is also planned under M&E. In this way all necessary measures to ensure project performance is enhanced, are taken care of under M&E planning. Further, results show that all participating institutions underwent M&E training, participated in baseline surveys and were privy to the M&E plans developed by AVU. On average, 92% of the respondents gave plausible reasons why they thought M&E influences project performance in reference to the projects under study. Spearman correlation showed a positive relationship of 0.6 between M&E and project performance for both projects. Particularly, it showed that on average, M&E planning and M&E training had statistically significant correlation with project performance at 0.8 and 0.7 respectively. In conclusion, the study has shown that monitoring and evaluation has a directly proportional influence on project performance and that an M&E plan should be in place if a positive influence of M&E has to be seen. Further, M&E needs to be implemented in full and systematically in order to influence project performance. Considering that projects are implemented by institutions that have structures, it is hereby recommended that an M&E unit should be part of an institution. Short of that, a full-time M&E officer should be part of an institutional establishment in order to enhance project learning and retain M&E memory.