With the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a shift in the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of government programs, projects, and activities (PPAs). The conduct of traditional personal site visits and face-to-face interviews has been challenged by the need to limit close physical contact and to follow health standards and protocols to avoid the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of the technical staff/M&E practitioners.

This presented an opportunity for the NEDA VI Project Monitoring and Evaluation Division (PMED), as the secretariat of the Regional Project Monitoring Committee (RPMC), to take advantage of technologies and bring in innovations in the conduct of field validation, project tracking and facilitation, and problem-solving sessions.

A guideline for the alternative M&E process was developed by the PMED including the set of criteria/conditions to be satisfied and the matrix that details the flow of activities. This was tested/implemented in the M&E of selected NIA irrigation projects and NHA Yolanda permanent housing projects in the Province of Aklan.

Instead of having the usual face-to-face project orientation with the implementing agencies during the site visit, a virtual pre-monitoring meeting was facilitated by the secretariat last October 12, 2020. During the online meeting, the project engineers/coordinators oriented the RPMC members on the project components and implementation concerns.

Meanwhile, the RPMC members are required to have their service vehicle for the site visit instead of the usual hitching of rides with other agencies. The conduct of the pre-monitoring meeting and the scheduling of the exit conference after the site inspection have contributed to the faster and more informed monitoring and evaluation as shared by the monitors during the open forum/discussions.

“It helps us make better and faster assessment if we are aware of the profiles of the projects and the concerns that affect its implementation before the actual site inspection”, said Arch. Arjay Arguelles of PPMC-Aklan.

While the alternative process provides a range of benefits in the practice of M&E in the new normal, there is still greater value in the data gathering and problem-solving through face-to-face discussion. Likewise, the alternative M&E process, particularly in the conduct of virtual meetings, requires stable internet and power connection, and reliable equipment to operate the teleconferencing application(s). This is still a challenge and an area for improvement most especially for the local project monitoring committees in Western Visayas.