Bangladesh was a global leader in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and shaping the discourse for the Post 2015 development, resilience, urban poverty reduction and social protection agendas. In the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) era, the Social Security Policy Support (SSPS) Programme of the Cabinet Division and General Economics Division under technical assistance support of UNDP Bangladesh looks to continue to act on its portfolio of programmes to achieve the national objectives of Bangladesh and eliminate poverty. It has originated many of the most exciting and innovative solutions to development challenges.
In the area of improved governance, UNDP and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT: Australia) is partnering with the Government of Bangladesh in significant ways, particularly in improved institutional development in social protection and aid effectiveness. Specifically, SSPS, through expert, evidence-based support, is working with the government to reconfigure the current social security system so that economic growth is achieved more inclusively, with economic opportunities reaching the rural and urban poor and the protection of vulnerable groups against shocks. The programme is supporting the government in two areas namely governance of social protection and the strengthening of systems. UNDP, DFAT, and the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) recognize that a coherent and effective social protection system is central to Bangladesh’s future economic and social development. As part of ongoing National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) technical support work, a series of professional, evidence-based research / diagnostic studies have and are being carried out to inform current and future reforms and serve as evidence for policy and decision-makers.
In the middle of 2015, the Cabinet of the Government of Bangladesh had approved the NSSS of Bangladesh. This is the very first strategy in the field of social security in Bangladesh streamlining the national social safety net programmes in line of National Social Development Framework and plan, perspective plan, five year plans to address and supplement role play to reduce poverty, increase employment opportunity and reduce inequality, and address the vulnerable population, i.e., poor and multi-dimensional poverty, marginalised groups, climate and shock impacted population, old age, deserted and widow, persons with disability, and people living in hard to reach areas. The NSSS is a ten-year-long strategy for Bangladesh commencing from 2015 and will follow up to 2025. The Prime Minister of the GoB provided her guidance for another NSSS, which will be commencing in 2026, based on lessons learned and capacity of the institutions, and strengthened social security governance and system in place.
Considering the above all notions, in 2019, the General Economics Division (GED) of Planning Commission upon a decision of Central Management Committee (CMC) of the National Social Security Programmes under the chair of the Cabinet Secretary has undertaken the first Mid-Term Implementation Review (MTIR) of the NSSS of Bangladesh. The MTIR has observed some following challenging issues. Strengthened communications among the line ministries and greater flow of information will enable the NSSS Thematic Clusters’ members to track the real-time progress of the cross-cutting goals. It should also help develop an institutional memory, helping the new focal points / alternative focal points to catch up with the developments taking place. A dedicated NSSS desk (which SSPS Programme has been provided to the Cabinet Division and GED as Technical Agency) can be established at the cluster-lead ministries. Its objective would be to maintain communications with all the clusters’ members, as well as with other stakeholders, in particular, the CMC, led by the Cabinet Secretary, where Secretaries of 38 ministries/divisions are the members. This should help the lead ministries to play a more vibrant role in cluster coordination. Setting up a web-based NSSS implementation dashboard for all the line ministries can also help share information. From this dashboard, each ministry will be able to obtain information on the process being made by other line ministries including cross-cutting issues. Meeting details as well as other relevant information can be uploaded online for wider dissemination. A good example of such communications can be drawn from the recently established e-filing system for government offices. Just like an e-filling system, using the dashboard it would be instantly possible to track and monitor progress being made on the NSSS-designing an appropriate NSSS dashboard.
The MTIR findings showed that most of the targets set under the result-based monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of NSSS reforms are behind schedule. The delay was due to following a lengthy process of converting the complex and highly optimistic NSSS into a simple NSSS Action Plan 2015-2021 for the first phase, commencing from the end of 2017. During this period, the GED has developed a macro level primary M&E framework (data depends on BBS generated Household Income Expenditure Survey – a five interval panel data), and the CMC lead by the Cabinet Secretary with 35 Secretaries are members formed a Sub-committee on M&E lead by the Member, GED with all thematic cluster lead ministries, including Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), Statistics and Informatics Division (SID) and Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), and Ministry of Women and Children Affairs are the members in place and a Core Diagnostic Instrument (CODI) framework in place for the overall evaluation of the NSSS and its action plan implementation and reforms. However, the annual impact evaluation of individual programmes, digitized monitoring system, programme dashboard for M&E is yet to be completed. The results-based M&E is an involved process, which cannot be developed and implemented in a hurried manner.
In 2019, the General Economics Division (GED) of Planning Commission upon a decision of CMC of the National Social Security Programmes under the chair of the Cabinet Secretary has undertaken the first mid-term review (MTIR) of the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) of Bangladesh.
As a result of the MTIR, several recommendations were presented. Specifically, recommendation 7 observed:
Strengthened communications among the line ministries and greater flow of information will enable the cluster members to track real-time progresses of the cross-cutting goals. It should also help develop an institutional memory, helping the new focal points/alternative focal points to catch up with the developments taking place. A dedicated NSSS desk can be established at the cluster-lead ministries. Its objective would be to maintain communications with all the cluster members, as well as with other key stakeholders (like the CMC, Cabinet Division, etc.). This should help the lead ministries play a more vibrant role in cluster coordination. Setting up a web-based NSSS implementation dashboard for all the line ministries can also be helpful in sharing information. From this dashboard, each ministry will be able to obtain information on the progress being made by other line-ministries including cross-cutting issues. Meeting details as well as other relevant information can be uploaded online for wider dissemination. A good example of such communications can be drawn from the recently established E-filing system for government offices. Just like the E-filing system, using the dashboard it would be instantly possible to track, and monitor progress being made on the NSSS-related specific activities. The GED can take the lead in this regard and commission a study for designing an appropriate NSSS dashboard.
With some targets of NSSS reform behind schedule according to the MTIR, there is a need improve the reform process, including through increased communication and data availability. Although the GED developed the macro level M&E framework, the data to update this to provide high-level progress on a regular basis is limited. Nonetheless there is data available at on the NSSS reform progress, both at the operational and programmatic level, as line ministries make progress on NSSS Action Plan commitments, and M&E data from various social safety nets (SSNs) run by different line ministries and captured in different modalities.
As such, the intent is to merge recommendation 7 (to improve inter-ministerial communication and coordination on high-level NSSS reforms through a web-based dashboard) with a centralized platform that can also showcase specific high-level M&E data coming from the major social safety net programmes (approximately 20 – 30 SSN programmes make-up 90% of the expenditure).
This assignment is the groundwork for developing such a web-based high-level NSSS monitoring and M&E dashboard. The findings, assessment, and outline of this assignment will specifically feed into the development of the dashboard. The requirement of the assignment is to: 1) assess the current technical, institutional, governance, and IT capacities of the major SSN programmes, including identifying the flow of specific SSN programmatic M&E data from the lowest level input to reaching the national records; 2) interview and receive feedback from key stakeholders on their capacities, needs, and inputs on developing such a web-based NSSS and M&E dashboard; and 3) develop the technical outline document for the web-based dashboard, including front-end, back-end, and governance requirements.
There are two components needed in the dashboard: 1) the ability to track both operational and programmatic reforms being carried out in the NSSS Action Plans; and 2) the ability to track key data across SSNs. Regarding the former, tracking the NSSS reforms on the dashboard, both operational and programmatic reforms need to be ensured, updated according to NSSS Action Plan progress, and viewable by LM and by Thematic Cluster. Regarding the latter, there needs to be an assessment and mapping of key SSNs, examining how they obtain and record data, e.g., paper, Excel, Management Information System (MIS), who are the focal points, how does data get transferred upstream, and what is the capacity of focal points at each stage of the process. Further, if SSNs focal points are entering data offline or online, regardless of means, it should be examined whether there a point in the upstream process where data can be easily put into the dashboard. The report should assess this and provide options. Finally, where relevant, there can be recommendations for further research on components of the dashboard or research related to areas on M&E and using this data for policy decision-making. Assessments or dialogue events may also be recommended. Any practical and relevant ideas may be incorporated into future programming outputs of SSPS.