The responsibility for programming, commissioning and managing independent evaluations and providing support/advisory services to other evaluations conducted by SECO operational divisions is located within the Quality and Resource Unit in the Department of Economic Co-operation and Development. Positioning the Evaluation function in the Department aims at ensuring a close collaboration with divisions and management to facilitate a consequent use of the findings, lessons learned and recommendations of the evaluation. The evaluation function is staffed with two part time evaluation officers.
To ensure greater transparency, independence and credibility, the evaluation policy specifies since 1 January 2009 that the Evaluation Officer reports to an external committee. This independent Committee provides oversight of the evaluation function and reports to SECO Director. It comprises five members, representing political, academic, business and international circles as well as civil society organisations. The Chairman of the Evaluation Committee is elected by the Committee Members. The Evaluation Committee meets normally twice a year. The Evaluation Officer acts as the Secretariat for the Committee.
A distinction is made between three different categories of evaluations depending on who commissions them and on who conducts them:
- Independent evaluations are determined by the External evaluation committee, managed by the person in charge at the evaluation unit and conducted by external consultants. They focus on country assistance strategies, crosscutting issues or themes or economic co-operation instruments and are submitted directly to the external Committee.
- External evaluations are determined by the heads of operational divisions, managed by the person in charge of the program and conducted by external consultants. External evaluations report to the Head of operations
- Internal reviews are determined by the heads of operational divisions and carried out directly by the Project Manager or by the Implementing Agency.
The independence of the Evaluation Officer is assured by: seating of the Evaluation Officer in a division with no operational activities, reporting to the Evaluation Committee, approval by the Evaluation Committee of the budget allocations for independent evaluations and any other measures aiming at strengthening the evaluation function, selection of independent evaluations by the Evaluation Committee. The Evaluation Officer defines the scope, methods and deadlines of independent evaluations. All independent evaluations are systematically published along with related management responses and the comments of the Evaluation Committee. The Evaluation Officer is obligated to raise any issue related to his/her independence with the Evaluation Committee.
Independent and external evaluations must meet SEVAL and OECD standards. SECO assesses its projects on the basis of the OECD/DAC's international criteria Out of the 80 staff members in the department, the evaluation and controlling section presently relies on one staff member, the Evaluation Officer.
The Evaluation Officer co-ordinates the two-year evaluation work program, based on the programming of operational divisions, and taking into account the strategic and operational needs of SECO /WE. Consultation and involvement of partner countries is limited. The policy provides for a management response to each external / independent evaluation, signed by the Head of operations of SECO/ head of department. A system for tracking follow-up actions is operational for all independent evaluations.
The publication "Better Aid: Evaluation in Development Agencies" provides individual evaluation profiles for each member of the DAC Network on Development Evaluation.
Each profile provides information on the core elements of the evaluation function set-up and management, including the mandate of the unit, mechanisms to protect independence and ensure quality, reporting lines and distribution of evaluation reports.