The Centre for Effective Governance of Indian States (CEGIS) aims to improve lives by helping state governments deliver better development outcomes.
What is effective governance? And why does it matter?
From poor learning outcomes to malnutrition, many of India’s biggest development challenges stem from weak state capacity. Whether it is ineffective government schools and clinics, people not receiving their welfare entitlements, understaffed and overworked police forces, or our backlog of over 30 million court cases, weak state capacity hinders the quality of public expenditure, constrains growth and hurts the poor.
CEGIS believes that building the effectiveness of the state and improving the quality of public expenditure is the most cost-effective way of improving development outcomes at scale. Governments are responsible for designing and implementing policies, delivering services and regulating markets. And research has shown that even small improvements in state capacity can generate outsized effects on development.
We believe that well-functioning governments share at least four features: (i) outcome measurement to monitor progress against specific goals; (ii) policies and practices that effectively hire, train and manage personnel to meet goals; and (iii) resource allocation based on evidence and cost-effectiveness; and (iv) building state's capacity to manage its market interfaces. At CEGIS, we support Indian state governments to build these foundations so that they can deliver development outcomes more effectively.
Why Indian states?
Across health, education, agriculture, nutrition and other sectors, Indian state governments have the mandate, resources and personnel to deliver public services and create the conditions for economic growth. Given this scope and scale (the average Indian state has a population of nearly 50 million), improving Indian state government functioning has the potential to help millions, making it one of the most powerful ways to increase Indian and global prosperity. Finally, state governments are ideally placed to lead India on policy reforms: a tried and tested reform in one state is more likely to be replicated by other states. Supporting state-led governance and policy reforms can be transformative for the country.
At CEGIS, we believe that four fundamental principles should underpin effective governance. And we work with state governments to put these principles into practice across sectors.
Across sectors, state governments largely focus on input-based programme implementation instead of improving outcomes. This is partly because there simply is a lack of accurate, regular and representative data on outcomes or beneficiary experience of government-provided benefits and services. CEGIS helps state governments in not just collecting this type of data, but also improving the quality of their administrative data, and incorporating insights from this data into government goal-setting, performance monitoring and general functioning.
High-performing organisations give autonomy to frontline staff and managers on how to do their job—but hold them accountable to outcomes. Yet most governments in India do the opposite: micro-managing officials on process, with no accountability for outcomes. CEGIS aims to transform the organisational culture of state governments by using data from high-quality outcome measurement for goal setting and accountability of managers and staff based on improving outcomes.
Across India, the traditional solution to ailing public services and programmes has been greater spending. Yet research has shown that simply spending more on sectors like education and health does not necessarily improve learning or health outcomes. CEGIS works with state governments to both improve their quality of public expenditure and mobilise revenues. We help governments raise revenues without hurting economic activity, while allocating funds in a way that rewards departments for performance, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
State and Markets
While most services are largely market driven, there is limited State capacity to manage their market interfaces. Governments have three distinct roles in the service delivery ecosystem – policy, provision and regulation. While Governments have traditionally focused more on the “provision” function, a combination of fiscal constraints, efficiency differential and incentive mismatches make it important for the State to engage with non-State actors (both for and not for profit) through appropriate models. CEGIS supports Governments in improving capacities for such engagement on public procurement, regulation and policy margins. This will help States in developing service delivery ecosystems in view of both market and government (in)efficiencies.
These principles can and should be applied across a broad range of government departments and sectors—but we believe they will be especially powerful when applied to these sectors:
Better education is the foundation of development. Yet, across India, despite significant expenditure, states have struggled to improve learning outcomes of children. At CEGIS, we work with state governments to improve learning outcomes through outcome measurement, personnel management and strategic budgeting. In practice, this could mean helping a state education department invest in a measurement tool that tracks children’s learning outcomes across the state and then use this data to guide personnel management and public expenditure.
Like education, nutrition is foundational for development. And like with education, Indian states fare poorly in delivering basic nutrition to its children. CEGIS hopes to address this by working with state governments to orient systems, processes, personnel and budgets towards improving nutrition outcomes. For example, this could mean introducing a robust data collection system to track nutrition outcomes, incentivise frontline workers (Anganwadi workers) to report accurate data, and establish processes to ensure that nutrition outcomes are the focus of all department activities.
The quality of local governance is an important determinant for service delivery. While Constitutional Amendments and Finance Commissions have formalised and expanded the role of local governments in service delivery, evaluating the quality of local service delivery is a challenge across states. CEGIS supports states in improving the performance and accountability of local governments by helping establish cost-effective and robust systems to define, evaluate and incentivize performance. For instance, in an ongoing project in Telangana, we are designing and implementing holistic performance assessment systems for Junior Panchayat Secretaries to help deliver better outcomes in villages across the state.