Every project has to include indicators for an assessment – it is mandatory for projects in general, including these, which are submitted under the Plan for Resilience and Recovery. The choice of indicators depends on many things, but the most important thing for these is the possibility to provide opportunity for an evaluation of the project - whether it has achieved its goals and whether it has led to positive effects.
What is the case with the evaluation indicators of the projects under the Recovery Plan?
Bulgaria’s Recovery and Resilience plan contains 60 projects and it is mandatory to indicate results and effects indicators in the application form. (Point 6 or Point 8). We’ve made a qualitative assessment of all the indicators, found within the NPRR. This assessment is based on the extent to which the presented indicators make it possible to assess the results of the project and whether and to what extent the project achieves its purpose.
Overall, the development of good evaluation indicators is performed by following the chain of results. The chain makes it possible to describe and make sense for all of the resources and the sequence of actions that led to the achievement of the respective intermediate or final result.
In Bulgaria, the importance of well-selected and compiled indicators is often overlooked, as they are perceived as an insignificant part of the planning and implementation of policies, programs or investment projects. When it comes to the evaluation of products/services in important documents of the state administration, for example in the program budgets of ministries and departments – in a huge number of cases we observe formalism in defining the indicators, such as: number of updated regulations; number of hosted official meetings; participations in discussions; maintenance of databases; etc. A similar conclusion could be drawn for most of the projects, implemented under the EU Operative programmes.
The main disadvantages of the used indicators can be summarized as follows:
· They show the number of activities or “produced” products – but no results and effects
· They are not related to their resource/funding – this represents a challenge to efficiency
· They don’t have baseline and target values – in order to be able to compare the effects of the project with the alternative
· They are not timed
· They don’t give the possibility to evaluate whether the desired impact has been achieved
The qualitative review of the indicators indicated in the projects under the Recovery Plan shows the following:
· There is no significant progress in defining good indicators that show a link to the project’s objectives. Still widely used are: number of documents; adopted and amended laws; share of agreed funds; number of participants in the project; completed construction works; number of concluded contracts; number of announced tender procedures; implemented systems; etc.;
· If most of the projects contain some experience in defining and measuring products (results), then defining and measuring effects is rather rare.
· In most projects, the result indicators are actually a description of the project activities
· In 7 of the projects, it is noted that the effect indicators are not applicable
· In a significant part of the projects there are no numerical values of indicators – both the basic and the target ones
· Almost none of the projects use internationally recognized impact assessment indicators or independent sources of information for their calculation.
To illustrate, the following two examples (positive and negative) of the impact indicators used in two of the projects can be considered:
Increased competencies of teachers for work in STEM environment
For the project in general:
Source of data and baseline/final values: External impact assessment of the program.
-Initial value – 0 pieces [ at the start of the project]
-Intermediate value – 0 pieces [ First six months 2021]
-Intermediate value – 0 pieces [ Second six months 2021]
-Intermediate value – 0 pieces [ First six months 2022]
Finally, and in conclusion, we shall note that the low quality of the evaluation indicators shows weakness in the development of the projects eligible for funding. Even if the European Commission approves Bulgaria’s national plan for reconstruction and resilience and starts funding the projects soon, it remains questionable whether these funds will not become another scheme for wasting and inefficient spending of money without a clear(useful) result.
 It is not clear why, although a common layout is used, the numbering of the tables by individual projects differs.
 This process has not made much progress, despite the guidance and methodological support from the Ministry of Finance, available here: https://www.minfin.bg/bg/241
*This document is funded by Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria through the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and Norwegian Financial Mechanism. All its contents are the sole responsibility of Institute for Market Economics and do not represent in any way the views of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and Norwegian Financial Mechanism and Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria. (www.activecitizensfund.bg)