The SIGOB Presidential Goals System in Colombia
In 2002, Colombian president Álvaro Uribe was looking for an information technology (IT) system to keep track of progress on policy implementation. Staff at the Sistema Nacional de Evaluación de Gestión y Resultados (National System for Evaluation of Management and Results, known as SINERGIA—part of the National Planning Department) planned to hire an IT company to develop such a system but soon found that the UNDP offered SIGOB’s software for free. They decided to adapt the SIGOB system for their own requirements.
Manuel Fernando Castro, head of the SINERGIA office, said Uribe was a “micromanager” and that SINERGIA had to develop a tool that enabled the president to follow up on the details of implementation. Castro said the goal of working with SIGOB was “to monitor and provide information in real time about what is going on with government programs so that we would be able to inform the president on a regular basis.”
SINERGIA had been operating since 1994 and had greater capacity than the Directorate for Presidential Goals in the Dominican Republic. SINERGIA’s own engineers refined the SIGOB presidential goal system for their own needs, for example, by coding a budget component into the system so that budget expenditure could be reported in parallel with progress toward goals.
SINERGIA’s existing infrastructure provided one technical adviser for each government ministry. The advisers were charged with verifying the information that goal managers and institutional managers input into the system. “The technical officials reviewed and validated the information in the system to make sure sectors and agencies were not going to game the information and report they were doing more than they had actually done,” said Castro.
The Colombian government had difficulty prioritizing the most important goals. “Initially, we had 260, which later dropped to about 170,” said Castro, adding that his personal philosophy was “the fewer goals, the better,” because it allowed his team to focus more.
Colombia also chose not to implement a committee of presidential goals. Instead, SINERGIA’s staff worked to resolve problems when alerts or restrictions were raised, and they called on the president and his cabinet chief for help when implementation hit roadblocks.
The Colombian system had far greater transparency than that of the Dominican Republic. “The system was made open to the public by the president’s request,” said Castro. “Every citizen who wanted to know what was going on, how much money was being spent, the results of the programs, and so on could actually access the system and find that information.”
Castro said some ministries initially opposed opening the information to the public and that it took a strong hand from President Uribe to bring everyone on board. Castro said that giving the public access to the SIGOB website “reduced the incentive for gaming, because the people were able to figure out whether things were as advanced as [the ministries] were stating . . . In some cases, SIGOB users highlighted untrue information, and that mobilized us to verify things in the field,” he said.
Whereas some of the goals and targets did change throughout Uribe’s eight years in government, those changes had to be negotiated with the president on a yearly basis, and ministers had to personally explain to the president why a goal had not been achieved. Castro said annual meetings created a strong incentive for agencies to deliver, because ministers knew that the president would review their performance.
Castro said that when he left SINERGIA at the end of Uribe’s first term in 2006, “75% to 85%” of the goals had been achieved. He said that although Juan Manuel Santos, Uribe’s successor, stopped using the SIGOB system when he became president in 2008, Santos’s government used a similar system with many of the same components as the SIGOB platform.
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