16. Monitoring

The distribution of goods and commodities is the final output of a long and costly supply chain operation. Distribution is the point where the impact of the entire operation is registered by the recipient population. As such, verifying that the goods planned for distribution are actually received by recipients is vital for success.

The objectives of distribution monitoring are to:

  • verify that selected recipients meet the eligibility (targeting) criteria
  • verify that registered recipients received the intended quantity and quality of entitlements
  • determine if distribution staff is following procedures as stipulated in agreements
  • identify any training or retraining needs
  • determine if control procedures are adequate at each stage of the distribution to prevent corruption and misappropriation
  • ensure stock is fully accounted for at the distribution sites
  • identify losses and take actions in a timely manner to pursue claims against responsible parties
  • identify changes in the situation that might call for the adjustment of objectives, plans or procedures, and provide programme management with recommendations
  • ensure that the set complaint mechanism is working effectively
  • The Country Office develops documents and implements a distribution monitoring system for all programmes that include the distribution of goods or commodities. If distributions are conducted by partners, the partners must implement the same monitoring system. Agreement must be reached with partners and donor concerning CARE’s role and obligations in the event that partners do not sufficiently implement the monitoring system.
  • In order to maintain objectivity, distribution monitors are not the same staff responsible selecting or registering recipients; or for managing or supervising the receipt, storage, dispatch and accounting of inventory.
  • Distribution monitors are assigned to particular regions or sets of distribution sites, yet monitor assignments are periodically rotated across regions or sites.
  • Distribution Process Monitoring Reports are completed by CARE monitors and signed by two witnesses to document the monitor attended the distribution.
  • Distribution Site Storage Monitoring Reports are completed by CARE monitors at intervals specified in the Country Office monitoring system.
  • Post-distribution Monitoring Interview questionnaires are signed by the recipients interviewed.
  • Distribution monitors are closely supervised and a sample of their reports periodically re-performed by supervisory personnel. Particular attention is paid to reports that do not indicate any exceptions.

All distribution monitoring systems must include the following minimum components:

  • a method to objectively select a particular location or distribution sites for monitoring. (Note: priority may be assigned to, for example, sites with large numbers of recipients or sites where significant issues have been previously noted. In such cases, prioritisation factors must be explained clearly in site selection methods.)
  • monthly monitoring plans detailing resources (people and time) and coverage (specific sites or recipients)
  • a system to track which locations have been monitored, and to ensure completeness of monitoring coverage
  • information technology to use in capturing and processing data
  • specific procedures on how to perform the monitoring activities, interpret results and report findings
  • supervisory or independent re-performance of monitoring (e.g. re-interviewing recipients and confirming their responses, re-performing calculations in the Distribution Site Reports/muster rolls to ensure mathematical accuracy). Include instructions on sample size(s) and summarising results to ensure that re-performance is conducted properly and effectively
  • review of recipient complaints and steps taken to address them
  • a filing system.

Country Offices must reach agreement with local donor representatives on methods of sampling and the required confidence level for selecting sample sizes. If Country Offices do not have adequate personnel and resources to monitor the sample size required to ensure a specific confidence level, a lower confidence level must be negotiated and documented.

Distribution monitors should be provided with standardised CARE formats to capture and report all necessary information.

  • The format should primarily require objective and easily quantifiable data, such as physical count balances, document verification, and the absence or presence of distribution materials.
  • The format should also include space for a limited amount of subjective observations and recommendations.
  • Distribution monitors should not be required to perform complex calculations, as errors could lead to information distortions.

The primary role of distribution monitors is to verify compliance with CARE and donor programme requirements and accountability standards. Distribution monitors must therefore be trained in the following areas:

  • Humanitarian principles and their application
  • principles of internal control
  • basic inventory accounting
  • physical counts of inventory
  • warehouse management practices
  • recipient registration procedures
  • methods to detect fraud and theft
  • sampling of goods or commodity to assess quality
  • sampling of documentation for review
  • observation of actual distribution of commodity, such as scooping procedures and measures
  • reporting procedures.

The purpose of monitoring the actual distribution is to observe the process, to verify recipients are actually receiving planned entitlements, and to identify problems from the perspectives of both recipients and distribution staff.

All problems identified by monitors should be investigated as soon as possible. If informants are providing information, all measures must be taken to ensure that their information is accurate. Steps must also be taken to protect and reward them.

Specific distribution process monitoring activities include the following:

  • Before distribution begins:
    • compare the quantities of items actually received at the distribution site (per offloading tally sheets) to the quantities on the corresponding waybill(s)
    • sample the goods or commodities for quality
    • conduct a sample weight of commodity container
    • interview the person responsible for receipt of goods or commodities concerning any irregularities in items received
    • verify accuracy of scoops and scales (if applicable)
    • verify banners/posters, etc. stating entitlements are present and appropriate for recipients
    • verify existence of drinking water, sanitation and first aid facilities for recipients.
  • For FFW distributions:
    • verify muster rolls have been approved
    • reconcile muster rolls with the master participant list
    • inspect attendance sheets for overall reasonableness of quantity of work performed
    • verify attendance sheets contain signatures or fingerprints of all workers
    • verify that per person commodity amounts to distributed are within the limits set for different labour outputs. Report and investigate any deviations from the limits.
  • During distribution:
    • observe security and crowd control
    • observe performance of local authorities, community representative, community group leaders, etc. participating in distribution management
    • observe performance of tally clerks; scoopers and/or distributors; and receipt clerks. Note incidences of non-compliance with distribution procedures
    • re-verify accuracy of scoops and scales (if applicable)
    • randomly count goods or weigh commodities received by recipients as they exit the distribution area
    • verify functioning of the Help Desk.
  • Upon completion of the distribution:
    • collect and tally any tokens or coupons used (if applicable)
    • reconcile tally sheet totals to receipt sheet/muster roll totals
    • note any differences between planned number of recipients and actual attendance
    • note the names and ration card/identification number of all recipients on the receipt sheet/muster roll who did not appear. Add the names to lists for follow-up during post-distribution monitoring to determine the reason(s) for failure to appear
    • reconcile total quantities distributed with any remaining stock at the end of the distribution
    • draft a thorough written report (see Annex 19.18 Distribution process monitoring report format). Ensure that two witnesses who attended the distribution sign the report.

The purpose of distribution site storage monitoring is to assess the adequacy of on-site storage and inventory management. Distribution monitors must be able to trace all transactions of inventory movement from primary and secondary warehouses to the recipients; and validate documented information on distributions, inventory management and accounting.

Distribution site storage monitoring may be conducted concurrently with distribution process monitoring or it may be conducted as a separate activity when no distributions are taking place.

The frequency of distribution site storage monitoring depends on the Country Office distribution monitoring system design.

Specific activities include the following. For further details see Annex 19.19 Distribution site storage monitoring report format.

Review recent Distribution Site Reports (prepared by site storage staff), information on inventory dispatches and previous Distribution Process Monitoring Reports. Where possible, copies of previous reports should be taken along on monitoring visits.

  • Inspect storage structure, storage area and stacking of inventory.
  • Compare quantities on waybills to those on authorised distribution plans and dispatch authorisations.
  • Reconcile offloading tally sheet(s) with corresponding waybill(s).
  • Reconcile waybills with inventory ledgers showing receipts and (if applicable) issues.
  • Conduct a physical inventory count of all stock in the store and reconcile with the current balance shown in the inventory ledgers. Obtain the signature of the person responsible for the store indicating agreement with the physical inventory.
  • Examine Loss and Adjustment Reports, and documents confirming destruction for all inventory removed from inventory as stolen or unfit for human consumption (as applicable). If any of the documents are considered to be suspect, contact the issuing authorities for verification.
  • Compare quantities of inventory issued for distribution on a given day with quantities listed as distributed on the receipts sheet. If less was distributed, store records should show the amount returned to the store or a possible loss should be recorded. Note any discrepancies.
  • Examine files for completeness and orderliness.
  • Draft a thorough written report (see Annex 19.19 Distribution site storage monitoring report format).

The purpose of post-distribution monitoring is to verify the correct entitlements were received by the correct recipients, and the distribution process is accessible to all recipients. Data must be obtained through normal programme monitoring activities on such things as: the actual use of distributed goods or commodities; specific problems or constraints relating to the storage, preparation and use of commodities; or the impact of the distribution on recipient’s lives or livelihoods. Depending on the monitoring system in use at the Country Office, it may be efficient to also interview neighbouring recipients who were absent from the last distribution at this time in order to determine the reason(s) for their absence. The following procedures should be applied:

  • Within one to two weeks after a distribution, randomly select recipient households in the area targeted by the distribution. The total number of households to be interviewed (the sample size) depends on the Country Office distribution monitoring system design, but a larger-than-normal sample size is warranted for the following cases:
    • situations where the population is not homogenous, or where there are social tensions or insecurity
    • sites where the actual ration/items distributed varied from the approved ration/items
    • sites where normally scheduled distributions were modified due to late or missed deliveries of goods or commodities
  • At each selected household, conduct a focused interview, preferably following a predetermined questionnaire.
  • Specific data that should be collected during post-distribution monitoring interviews include:
    • how the recipient was informed of the distribution
    • who actually collected the ration (i.e. cardholder or other) and how much in terms of quantities
    • amount of time spend waiting at the site to collect entitlements
    • what specifically was received, in terms of items and quantities per person
    • discrepancies between expected and received items
    • whether the recipient was charged any fee or tax before, during or after the distribution
    • how the community participated in the distribution process
    • satisfaction with the process
    • whether or not the recipient meets the targeting criteria
  • Pay special attention to seek feedback directly from women and children-in addition to men-on their access to, and satisfaction with, the distribution.
  • Ensure the ration card number is recorded and the persons being interviewed signs the interview questionnaires.

See Annex 19.20 Post-distribution monitoring checklist.

Programme managers must regularly review and compare Monthly Distribution Site Reports with the reports provided by distribution monitors to determine whether there are discrepancies. Possible causes of the discrepancies include:

  • misappropriation
  • lack of training
  • poorly designed reporting formats
  • fear of site personnel to report honestly and freely on distribution activities/problems
  • collusion involving transporters and individual(s) responsible for receipt at the distribution site
  • receipt of short-weight deliveries from CARE warehouses or transporters.

If any corruption in the monitoring system is suspected, consider the following actions:

  • Establish a programme of surprise visits by senior management.
  • Ensure (wherever possible) no individual monitors the same site two distributions in a row. Compare the results of two consecutive monitoring reports (each completed by a different monitor) at the same site.
  • Advise monitors of monitoring schedule as late as possible.
  • Match the ration card/identification numbers recorded on the post-distribution monitoring questionnaire at the time of the interview against the Master Recipient (Beneficiary) List to validate that the interview was actually conducted.

Project managers must track incidences of non-compliance with distribution procedures and actions taken to remedy the problem. Special attention should be paid to each monitor’s findings and recommendations for distribution sites, and the steps that site personnel have taken to address problems. Programmes may consider developing a spreadsheet or large wall chart with the name of each site, problems identified and actions taken to correct problems, with dates.

Project managers should assess monitoring systems themselves on a regular basis to ensure they are meeting objectives.

Ensure monthly distribution site reports and reports from monitoring visits are kept on file and made available to counterparts and donors as required.