The Accountable Governance for Basic Service Delivery Project (AGBSDP) in collaboration with the project Implementing Units (IUs) namely; Audit Sierra Leone (ASL), Fiscal Decentralization Division (FDD), National Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate (NaMED), Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (MoPED), Public Financial Management Reform Unit (PFMRU) and Internal Audit on Monday 29th August 2022 ended a week-long rollout of the Accountable Governance Project Results Framework that started in Makeni, Bombali District and ended in Bo District, South of the country.
The four separately held project result framework workshop sessions brought together over two hundred participants largely drawn from the entire fifteen targeted project beneficiaries: Local District Councils, District Education Directors and District Medical Officers and civil society representatives. Officials.
Representatives were drawn from 15 Local District Councils namely: Bo, Bonthe, Bombali, Falaba, Kailahun, Kenema, Karena, Kono, Kerene, Koinadugu, Moyamba, Port Loko, Pujehun, Tonkolili, and the Western Rural District for one day long project Results Framework workshop.
In his opening statements at each of the four results framework workshop sessions held in Bo and Makeni respectively, the Director of the Decentralization Division, Mr. Adams Kargbo said the results framework would be used to determine whether the Accountable Governance project implementation is satisfactory or not.
‘’That is why a project framework is designed like in any other project and thus require better understanding of the beneficiaries and implementers ’’ said the Director.
He emphasized the importance of understanding the set indicators in the result framework that will be used to measure achievements of the project development objectives of the Accountable Governance which he urged participants at the rollout to consider seriously.
He further urged the Local Council officials to pay keen attention thereby imploring them to ask pertinent questions and to partake in constructive discussions of the indicators as well as remind them that their roles are crucial in the achieving the project development objectives.
In conclusion, he entreated the Local Councils officials to ensure the best of their contributions adding that they should apply to the best of their ability.
Delivering the keynote address and declaring the workshop sessions formally open, the Senior Deputy Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Momoh who on behalf of the Ministry of Finance welcomed the participants to the workshop on Result Framework and Monitoring Arrangements for the Accountable Governance for Basic Service Delivery Project.
In his keynote address in both Makeni at the Sahara Hotel and at the J & E Hotel in Bo, recalled that the Accountable Governance project became effective since 15th January 2022 adding that the project seeks to address some issues identified as challenges to service delivery especially at the Local Council levels across the country.
The challenges he catalogued are as follows:
Institutional weaknesses of Local Council financing management and planning process, The lack of meaningful discretionary finance through which Councils deliver development results and absence of useful data with which to plan and monitor basic service delivery.
The Senior Deputy Financial Secretary, M. Momoh reiterated the overall goal of the Accountable Governance project is to improve resource management, transparency and accountability of government systems for enabling delivery of local development and basic services.
He further highlighted the various project components which are as follows:
Systems and skills for local service delivery, better PFM systems at the central and local levels,
Local development financing – direct financing to rural district councils through development grants and support improvement in the IGFTS (Inter-governmental Revenue-mobilization strategies for Local Councils),
Integrated data platforms, for monitoring and accountability
Project Management and Implementation support.
He recalled that the PMU in April this year organized a two-day (on 28th and 29th April, 2022) residential workshop at the Place Resort Hotel, at Tokeh to finalize the project Annual Work Plan (AWP).
The AWP workshop objectives included: to incorporate the World Bank’s comments into the AWP, to harmonize costs across all subcomponents of the project for the provision of certain common goods and services and lastly, to revise and agree on specific timelines for the implementing the proposed activities.
‘’Ladies and gentlemen, today we are here to witness presentation of Accountable Governance results framework and monitoring arrangements.
The development of project results framework represents an important first step in forming the actual strategy.
It facilitates analytic thinking and helps programme managers gain clarity around the key objectives.
It sets the foundation not only for the strategy, but also for numerous other management and planning functions downstream including project design, monitoring, evaluation and programme management’’ said the SDFS.
In his conclusion, the DSFS pointed out that the results framework workshop provides an opportunity to build consensus and ownership around shared objectives, functions as an effective communication tool as it succinctly captures the key elements of project intent design as well as also establishes the foundation to design monitoring and evaluation systems and lastly identifies the objectives that drive project design.
Results Framework Workshop Objectives
After the opening courtesies, followed a presentation of set of objectives and expected outcomes of the result framework workshop by the Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Mr. Sheku Sesay.
According to the Lead Facilitator of the workshop sessions, Mr. Sesay presented set of results framework workshop objectives which include the following:
To increase awareness of beneficiary agencies of the components/sub-components objectives and the associated indicators used to measure progress (or the lack thereof) towards achievement of the annual targets leading up to the final year of the project.
To review the indicators together with the beneficiary agencies who are responsible for the actions leading to their achievements and ascertain the extent to which they are amenable to measurement.
This will provide an opportunity for a start of a process of identifying any indicator(s) and the associated reason(s) for considering them for revision/dropping them during Mid-term Review (MTR).
To establish arrangement by which beneficiary agencies will ensure timely collection of related project data through indicators in relation to activities which will be communicated to the PMU’s M&E Specialist as well as appointed focal points.
Below is a list of expected outcomes of the result framework workshop:
Ensured clear understanding by beneficiary agencies of the descriptions of the subcomponent-specific indicators, their sources of data, annual targets from YR1 to the end of project target.
Having established high level of comfort of beneficiary agencies with the descriptions of the indicators and their respective annual targets thereby generating information that will form the basis for possible revision to the indicators including possible replacement at mid-term review.
Enhanced better arrangement of project beneficiary agencies to collect data in a timely manner through indicator-related activities for onwards transmission to the PMU M&E Specialist through the beneficiary agency’s appointed focal thereby ensuring beneficiary agencies to submit activity completion reports at most one week after implementing an activity which will contain almost all (if not completely all) the information of interest for updating the project results status.
Laying the foundation for the availability of credible data and information that will support evidence-based decision making at mid-term review regarding project performance, design, etc. that will be largely informed by credible data on project results.
Putting in place systems that will make available adequate and credible data and information to demonstrate the good results of the project at every Country Portfolio Performance Review (CPPR).
Following those above enlisted workshop objectives, the Project Coordinator, Mr. Adams Tommy, presented the Accountable Governance project overview.
It is important that the right stakeholders are present in this workshop session. Like the M&E rightly stated, any project will be measured as to how the objectives are being met and rated.
Therefore, the need for accurate dissemination of related project information and required reporting framework to guide successful implementation of this project.
The Project Management Unit consists of 12 technical staff; (eight technical and four fiduciary staff).
In his overview, he told participants although the meeting is mainly about the rollout of the Grant Implementation Manual, but the overview of the AG4BSDP is crucial. The Accountable Governance is a six-year Investment Financing Project of the World Bank that was initially expected to commence in October 2021.
‘’As you may be aware, WB has its effectiveness conditions for the implementation of its funded projects. However, the Government had missed out on few conditions (timely development of the GIM and recruitment of Project Management Unit staff) in addition to the PAD and Financing Agreement and therefore leading to slight delay in the commencement of the project in January 2022’’ said the Project Coordinator.
He added the project has eight technical and four fiduciary staff and there are several documents guiding the implementation of this project and these are the PAD, PIM, FA and GIM PIM etc., are the important drivers for the implementation of the AGBSDP.
The AGBSDP is a US$40 million project to be implemented within 5 to 6 years period with possible extension depending on nature of implementation of the project.
Project Development Objectives (PDO): to improve resource management, transparency, and accountability of government systems for enabling the delivery of local development projects and basic services.
Component 1: Systems and Skills for Local Services Delivery
Component 2: Local Development Financing to directly support Local Council financing
Component 3: Integrated Data Platforms for Monitoring and Accountability
Component 4: Project Management and Implementation Support
The project will be measured through Results Framework and Intermediate Results Indicators – cuts across key implementing agencies (FDD, ASSL, IAD, MoPED, PFMRD, PAC, NPPA, NaMED etc.)
Component 2 (Local Development Grant (component 2.1) is the reason for this workshop
Seed money will be provided to 15 district councils to implement sub-projects.
The systems, processes and procedures that will be used by LCs to implement the sub-projects SHALL be guided by the Grants Implementation Manual (GIM).
This leads us to the main theme of the workshop – Rollout of the GIM
Component 2: Local Development Grant is why LCs were brought together to learn about the project results framework and how the indicators developed in the results framework would be used to measure the rate of project implementation achievement.
In his conclusion he added that the focus of this workshop is to explain to all the implementing units the respective project indicators, what their requirements to meeting the indicators are and how they can be achieved.
Presentation on Problem Analysis and Diagnostic of Local Development and Basic Service Deliver
In this presentation, the Lead Facilitator, Mr. Sheku Sesay said the problem analysis of local development focuses largely on the current context of decentralization in Sierra Leone. Pointing far back to history, formal decentralized government in Sierra Leone ended in the 1970s, and the prolonged civil conflict in the 1990s destroyed most traces of formal governance systems outside of Freetown and the Western Area.
Below are highlights of decentralization context in Sierra Leone:
However, with significant World Bank’s support, Local Councils were formally (and in many cases, physically) re-established across the country in 2004, with successive and successful rounds of elections for LCs, mayors or district chairpersons held since then.
While it is factual that there were no serious political demands for their abolition, local governance in Sierra Leone continued to linger on halfway completed.
The legal policy and administrative system of local governance is not fully coherent. It is seen having unresolved tensions regarding the scope of authority of Local Councils, central government, and Chiefdom administrations.
Political decisions by some central government administrations have consciously rolled-back some decentralization reforms.
The flow of finance to LCs through various channels is both fractured, in terms of different streams of funding for different responsibilities, and limited in terms of overall amounts reaching LCs.
In response to the lapses identified in the decentralization process in Sierra Leone, the Accountable Governance project came into existence to address some of the binding constraints affecting the current decentralization situation, acknowledging other reforms ongoing in the sector.
The project has three main components:
reforming Financial Management and planning systems at the central and local levels;
providing development grants to incentivize use of these systems and to deliver development results; and
improving flows of data between levels of government to support stronger accountability
To collectively tackle many of the most significant outstanding issues within the ‘work in progress’ institutional context of decentralized governance in Sierra Leone.
The project does not attempt to address all legal, administrative, and financial issues within the sector. This is out of recognition that other reform processes are already in place that are addressing these issues.
Notably, the legal and administrative mandate and responsibilities of LCs was envisaged to be addressed through a revised Decentralization Policy and its medium-term implementation.
The project seeks to address challenges in key areas of decentralized governance with the view of improving basic services delivery. These key areas relate to:
Organizational structure and funding streams of local services delivery;
Financing LCs through these structures; and
Monitoring and tracking of resources and critical inputs for service delivery.
Organizational structure of Local Councils
The organizational structure for local services delivery in Sierra Leone is regarded as complex.
This architecture has developed organically and iteratively through numerous piecemeal additions, amendments, and changes to law, policy, and legislation since LCs were re-established in 2004.
Numerous actors at different levels of government are involved in delivering services.
They often have overlapping and/or unclear formal responsibilities for delivering their contribution to basic services delivery.
The complexity of the management and accountability chain builds in transactions costs which brings the risk that services are inefficiently delivered.
Challenges identified in the governance of basic services delivery in Sierra Leone are as follow:
The weakness and fragmentation in the governance relationships among institutions overseeing basic services delivery is evident at several levels:
From a high-level governance perspective, these poorly functioning relationships are expressed as:
Fragmented institutional structures and unclear roles and responsibilities for service delivery among actors, particularly at the local level between LCs and de-concentrated ministry offices.
Few incentives for accountability between actors in the delivery chain, particularly as a result of weak data management, poor record-keeping systems, and the confused institutional relationships mentioned above.
From a public finance perspective, these less functional relationships means: Little relationship or consistency between central- and local-level sectoral planning and budgeting.
Late, delayed, and/or partial transfers and payments from central government to both devolved local government and to locally operating de-concentrated central government staff.
Limited, or delayed, utilization of available budgets by LCs to fund key local-level service-delivery operations.
From a local-level public service-delivery perspective, these weaknesses in central/local relationships feed directly into poor service-delivery outcomes through:
Inefficient procurement of key commodities in education (e.g., TLMs) and health (e.g., drugs, medical supplies and equipment) at the central level.
Delays in distribution of, and inadequate controls over, these commodities leading to significant leakages/losses at the local level.
Inefficiencies in the deployment and management of local-level service delivery staff (e.g., teachers, nurses, agricultural extension workers, etc.).
A lack of coherence and consistency in district and sector planning and budgeting, and in particular the absence of a framework for prioritization.
In this presentation, the significance of the role played by local councils in delivering basic services within the jurisdictions of their localities was emphasized.
Providing a background, traced as far back from 2004, during which the process of establishing Local Councils were reinvigorated and have progressively taken on numerous formal legal and administrative functions regarding the management of basic services. Local Councils are now formally responsible for the delivery of a range of services, including: primary and junior secondary education, primary and secondary health care, rural water, sanitation, solid waste management, agriculture, youth services, social assistance services, and fire fighting services.
Aruna Augustine Kamara, Communications Specialist, Accountable Governance Project