Final Evaluation of Social Protection Policy Support (SPPS) Programme

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Evaluation Plan:
2017-2021, Bangladesh
Evaluation Type:
Final Project
Planned End Date:
07/2020
Completion Date:
07/2020
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
30,000

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Title Final Evaluation of Social Protection Policy Support (SPPS) Programme
Atlas Project Number: 00080824
Evaluation Plan: 2017-2021, Bangladesh
Evaluation Type: Final Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 07/2020
Planned End Date: 07/2020
Management Response: Yes
UNDP Signature Solution:
  • 1. Poverty
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021)
  • 1. Output 2.1.2 Capacities developed for progressive expansion of inclusive social protection systems
SDG Goal
  • Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
SDG Target
  • 1.3 Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable
  • 10.4 Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality
  • 5.4 Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
Evaluation Budget(US $): 30,000
Source of Funding: Project budget
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 18,270
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
M Amanullah (Mak) Khan rmdgaus@gmail.com
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders:
Countries: BANGLADESH
Lessons
1.

Strong commitment and ownership of the government is the key to initiate, innovate and deliver programmes that align with various strategic pronouncements of the government. The SPPS programme is a notable example of such, a lesson that can be used in different developmental initiatives, aiming at raising economic and human development standard in Bangladesh. The success of the SGSP / SSPS Programme can be highly attributed to the political will of the government of Bangladesh to formulate and approve the NSSS and subsequent development of a plan of action.


2.

Notwithstanding the above, at the initial stage, the understanding of NSSS at various levels of the government, and capacity for implementing the plan have slowed down the reform process articulated in the SSPS design document. A critical lesson that can be derived here is that, before embarking on an ambitious programme such as this, impinging on political, economic and key national priorities, a few factors need to be reassured. These include, but not limited to: i. institutional readiness of the government; ii. assessment of existing and absorptive capacity to deliver that could be incrementally increased; iii. commitment of full funding, thus not compromising the intended results; and iv. consideration of a practical timeline within which the host of activities can be achieved.


3.

Key stakeholders, including the GED and line ministries, as well as members of the CMC were mindful regarding the need for a timely process with regard to SSPS, in line with the NSSS. Initially, the NSSS indicated a good prospect for its successful implementation and the Action Plan. However, it was noted that an unanticipated lengthy consultation process delayed the formulation of the plan, although it eventually ensured valuable inputs to the NSSS and facilitated its buy-in by a wider stakeholder environment.  A lesson that can be learned here is that, a balance must be struck in future between the need for an inclusive and extensive consultation process. An agreed practical timeline needs to be considered for the outcomes to occur in the interest of timely and efficient delivery of key outcomes. Absence of this may lead to opportunities being lost, together with the loss of the validity of the contextual conditions for the intended interventions.


4.

The perceived ‘possessiveness’ of the line ministries/divisions over their respective social protection programmes has both positive (commitment) and negative (turf protection) dimensions. This makes the work of the government’s difficult in the coordination process, and scrutinizing the large number of social security schemes to bring these to a manageable limit to ensure coherence in the social security delivery process. The task of reducing the number of social security programmes through consolidation was also made more difficult by development partners continuing to suggest new programmes based on their strategic aid objectives. Thus, the government needs to base its judgment on evidences from researches, specific needs of the population, and best practices that have been learned from elsewhere.


5.

One of the key lessons learned is that quality research and assessments can indeed effectively contribute to government’s policy and strategy development. The MTR findings as well as findings from key researches, such as the ‘Political Economy Assessment (PEA)’ undertaken by SPPS Programme demonstrated that there is a high level of political will in implementing the NSSS. These two documents, are being used in the formulation of the 8th FYP. Commissioning the PEA was of critical importance for broad-based acceptance of the strategy draft. The PEA not only aimed at mapping the level of bipartisan support of the NSSS, but also gave advice on near term actions on the NSSS development and adoption process to ensure that the strategy becomes more than a paper-based formula for a change.


6.

Following advice of the PEA on near term actions, the final draft of the NSSS and Action Plan could be further refined to ensure the much-needed effective management and coordination arrangements that remained a major weakness of the project. This relates largely to the coordination lead by the Cabinet Division, its structure and functional arrangements, as well as reassessing the over daunting committee system that exists, often risking duplication of functions, and time delays.


7.

Further, as the Government continues to take increasing ownership over the outcome of NSSS implementation, the project is more able to focus on providing experts for technical policy support that should be seriously pursued in the proposed next phase of the project. A word of caution, however, needs to be highlighted here. Quality assurance in the formulation of the Terms of Reference of prospective studies, together with a full understanding of the prospective outcomes of the studies must be ensured at the very beginning.


8.

The NSSS underpins the whole SGSP’s approach (including the SPPS) to open up the policy space, allowing the programmes to deliver outputs with more confidence and pursue outcome level objectives. The NSSS outlines improved coordination and delivery to enhance social protection effectiveness, as well as to reconfigure a programmatic approach to coordinate and consolidate the current fragmentary structure. However, the coordination process and mechanism has been one of  the challenging aspect of the Programme, with a scanty Unit established in the Cabinet Division, marred by lack of adequate and appropriate level of human resources which is by far inadequate for effective coordination with the 35 ministries, UNDP and host of other stakeholders, as well as the over stretched committee system that exists.


9.

A lesson to be learnt here is that the UNDP implemented SPPS project has not demonstrated the required level of effectiveness in  ensuring that an effective coordination mechanism is installed, especially in the Cabinet Division, as discussed earlier in this report. UNDP has been a lead player in the Local Consultative Group (LCG) meeting which also discusses the SPPS related activities, with no visible outcome in relation to addressing the long pending issue of social security programme coordination and governance. The possible next phase may take the opportunity to reassess the over daunting committee system that exists, often risking duplication of functions, and time delays.


10.

UNDP management has been instrumental in decision making, though PSC and PIC meetings. However, these meetings were not held frequently given that these committees were led and co-led by three secretaries, and management of their time was always difficult. CMC is the Cabinet Secretary lead Secretarial committee, purely government lead to take supreme decisions on social protection related policies, strategies, coordination, and monitoring. There was no scope for any development partners’ participation in the CMC. This lesson leads to the possible consideration by the government to include UNDP in the CMC to facilitate decisions from the perspective of programme implementation, as well as technical and advisory support from the development partners’ end.


11.

The designated focal points also often lack substantive knowledge about the type and level of inputs required from them. The Thematic cluster ministries do not meet regularly or as frequently as these should.  Moreover, decision to incorporate all Thematic Cluster leads, other line ministries, and Registrar General Office in the M&E Committee led to dilution of the Committee making it less effective. Like many other GoB projects, the NSSB is also subject to frequent institutional memory loss because of the usual transfer and promotion rules of the civil service.


12.

Also important is building a sustainable capacity within the government agencies in knowledge management and M&E, perhaps stretching it to MEAL (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning) so that these learning materials and tools can be accessed by relevant people and institutions, including think tanks. There is also a perceived need for regular media interactions occurring around these knowledge products. Thus, the issue of knowledge management and communication should assume a high priority in any further continuation of the current SPPS phase.


13.

Another lesson learned that is linked to the above is the uncompromising need to instill a full understanding of M&E process, and sustainable and ‘portable’ capacity within the government agencies, mainly ministries in systematically monitoring, ideally on a real time basis, the outcomes of the social security interventions. The Situation Assessment feasibility study toward supporting the developing of a national Single Registry (2019), asserted that relevant platforms require improvements to proceed with Single Registry, as part of operational readiness. While this is still being done, the ministries need to demonstrate their readiness and capacity to operate the Single Registry simultaneously across all the relevant line ministries.


14.

Another key  lesson relates to innovation based on the many success stories in Bangladesh around digital banking and ICT sector in general. The ‘Digitized Government-to-Person (G2P)’ 2019 is one of the notable innovations that could not have occurred without the strong commitment of the government and openness to embrace Public-Private partnership with several service providers. The piloting of this innovation piggy-backing on the already established SWAPNO project involved high-quality, randomized controlled trial data findings meeting many positive comments from the stakeholders. Findings need to be incorporated without delays at a more detailed level for a potential universal old age pension and benefits for  persons with disability . The evidence-base must serve as a high-quality policy tool for the government to scale up nationally for all beneficiaries of social security cash transfers, and support service providers and government administrative operations.


15.

The common perception that local power politics and national level political realities remain a considerable risk in relation to the retention of the current level of inclusion and exclusion errors. In this respect, the observations of Mid Term Review (MTR) serves as a lesson learned. The MTR reports that “the high inclusion error is a major factor responsible for the low poverty impact of social security programmes. Simulation results show the headcount poverty to decline to 17.7 per cent (against the rate of 24.3 per cent) when the inclusion error is eliminated. The resultant saved resources are distributed among the households below the poverty line in a manner that would be just enough to make them non-poor. This would imply, without any further cost implications, an additional 10.7 million people, belonging to 2.6 million households, could be lifted out of poverty”.  Correcting such a systemic anomaly that is deep rooted in the local grass root culture of Union level leadership and entrenched in vested interests since more than half a century would be a considerable challenge for the NSSS and the SPPS Programme.


16.

With regard to the study visits, selected officials received orientation regarding in-country and opportunities for study tours.  A lesson to be learned here is that capacity building must be based on assessment of capacity needs, absorptive capacity of the institutions, and qualitative outcomes expected from the capacity building interventions. At this stage, trainings are without a systematic impact assessment, or a follow up tracer study. The evaluation notes that the post-study visit reports and action plans delineating how their learning could be put to use were not followed up which appears to be a missed opportunity for best practice knowledge utilization in the context of Bangladesh.


17.

The NSSS and its support through SSPS, engaging 35 ministries and divisions, offers a huge opportunity for whole-of-government (WoG) approach to social security reform. This was the original intention of the programme but capacity constraints did not lead to attaining a mature attention in this area. The social security system in Bangladesh is an excellent example of multi-stakeholders and multi-intervention model towards a common approach that can justify the Whole of government approach. Eventually, over time, the government may consider adoption of a Sector Wide Approach (SWAP) under the lead role of one social service-related ministry and a stronger financial management by the Finance Ministry/Treasury. The contemplation to handover the coordination by the Ministry of Social Affairs is the first right step in this direction.


18.

The programme and institutional reforms suggested in the NSSS Action Plan (pages 6 to 8) appear to be over-ambitious for the period 2016-2020. Whether the changes suggested will automatically lead to delivery of intended results is open to question. A phased approach over a longer period of time (say by 2025) with a detailed step by step plan specifying outputs from each step expected would be a more practical approach.


19.

As Bangladesh prepares to graduate to a full middle-income country in the coming years, it is logical for the country to be increasingly involved in South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSC and TrC). The country’s success in various socio-economic areas over the years can offer opportunities to partner with the traditional supporters of South-South and Triangular Cooperation (in Asia and Africa) in undertaking social protection programmes where Bangladesh can be both a beneficiary, and a provider of experience based knowledge.


20.

Finally, UNDP’s comparative advantage based on its neutrality, independence, and long history of working in Bangladesh on major policy reforms in the governance, human development and poverty alleviation programmes, was equally useful in the SSPS Programme. However, government could have leveraged better on UNDP’s capacity to support the SPPS coordination mechanisms. Also, UNDP could have effectively utilized its  long-standing partnerships at the highest levels of government in instilling the changes that was need to strengthen the coordination and monitoring mechanism in the social security sector.


Findings
1.

The much written and discussed topic of demographic dividend that Bangladesh has enjoyed helping drive economic growth is coming to an end. Instead, population is aging rapidly, requiring policy and strategic changes as to how social security landscape should be reshaped to bring to its fold, both the aging older population and the working age people alike.  Around this ‘rethinking’  process, the forthcoming 8th Five Year Plan (2021-2025), preparation of which is underway is likely to focus on several key areas for Bangladesh socioeconomic development: that are linked to the pronounced commitment of the government towards  meeting  social security reform targets by 2030 in line with the NSSS, and also meet the SDG target by the same year.  Over the last one-decade, steady progress has been made in the Bangladesh social security scene although the impact is yet to rise to an optimum level.


2.

The current state of Bangladesh’s social security system is to a large extent, characterized by low coverage and transfer values, as well as high exclusion errors. There are significant gaps in coverage across the lifecycle. Also, over 70 per cent of the population are excluded from Bangladesh’s social security system. This is despite the fact that the majority of those on middle incomes are living on low and insecure incomes and would benefit from access to various evolving social security priorities being promoted by the government. The exclusion of those on middle incomes – the so-called ‘missing middle’ – from social security and other public services cannot be an option for Bangladesh in the long run.


3.

Even if these initial limitations of the social protection sector are to be considered in assessing the overall sectoral performance, by no means, these should be attributed to the implementation of the SPPS project. The sector has still not attained the state of maturity although the learning curve is in the upward trend. Many of the issues being experienced, such as coordination in the first place, are the product of systemic enigma in the government system, and the inherent  quandary of the policy makers to choose the most workable path.


4.

The DFAT supported UNDP’s SSPS Programme has largely played its intended part. It played an important catalytic role that, to begin with, confirms the counterfactual impact through its support to the implementation of the NSSS. What if the SPPS was not initiated? This section focuses on the aspect of counterfactual aspect to a large extent. The counterfactual is an estimate of what would have happened in the absence of the SPPS Programme, which implicitly is the key element of the evaluation exercise.


5.

The nature of the SPPS Programme is, mainly policy, systems and process oriented. Thus using a counterfactual in a rigorous approach, using Randomized Control Trials (RCT)  could neither be undertaken that could provide strong evidence for programme outcomes at this early stage, nor the counterfactual was  considered during programme design, exploring options at the outset for creating a control group or a credible comparison group. The nature of SPSS Programme does not demand such an approach. However, the discussions in the preceding sections do sufficiently provide the data and information, albeit in some cases, anecdotal evidences (such as outcomes of capacity building training) that can safely confirm a stronger body of evidences towards strong  outcomes generated by the project.  Where possible, RCT was used such as in the piloting of the G2P mobile money transfer, and the results, despite the rapid nature of the test, did confirm the usefulness of the system for potential replication in a larger scale.


6.

One of the early evidences of outcome  of  SPSS is its critical advocacy and policy support role that saw a significant  increase in Government’s budget allocation for social security from USD 4.61 billion in FY 2015/16 to USD 6.6 billion in FY 2017/18. This corresponds to an increase to 2.44 per cent of GDP for social security programmes in a span of only two years. The increased budget allocation reflects both enhanced allowance size for a number of life-cycle programmes and extended beneficiary coverage. As was expected by the project rationale and proposed outcome indicator, the total number of programmes has declined from 145 to 123.


7.

The SPPS Programme has also been a useful learning process for the government, DPs, think tanks and the policy setters as to how best to support the social security sector in Bangladesh. This was largely achieved while undertaking and supporting some of the key strategic research and knowledge products. The robust and most inclusive consultation process in developing the NSSS, as well as building ‘buy-in’ support across all possible spheres of the government for its implementation were also possible through the presence and painstaking  role of the SPPS Programme. Thus, here again, the counterfactual element is important. Simultaneously, innovating, learning and applying the learning into strategies have displayed a strong cohesive interplay. Two major areas of innovation: the social accountability tool, Grievance and Redress System (GRS), and the successful test of the alternative online payment method under the Government to People (G2P) need special mention here.


8.

A critical trajectory has been the policy and operational level consultations flowing to a strong body of awareness building and understanding of the fact that social protection is not just an undertaking of the government to support the poor. Social protection is now integral to the mainstream activities of all the ministries and agencies of the government, and represents the Whole of Government approach. The awareness and support generated should create a receptive environment to embrace the ambitious and complex scope of NSSS in the coming years. The NSSS Action Plan in the coming decade is expected to incorporate much broader spectrum of inclusivity, adopt the life cycle approach in social protection, and build measures to effectively deal with covariate shocks and climate change effects.


9.

The coordination aspect has been noted to be one of the weaker areas of the SPPS. UNDP’s support to the Cabinet Division in particular to strengthen the coordination across the 35 Ministries engaged in social security has met with limited success. Here again, the senior management of UNDP’s role in advocating for strengthened coordination could be more proactive by raising in various forums including the CMC and the LCG. However, much of the responsibility for limited results (discussed throughout this report) stems from systemic issues in the civil bureaucracy and capacity gaps in the line ministries, especially with regard to coordination. What UNDP could achieve well was assisting in the development of the agreed Action Plans for each ministry, towards the implementation of the NSSS. However, the Action Plans need to be read and understood across the ministries at all levels, and fully integrated with an M&E Framework in each ministry feeding to the overall M&E process in the social security sector.  Linked to this is the pressing need for a high-level monitoring of reform activities. Given that most of the Action Plans’ timeframe against the specific tasks assigned to various ministries has now elapsed, a revised plan with a new set of deadlines with revised monitoring indicators could be useful in bringing the implementation targets back on track.


10.

There are some notable initiatives of SPPS in providing platform for stakeholders for  dialogues  and to share knowledge about the state and challenges of social security reform in Bangladesh. Yet, the programme was not able to make adequate investments to build demand for a more progressive social security system from law makers, civil society, and other non-government actors. Involvement of media was observed to be scanty, as was the case in relation to communication and advocacy material dissemination. It is imperative that SPPS broaden its engagement to strengthen the capacity of non-governmental actors – such as civil society organisations, the private sector, parliament and the media – while also packaging its communication outputs so that they effectively reach these actors.


11.

Against this background, striving for universality in social protection is part of a broader social trend. Universality, after all, is a defining and one of the innovative features of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Sustainable Development Goals). This includes both the universality of principles — the 2030 Agenda rests on a set of universal principles and human rights applicable in all countries, in all contexts and circumstances, and at all times — and the universality of reach –the 2030 Agenda is for all people in line with the call to ‘leave no one behind’, a central pledge by member states.


12.

Social security as enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights along with education and health is also about equity, as well as access and inclusion. While those with equal needs should have equal access, those with greater need should have greater opportunities to access. Applied to social protection, this implies that, while the risk helps determine the type of support, the need should determine the extent of support provided. Yet, equity can be addressed not only on the side of service delivery, but also on the side of service financing. Thus, universal social protection aims to ensure equitable access to all people and protect them throughout their lives against poverty and risks to their livelihoods and well-being through a Bangladeshi home-grown social protection system of policies and programmes. The process is visible, but actions need to be initiated sooner, rather than later.


13.

The challenge, no doubt is enormous, and given the current low baseline of only 27.8 per cent  of household in Bangladesh having access to at least one safety net, attaining the goal of Universal Social Protection (USP) by 2030 may seem out of reach. However, through the SPPS, the government and the policy makers are able know by now what has not worked, and started to understand what may work. Achieving USPs  by 2030 in line with the NSSS would require drastic increase in domestic resources – using both new and existing sources of funding, and most importantly, increased efficiency in the government actors, and a strong coordination and monitoring mechanism. To make this possible, the perception of social protection within the government needs to change more, so that providing social protection for all must be  prioritized, including streamlining the task environment from 35 ministries to an absolute manageable number, and installing a robust and effective monitoring mechanism.


Recommendations
1

Completion of the pending activities: The project needs to be proactive in ensuring that several pending activities which are critical to the various outcome areas of SPPS are followed up and implemented in appropriate phases, some of which can be carried forward to the next phase as indicated by the project management. These include, but not limited to: i. Initiate the Innovation Challenge fund that can involve the NGOs, civil society and the private sector; ii.  Facilitating the Social Insurance system (see full discussion below); and iii. Undertake proactive steps for potential twinning arrangements with some of the best practice institutions overseas, based on learning from the study tours; and iv. Undertake steps to have the Bangladesh Social Security (Coordination) Act 2019 enacted that focuses on social security governance at both national and sub-national levels, and addresses beneficiary selection. This Act needs to be expedited so that it can be passed during the Parliament session during the mid-2020.

2

Strengthen the coordination structure and process: A number of angles relate to this recommendation: i. The coordination Unit within the Cabinet Division needs strengthening with a revised Terms of Reference, appropriate human resource structure in place and continuity of staff therein. A rapid organization development (OD) study can be undertaken at the earliest opportunity in this regard; ii. Given that equal level of capacity is difficult to be built across the 35 ministries, and that most ministries have small schemes, some of which may not, arguably fit into the character of life cycle based social security, the SPPS should focus on the core ministries which may range between 5 and 8. The coordination and technical knowledge support by SPPS to the key line ministries would be more effective in building an inclusive and results oriented lifecycle based social security system. Together with this remains the need to install a robust and effective monitoring mechanism.

3

Gradual strengthening the coordination capacity for the Ministry of Social Welfare: In tandem with support to key line ministries, technical support should continue with respect to other line ministries in an appropriate scale depending on their needs. Special attention should be given to strengthen the Ministry of Social Welfare (MoSW), which will take the lead by 2026 for the social security programme coordination and implementation. A consideration can be given to create a separate Division (Social Security Division) in the MoSW headed by a Secretary that will oversee the full delivery of social security services, and play the coordination role in this area.

4

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) functions: Building a robust and strong M&E System in tandem with an equally robust MIS linking all the implementing ministries, the local government bodies, the GED and the Cabinet Division on a single unified platform is of paramount importance. This could comprehensively serve all aspects of the NSSS through a Single Registry data platform. Given that the M&E Framework implementation is a nationwide issue, a new mechanism must be found that can function independent of the ministries. This entails eventually a dedicated M&E Office exclusively created for monitoring the social security interventions nationwide as a universal system. The locus of such an office is extremely important, resourced with dedicated M&E professionals with necessary knowledge and expertise. Ideally, this can be housed within the GED or the Ministry of Finance. A piloting assisted by an external agency/private sector entity for such independent monitoring and evaluation can be useful. SPSS can consider supporting this activity.

5

Updating of M&E Framework: The M&E framework should be updated with identification of data collection requirements as well as  find ways and means to expand on nationally available data at a frequency higher than the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). There could be also the need for identifying sub-level indicators, including proxy indicators that do not require national data. The idea of regular, smaller panel surveys was laid out in the NSSS; however, this never was funded by any stakeholder. This could potentially be pursued in the next phase as a means of institutionalizing regular, high-level data collection for informed decision-making.

6

Integration of Single Registry MIS with M&E system: The import of HIES Data from BBS, Upazila level training data, financial and budget information, G2P records, and GRS. Every beneficiary could be brought under two key data (i) the NID number, and (ii) biometric identification. Therefore, there is a need to develop a unified IT structure from the Upazila level to the higher levels. The IT architecture design of this nation- wide system would require design of the entire hardware and software architecture of the IT system and a budget to support procurement and commissioning of hardware, development of software (including proposing a few options of dashboards), maintenance and systems support contract for at least five years for both hardware and software, and, trainings as may be required. The Strengthening Public Financial Management for Social Protection (SPFMSP) funded by DFID is an example of a possible intervention route that can continue to support the MIS strengthening process.

7

Knowledge management linked to M&E in SPPS Office: A dedicated Knowledge Management and M&E Unit in SPPS is highly recommended for conducting the standard project monitoring and reporting functions; and secondly, for supporting communication and advocacy functions, as well as consolidating and disseminating the various studies undertaken by the project. Also important is building a sustainable capacity within the government agencies in knowledge management and M&E, perhaps stretching it to MEAL (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning) so that these learning materials and tools can be accessed by relevant people and institutions, including think tanks. The area of knowledge management and communication should assume a high priority in any further continuation of the current SPPS phase. In this connection, also important is the full operationalisation of the advocacy and communication strategy and the Gender Integrated Advocacy and Communication Strategy. Lessons can be learnt from the piloting of communication campaign e.g., posters and leaflets, that were distributed at the Ward level during pilot testing of GRS in the focused UPs in Kurigram under the SWAPNO project.

8

Activating the Social Insurance scheme: Devising a social insurance scheme that would be affordable by the target beneficiaries as well as offer adequate coverage (particularly including covariate shocks) is complex and challenging. Such a scheme cannot be delivered as a component of the existing programme given the complex scope and highly specialized inputs that this demand. A separate dedicated intervention should be closely tied to the future SPPS phase as a facilitating instrument for its full implementation. Thus, the subsequent phase of the SPPS should undertake this pending task on a priority basis.

9

Support the habit of saving: As saving is a major cultural shift it will require some time and adjustment before the beneficiaries can begin trusting the accounts to keep their money and start saving. Going forward, this output should become a major component in a subsequent phase alongside the establishment of the G2P process replication. Substantial investment in educating and motivating the beneficiaries to develop the habit to save would be needed as they keep graduating to the G2P platform with scaling up.

10

Consolidating the social security schemes: Current number of social security programmes stands at 123, brought down from 145. In support of the MTR, it is strongly recommended to review the smaller schemes and consolidate these to a manageable number. This does not mean eliminating the existing benefits, but to rationalise the schemes/programme with identical or complementary objectives. The GED and the Cabinet Division have already taken some positive steps in this direction. Future dialogues to reach a consensus should be supported by SPPS in its new phase.

11

Increased engagement of multiple stakeholders: Increased engagement stakeholders beyond the current list need to be pursued. Regular interactions with NGOs, think tanks, universities, parliamentarians, private sector and trade bodies, and most importantly media should be pursued towards implementing more progressive and universal policies, together with innovations in the sector.

12

Scaling up innovations: With SPPS Programme’s possible long-term engagement with local-level implementation through piloting of ideas, such as the G2P, innovations should be tested and results disseminated as part of knowledge management functions. The testing of innovative approaches to social security at local level would play an important complementary role in influencing government, enabling policymakers to see for themselves the impact of these approaches on the ground, and potential roll out nationally.

13

Study tour outcomes: Capacity building priorities must be based on assessment of capacity needs, absorptive capacity of the institutions, and qualitative outcomes expected from the capacity building interventions. At this stage, trainings are without systematic impact assessments, or a follow up tracer study. In future, post-study visit reports and action plans delineating how their learning could be put to use should be followed up, as well as, rapid tracer studies to see how well the investments have been in this area.

14

Design and results framework: SPPS, before embarking on a new phase must ensure that the design errors of the earlier phase as discussed in this report (4.2) care should be taken in articulating a proper and SMART Results Framework, delineate the logical link between the development objective, immediate objective(s) and draw up a theory of change that contains elements to facilitate future evaluation of the project.

1. Recommendation:

Completion of the pending activities: The project needs to be proactive in ensuring that several pending activities which are critical to the various outcome areas of SPPS are followed up and implemented in appropriate phases, some of which can be carried forward to the next phase as indicated by the project management. These include, but not limited to: i. Initiate the Innovation Challenge fund that can involve the NGOs, civil society and the private sector; ii.  Facilitating the Social Insurance system (see full discussion below); and iii. Undertake proactive steps for potential twinning arrangements with some of the best practice institutions overseas, based on learning from the study tours; and iv. Undertake steps to have the Bangladesh Social Security (Coordination) Act 2019 enacted that focuses on social security governance at both national and sub-national levels, and addresses beneficiary selection. This Act needs to be expedited so that it can be passed during the Parliament session during the mid-2020.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10] [Last Updated: 2020/08/10]

Partially agreed. Responses for each: i) discussions with government counterparts on the PSC have resolved that the Innovation Challenge fund will not be pursued as this was originally intended from 2014 and is no longer relevant; ii) advancing the social insurance agenda remains a priority area for the next phase of the project and will be pursued, although the project is only one of many actors that will be responsible for advancing this national agenda; iii) the twinning arrangements with overseas institutions will no longer be pursued due to domestic capacity building activities on social protection; iv) advancing the Social Security Act agenda remains a priority area for the next phase of the project and will be pursued, although the project is responsible only at the policy support level while legislative advances rest with the legislature.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Subject to donor financing, hold a series of national consultations on advancing the NSIS agenda
[Added: 2020/08/10] [Last Updated: 2020/12/30]
UNDP, Cabinet Division, General Economics Division 2021/12 Initiated On hold due to COVID-19 safety restrictions. The social insurance situation assessment has been shared with the Ministry of Labour and Employment for their comments. Central Management Committee (CMC) of National Social Security Programmes Focal Points discussed the social insurance issue as an agenda, where they have agreed with a national consultation to determine Bangladesh social insurance scope and implementation. History
Subject to donor financing, hold a series of national consultations on advancing the Social Security Act agenda
[Added: 2020/08/10] [Last Updated: 2020/12/30]
UNDP, Cabinet Division, General Economics Division 2021/12 Initiated On hold due to COVID-19 safety restrictions. Social insurance financing came up as an agenda in discussion with the development partners (DPs). They recognized this as an important issue in Bangladesh social protection reform, which required time and substantial amount of financing both from the Government and DPs. History
2. Recommendation:

Strengthen the coordination structure and process: A number of angles relate to this recommendation: i. The coordination Unit within the Cabinet Division needs strengthening with a revised Terms of Reference, appropriate human resource structure in place and continuity of staff therein. A rapid organization development (OD) study can be undertaken at the earliest opportunity in this regard; ii. Given that equal level of capacity is difficult to be built across the 35 ministries, and that most ministries have small schemes, some of which may not, arguably fit into the character of life cycle based social security, the SPPS should focus on the core ministries which may range between 5 and 8. The coordination and technical knowledge support by SPPS to the key line ministries would be more effective in building an inclusive and results oriented lifecycle based social security system. Together with this remains the need to install a robust and effective monitoring mechanism.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Agreed. Responses for each: i) this recommendation is aligned with the findings and recommendation of the 1st NSSS Mid-Term Implementation Review which called for establishing a task force for advancing the NSSS reform agenda through oversight and coordination; ii) this recommendation is also in alignment with the Review with recommendations focusing on technical support on key line ministries.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Re-activate a Central Management Committee (CMC) Sub-Committee to act as an oversight and coordination body for the NSSS reform process
[Added: 2020/08/10] [Last Updated: 2020/08/11]
Cabinet Division 2020/06 Completed CMC Sub-Committee has been re-activated to meet the recommendation. History
Revise next phase of the project plan to include targeted, dedicated technical support units to 5 key line ministries (MoF, MoLE, MoSW, GED, Cabinet Division)
[Added: 2020/08/10]
UNDP 2020/06 Completed The next phase of the project plan has been revised. Implementation for 2021 will now be subject to donor financing.
3. Recommendation:

Gradual strengthening the coordination capacity for the Ministry of Social Welfare: In tandem with support to key line ministries, technical support should continue with respect to other line ministries in an appropriate scale depending on their needs. Special attention should be given to strengthen the Ministry of Social Welfare (MoSW), which will take the lead by 2026 for the social security programme coordination and implementation. A consideration can be given to create a separate Division (Social Security Division) in the MoSW headed by a Secretary that will oversee the full delivery of social security services, and play the coordination role in this area.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Partially agreed. The recommendation for dedicated technical support to the MoSW is in alignment with Recommendation 2 which has been acted upon. However, the creation of a separate Division with the MoSW is subject to decisions by MoSW administrators and may not be necessary as the technical support unit assigned to MoSW will de facto play this role.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Revise next phase of the project plan to include a targeted, dedicated technical support unit to the MoSW
[Added: 2020/08/10]
UNDP 2020/06 Completed The next phase of the project plan has been revised. Implementation for 2021 will now be subject to donor financing.
4. Recommendation:

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) functions: Building a robust and strong M&E System in tandem with an equally robust MIS linking all the implementing ministries, the local government bodies, the GED and the Cabinet Division on a single unified platform is of paramount importance. This could comprehensively serve all aspects of the NSSS through a Single Registry data platform. Given that the M&E Framework implementation is a nationwide issue, a new mechanism must be found that can function independent of the ministries. This entails eventually a dedicated M&E Office exclusively created for monitoring the social security interventions nationwide as a universal system. The locus of such an office is extremely important, resourced with dedicated M&E professionals with necessary knowledge and expertise. Ideally, this can be housed within the GED or the Ministry of Finance. A piloting assisted by an external agency/private sector entity for such independent monitoring and evaluation can be useful. SPSS can consider supporting this activity.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Disagreed. While the recommendation has merit, supporting the function of a dedicated M&E Office exclusively for monitoring social security interventions nationwide is outside the scope and budgetary realities of the project. Additionally, the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division department already exists within the Planning Commission, Government of Bangladesh.

Key Actions:

5. Recommendation:

Updating of M&E Framework: The M&E framework should be updated with identification of data collection requirements as well as  find ways and means to expand on nationally available data at a frequency higher than the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). There could be also the need for identifying sub-level indicators, including proxy indicators that do not require national data. The idea of regular, smaller panel surveys was laid out in the NSSS; however, this never was funded by any stakeholder. This could potentially be pursued in the next phase as a means of institutionalizing regular, high-level data collection for informed decision-making.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Partially agreed. This recommendation is aligned with the plans for the next phase of the project. However, the decision not to conduct smaller panel surveys for regular collection of data was a government decision and has not been funded by any stakeholder.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Update M&E Framework
[Added: 2020/08/10]
UNDP, Cabinet Division, General Economics Division 2021/11 Not Initiated Activities will commence once COVID-19 restrictions ease and the CMC M&E sub-committee can meet regularly.
6. Recommendation:

Integration of Single Registry MIS with M&E system: The import of HIES Data from BBS, Upazila level training data, financial and budget information, G2P records, and GRS. Every beneficiary could be brought under two key data (i) the NID number, and (ii) biometric identification. Therefore, there is a need to develop a unified IT structure from the Upazila level to the higher levels. The IT architecture design of this nation- wide system would require design of the entire hardware and software architecture of the IT system and a budget to support procurement and commissioning of hardware, development of software (including proposing a few options of dashboards), maintenance and systems support contract for at least five years for both hardware and software, and, trainings as may be required. The Strengthening Public Financial Management for Social Protection (SPFMSP) funded by DFID is an example of a possible intervention route that can continue to support the MIS strengthening process.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Disagreed. The recommendation falls outside the scope and budgetary realities of the project as the project provides policy support, while the implementation of this recommendation would require software infrastructure development and management across multiple government agencies. Additionally, a prior Single Registry situation assessment conducted by the project indicated that several line ministry databases are not yet at operational readiness which is a pre-requisite for expanding on the single registry. However, a multi-stakeholder single registry working group has been formed to further advance this national objective.

Key Actions:

7. Recommendation:

Knowledge management linked to M&E in SPPS Office: A dedicated Knowledge Management and M&E Unit in SPPS is highly recommended for conducting the standard project monitoring and reporting functions; and secondly, for supporting communication and advocacy functions, as well as consolidating and disseminating the various studies undertaken by the project. Also important is building a sustainable capacity within the government agencies in knowledge management and M&E, perhaps stretching it to MEAL (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning) so that these learning materials and tools can be accessed by relevant people and institutions, including think tanks. The area of knowledge management and communication should assume a high priority in any further continuation of the current SPPS phase. In this connection, also important is the full operationalisation of the advocacy and communication strategy and the Gender Integrated Advocacy and Communication Strategy. Lessons can be learnt from the piloting of communication campaign e.g., posters and leaflets, that were distributed at the Ward level during pilot testing of GRS in the focused UPs in Kurigram under the SWAPNO project.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Agreed. The recommendation will be followed by establishing a full-time M&E position in the next phase of the project coupled with incorporating the responsibilities of a Communications Officer to manage and maintain knowledge in the project’s website.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Include full time M&E position in next phase of project and revise ToR scope of work for a Communications Officer.
[Added: 2020/08/10]
UNDP 2020/06 Completed It has been included in the project proposal. Subject to donor funding.
8. Recommendation:

Activating the Social Insurance scheme: Devising a social insurance scheme that would be affordable by the target beneficiaries as well as offer adequate coverage (particularly including covariate shocks) is complex and challenging. Such a scheme cannot be delivered as a component of the existing programme given the complex scope and highly specialized inputs that this demand. A separate dedicated intervention should be closely tied to the future SPPS phase as a facilitating instrument for its full implementation. Thus, the subsequent phase of the SPPS should undertake this pending task on a priority basis.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Agreed. The recommendation will be incorporated by making advancing the NSIS agenda a significant output of the next phase.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Revise next phase project outputs to include a dedicated output for advancing the NSIS agenda.
[Added: 2020/08/10]
UNDP, Cabinet Division, General Economics Division 2020/06 Completed A dedicated output for advancing the NSIS agenda has been included in the next phase project outputs. Subject to donor funding.
9. Recommendation:

Support the habit of saving: As saving is a major cultural shift it will require some time and adjustment before the beneficiaries can begin trusting the accounts to keep their money and start saving. Going forward, this output should become a major component in a subsequent phase alongside the establishment of the G2P process replication. Substantial investment in educating and motivating the beneficiaries to develop the habit to save would be needed as they keep graduating to the G2P platform with scaling up.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Partially agreed. It is outside of the scope of the project to provide substantial investments in motivating beneficiaries to develop savings habits. However, the project will incorporate G2P research elements and design a pilot for testing digital delivery on a universal basis under a couple of core schemes while investigating the dynamics of behavioural economics related to the G2P delivery.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Revise next phase project outputs to include a dedicated output for advancing universal delivery on a couple of core schemes via digital delivery with specific behavioural research components.
[Added: 2020/08/10]
UNDP, Cabinet Division, General Economics Division 2020/06 Completed A dedicated output for testing universal coverage with Old Age Allowance and Persons with Disability scheme incorporating G2P research elements has been included in the next phase project outputs. Subject to donor funding.
10. Recommendation:

Consolidating the social security schemes: Current number of social security programmes stands at 123, brought down from 145. In support of the MTR, it is strongly recommended to review the smaller schemes and consolidate these to a manageable number. This does not mean eliminating the existing benefits, but to rationalise the schemes/programme with identical or complementary objectives. The GED and the Cabinet Division have already taken some positive steps in this direction. Future dialogues to reach a consensus should be supported by SPPS in its new phase.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Partially agreed. The 1st NSSS Mid-term Implementation Review noted that while there are some economic benefits to harmonising small social security programmes, it should not be a primary focus of the project. The Review recommended carrying out a study on small programme harmonisation. While it is beyond the mandate of the project to influence a direct reduction in the number of small programmes, research and policy support in this direction will be provided.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Complete a study on small programme harmonisation.
[Added: 2020/08/11]
UNDP, General Economics Division 2020/06 Completed Inputs fed into development of the 8th Five Year Plan
11. Recommendation:

Increased engagement of multiple stakeholders: Increased engagement stakeholders beyond the current list need to be pursued. Regular interactions with NGOs, think tanks, universities, parliamentarians, private sector and trade bodies, and most importantly media should be pursued towards implementing more progressive and universal policies, together with innovations in the sector.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Agreed. The project will include this recommendation under an output for the next phase.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Revise next phase project outputs to include a dedicated output for advancing the Non-government Organisation/Development Partner Organisation (NGO/DPO) engagement on social protection policies.
[Added: 2020/08/10]
UNDP, Cabinet Division, General Economics Division 2020/06 Completed A dedicated output for advancing the NGO / DPO engagement on social protection policies was included in the next phase project outputs. Subject to donor funding.
12. Recommendation:

Scaling up innovations: With SPPS Programme’s possible long-term engagement with local-level implementation through piloting of ideas, such as the G2P, innovations should be tested and results disseminated as part of knowledge management functions. The testing of innovative approaches to social security at local level would play an important complementary role in influencing government, enabling policymakers to see for themselves the impact of these approaches on the ground, and potential roll out nationally.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Agreed. The project will incorporate G2P research elements and design a pilot for testing digital delivery on a universal basis under a couple core schemes while investigating the dynamics of behavioural economics related to the G2P delivery.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Revise next phase project outputs to include a dedicated output for advancing universal delivery on a couple of core schemes via digital delivery with specific behavioural research components.
[Added: 2020/08/10]
UNDP, Cabinet Division, General Economics Division 2020/06 Completed Partnership with MoSW to be established and subject to donor funding
13. Recommendation:

Study tour outcomes: Capacity building priorities must be based on assessment of capacity needs, absorptive capacity of the institutions, and qualitative outcomes expected from the capacity building interventions. At this stage, trainings are without systematic impact assessments, or a follow up tracer study. In future, post-study visit reports and action plans delineating how their learning could be put to use should be followed up, as well as, rapid tracer studies to see how well the investments have been in this area.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Agreed. The project will incorporate post-study visits reports and action plans, and follow-up actions for all such events and research outputs in the future.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Adjust project operating policy for study visits and research outputs to include follow-up actions.
[Added: 2020/08/10]
UNDP, Cabinet Division, General Economics Division 2020/06 Completed Internal project policy change has been discussed and adopted by project manager and national project director for any future similar activities to include a post-action dissemination / learning plan.
14. Recommendation:

Design and results framework: SPPS, before embarking on a new phase must ensure that the design errors of the earlier phase as discussed in this report (4.2) care should be taken in articulating a proper and SMART Results Framework, delineate the logical link between the development objective, immediate objective(s) and draw up a theory of change that contains elements to facilitate future evaluation of the project.

Management Response: [Added: 2020/08/10]

Agreed. Previously, the project was bound by the original project document indicators which lacked in some SMART areas and could not be deviated from. For the next phase, a set of new indicators will be developed, based on a revised Theory of Change.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Develop new set of SMART indicators for project outputs.
[Added: 2020/08/10] [Last Updated: 2021/04/21]
UNDP 2021/11 Initiated Subject to deliberations with potential funders. The new ToC is furnished with SMART indicators as well as activities indicators. History
Revise Theory of Change for next phase.
[Added: 2020/08/10]
UNDP 2020/06 Completed The Theory of Change has been revised and incorporated into the project next phase document.

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