Terminal Evaluation of the Strengthening the Management Effectiveness of the Protected Areas System of Turkmenistan Project

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Evaluation Plan:
2010-2015, Turkmenistan
Evaluation Type:
Final Project
Planned End Date:
06/2014
Completion Date:
05/2014
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
14,238

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Title Terminal Evaluation of the Strengthening the Management Effectiveness of the Protected Areas System of Turkmenistan Project
Atlas Project Number: 00071151
Evaluation Plan: 2010-2015, Turkmenistan
Evaluation Type: Final Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 05/2014
Planned End Date: 06/2014
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Others
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-2017)
  • 1. Output 2.5. Legal and regulatory frameworks, policies and institutions enabled to ensure the conservation, sustainable use, and access and benefit sharing of natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystems, in line with international conventions and national
Evaluation Budget(US $): 14,238
Source of Funding: GEF
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 14,238
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Stuart Williams Mr. stuart@xanthophloea.net
GEF Evaluation: Yes
GEF Project Title:
Evaluation Type:
Focal Area: Biodiversity
Project Type: MSP
GEF Phase: GEF-4
GEF Project ID:
PIMS Number: 3961
Key Stakeholders: GEF, UNDP, Government of Turkmenistan
Countries: TURKMENISTAN
Lessons
Findings
Recommendations
1 The PIU needs to be managed with care: i) to ensure that PIU staff are not overworked, ii) some turnover of staff in the PIU should be expected as the staff becomes more experienced and valuable, and iii) the distance that this imposes between the UNDP-CO and the government.
2 It is unacceptable to hold a MTR two months before a project is due to close. The UNDP-CO must ensure that project adhere to timelines.
3 Independent evaluations ? particularly at their mid-term ? are extremely valuable for course correction and catalysing improvements.
4 It is essential that projects and project designs recognise the challenges of carrying out work in Turkmenistan ? and not just the normal conservation challenges (representativeness, coverage, enabling environment, capacity, etc) but the challenges of working on a day-to-day basis with government ? and the ?state-of paralysis? defined in this report. Normal modus operandi does not apply. For example, this project has been hampered by a number of changes in high-level staff within the MNP (including the Minister and Deputy Minister). The transfers between these people should include written commitments to such projects from the in-coming person. In addition, it may be necessary to seek the blessing (in writing) of the Cabinet of Ministers ? if not the President ? of such innovative projects before they start and continually to remind all people involved in the project, as necessary, that this blessing exists.
5 It is also essential that the UNDP-CO expend further energy in being pernickety about monitoring projects and attention to detail. Too many small things in this project went awry ? that were simply not being picked up in the UNDP-CO ? and which resulted in poor efficiency and effectiveness.
6 The barriers that this project came up against prompts the question of the role of GEF in Turkmenistan ? particularly for protected areas projects. Such projects may boost the capacity of a handful of people but biodiversity impacts are limited. It is probable that ?safe? project may have more success (e.g., working with existing protected areas) but this may undermine the concepts underpinning the GEF ? to ?overcome fear, catalyse processes and demonstrate success.? Further, the high turnover of staff in the government organisations means that champions of the projects leave before projects are completed. The conclusion, however hard that it might be, is that until there are significant signs of change, it will be difficult to justify further GEF investment into the protected area system of Turkmenistan.
7 It is critical to find a balance between effective project management and implementation, and ensuring that the government feels that it owns the project. In this project, there was an emphasis (at least from 2012) on trying to emphasize the implementation and management leading to disempowerment of the MNP in project processes.
1. Recommendation: The PIU needs to be managed with care: i) to ensure that PIU staff are not overworked, ii) some turnover of staff in the PIU should be expected as the staff becomes more experienced and valuable, and iii) the distance that this imposes between the UNDP-CO and the government.
Management Response: [Added: 2014/11/10]

i) Work-life balance mechanism is in place for the CO including PIU. The regular PIU updates allow tracking the workload of the staff and will prompt necessary decisions for tasks redistribution/backstopping as needed. ii) PIU staff will be encouraged with learning and other career development opportunities as they arise. iii) N/A

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
At present all members of PIU team enjoy flexible working hours arrangement. This practice will be continued to maintain work-life balance in the office. Based on the formalized backstopping arrangements, PIU staff will further have an opportunity to take at least two uninterrupted weeks of annual leave during the calendar year. More rigorous use of updates/tracking tools will be initiated to redistribute workload from more overloaded PIU staff to another or to Environment Programme Assistant who is also backstopping PIU staff.
[Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/22]
UNDP Country office 2015/10 Completed PIU has been restructured and expanded to address the growing volume of work. It will be extended to cover both of the portfolios.
2. Recommendation: It is unacceptable to hold a MTR two months before a project is due to close. The UNDP-CO must ensure that project adhere to timelines.
Management Response: [Added: 2014/11/10]

Agreed. MTR and TE schedule will be strongly adhered.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The practice of including MTR and TE schedule to Environment Portfolio plan will be continued. UNDP Country Office will ensure more rigorous adherence to MTR and TE schedule.
[Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/22]
UNDP Country Office 2015/10 Completed
3. Recommendation: Independent evaluations ? particularly at their mid-term ? are extremely valuable for course correction and catalysing improvements.
Management Response: [Added: 2014/11/10]

Agreed.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Matrix of recommendations/lessons learned and action plans will be developed based on each evaluation report. Regular updates of follow-up actions will be prepared and discussed with CO Management.
[Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/22]
UNDP Country Office 2015/09 Completed
4. Recommendation: It is essential that projects and project designs recognise the challenges of carrying out work in Turkmenistan ? and not just the normal conservation challenges (representativeness, coverage, enabling environment, capacity, etc) but the challenges of working on a day-to-day basis with government ? and the ?state-of paralysis? defined in this report. Normal modus operandi does not apply. For example, this project has been hampered by a number of changes in high-level staff within the MNP (including the Minister and Deputy Minister). The transfers between these people should include written commitments to such projects from the in-coming person. In addition, it may be necessary to seek the blessing (in writing) of the Cabinet of Ministers ? if not the President ? of such innovative projects before they start and continually to remind all people involved in the project, as necessary, that this blessing exists.
Management Response: [Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/23]

UNDP implements a pro-active approach in design of projects meaning that key stakeholders both at the political and technical level must be fully integrated into the design process. While working with the Government, UNDP has to overcome serious bureaucratic hurdles that make national processes as slow as possible. Vertical political structure of the country does not allow Ministers make decision on strategic project related questions without permit from the Cabinet of Ministers. On some issues, UNDP has to reiterate its requests (Note Verbales) several times to get Government?s response. In order to solve the most urgent issues and discuss progress of activities, UNPD Resident Representative has to meet various Deputy Chairmen of Cabinet of Ministers at least 3 times a year and meet with concerned Ministers even more frequently.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
UNDP CO will continue discussions with the Government on elaboration new project ideas based on development priorities of the country. In this regard the practice of creation of working groups will be used to ensure that new projects are well designed from political and technical viewpoints to reach the ultimate goals and ensure ownership and commitment to the projects. Furthermore, risk management will become an increasingly important element during design to capture all possible risks and suggest adequate and realistic preventive and responsive measures.
[Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/22]
UNDP Country Office 2015/08 Completed CO takes more rigorious approach to project design and to ensure more active engagement of national stakeholders to ensure the implementation of activities and goals of projects. Every project has now regular update on risks.
5. Recommendation: It is also essential that the UNDP-CO expend further energy in being pernickety about monitoring projects and attention to detail. Too many small things in this project went awry ? that were simply not being picked up in the UNDP-CO ? and which resulted in poor efficiency and effectiveness.
Management Response: [Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/23]

UNDP has started to use electronic share points for storing and managing all project related key documentation such as project documents, inception reports, log frames annual plans and progress reports and consultants? reports. Furthermore, a portfolio plan is used on an annual basis to make sure that all these management and effectiveness issues are addressed on time and with quality. UNDP conducts very scrupulous monitoring of projects by overseeing operational part (procurement, recruitment, logistics and finance) and observing achievement of projects? targets and goals. With regard to projects? operations, Project Implementation Unit prepares weekly updates on status of each procurement case as well as updates on projects? other operational activities. Apart from weekly updates, Project managers prepare regular progress reports with status of implementation of each outcome and activity. Those updates are used by UNDP CO senior management for thorough monitoring of projects and understanding issues and finding solutions. Project implementation is discussed at every 6-week meetings with Resident Representative and biweekly meetings with Deputy Resident Representative. RR, DRR and PM regularly visit project pilot sites for more effective project monitoring. Furthermore, UNDP CO staff and project staff have constant contact with relevant ITAs to seek advices on various aspects of project implementation. The matrix of recommendations and follow-up actions is prepared after each skype call and mission of ITA to Turkmenistan.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Implementation of Portfolio plan, containing development and use of project management and effectiveness tools, is to be regularly monitored. Newly recruited and current project managers to undergo project management training to be organized at least once a year. Share points of all projects will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Access of programme and project staff to the share points, providing access to project related key information, to be provided. UNDP CO will continue using of project progress updates, 6-week meetings with RR and 2-week meetings with DRR as well as visits to project pilot sites as instruments of monitoring of project implementation. In addition, the practice of preparation of Matrix of recommendations and follow-up actions will be continued.
[Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/23]
UNDP Country Office 2015/08 Completed
6. Recommendation: The barriers that this project came up against prompts the question of the role of GEF in Turkmenistan ? particularly for protected areas projects. Such projects may boost the capacity of a handful of people but biodiversity impacts are limited. It is probable that ?safe? project may have more success (e.g., working with existing protected areas) but this may undermine the concepts underpinning the GEF ? to ?overcome fear, catalyse processes and demonstrate success.? Further, the high turnover of staff in the government organisations means that champions of the projects leave before projects are completed. The conclusion, however hard that it might be, is that until there are significant signs of change, it will be difficult to justify further GEF investment into the protected area system of Turkmenistan.
Management Response: [Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/23]

Consultations will be held with Biodiversity RTA on the approach that the CO should take with regard to new ideas and projects on biodiversity conservation. Consultations will include not only the findings and lessons learnt of this project, but will also incorporate relevant issues from other peer projects such as BSAP, AF. This work will be used to define ?what works and what not? in the context of Turkmenistan and what should be the approaches to designing and implementing projects taking into account both political and technical environment. Partly agree with the part related to protected areas. Nevertheless, it was agreed in the course of the recent meeting with the Minister of Nature Protection of Turkmenistan that Protected Area System Plan to be revised and submitted to the Ministry?s consideration and approval. Further advocacy for Protected Areas will be continued at the highest political level. It should be noted that other GEF financed projects focused on energy efficiency and biodiversity areas are in the middle of their lifespan and so far have good interim results.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
A skype call is to be organized with RTA to define the roadmap for BD related projects in Turkmenistan. Matrix of recommendations and follow-up actions as well as best practices from peer projects on taking similar strategic approaches to be prepared. Development of UNDAF and CPD will be used to integrate the results of this exercise. UNDP CO senior management to continue advocacy for protected areas at the meetings with high rank decision makers.
[Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/23]
UNDP Country Office 2015/03 Completed
7. Recommendation: It is critical to find a balance between effective project management and implementation, and ensuring that the government feels that it owns the project. In this project, there was an emphasis (at least from 2012) on trying to emphasize the implementation and management leading to disempowerment of the MNP in project processes.
Management Response: [Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/23]

UNDP to engage partners at all stages of project life. This means that the processes of prodoc development, work plan preparation, project board meetings, communication and outreach must be led by the national partners. It is believed that more active engagement of the government in these processes will boost stronger ownership of projects and ensure that relevant government capacities are developed. National partners of development projects are engaged at all stages of project life. Engagement starts from project formulation that is carried out in close partnership and consultation with relevant state agencies. Once project document approved by the Government, national implementing partners are actively participate in annual work plan preparation, project board meetings, joint field visits to project sites. UNDP has started piloting new way of working with the Government to achieve greater ownership of the projects by national agencies. UNDP wants to move away from the perception that it has its own projects that are implemented in parallel to the government projects, to projects of support to government assisting them to implement their action plans according to their mandates. This new approach is being piloted within another GEF funded project, National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). Working groups consist of mid-level management staff representing various ministries and national agencies were created as part of the new approach. It is expected that members of those working groups will better understand their functional and technical capacities to effectively manage and implement bio-diversity projects.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Programme and project staff to ensure that design and implementation and reporting processes engage and preferably led by national counterparts. UNDP will continue piloting of new approach of cooperating with the Government to achieve greater national ownership of the projects.
[Added: 2014/11/10] [Last Updated: 2015/10/23]
UNDP Country Office 2015/05 Completed

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