Improving Capacity of Public Institutions in Malawi to Manage, Allocate and Utilise Resources for Effective Development and Service Delivery

Report Cover Image
Evaluation Plan:
2012-2018, Malawi
Evaluation Type:
Mid Term Outcome
Planned End Date:
06/2015
Completion Date:
06/2015
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
60,000

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Title Improving Capacity of Public Institutions in Malawi to Manage, Allocate and Utilise Resources for Effective Development and Service Delivery
Atlas Project Number:
Evaluation Plan: 2012-2018, Malawi
Evaluation Type: Mid Term Outcome
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 06/2015
Planned End Date: 06/2015
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Others
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-2017)
  • 1. Output 3.1. Core functions of government enabled (in post conflict situations) to ensure national ownership of recovery and development processes
  • 2. Output 3.3. National institutions, systems, laws and policies strengthened for equitable, accountable and effective delivery of HIV and related services
  • 3. Output 7.4. Countries enabled to gain equitable access to, and manage, ODA and other sources of global development financing
Evaluation Budget(US $): 60,000
Source of Funding: TRAC 1.1.2
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: Yes
  • Joint with UNICEF, UNFPA
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Oliver Saasa Prof. oliversaasa@yahoo.com
Henry Chingaipe Dr. henrychingaipe@yahoo.co.uk
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders: Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Development; Office of the President and Cabinet
Countries: MALAWI
Lessons
Findings
Recommendations
1 UNDP should consider supporting the Ministry of Finance in the creation of a dependable management structure that can sufficiently marshal and oversee strategic policy and public sector reforms. Similarly, the Ministry?s institutional capacity to manage the economy (including the enhancement of its supervisory function vis-à-vis other ministries) should be supported by a highly motivated team of managers that should provide policy and strategic direction at the senior level. Technical assistance at this level is merited.
2 As a rejoinder to Recommendation (1) above, the weak project appraisal function at the Ministry of Finance level needs to be addressed as an important prerequisite to building the Government?s capacity to accommodate and better manage externally supported interventions that come through the UNDAF. When the project appraisal function is weak, the ability of the Government to invest in viable programmes, whether internally- or externally-financed, remains problematic, an aspect that leads to wasteful resource application. In this regard and as an integral part of its capacity building support to the Ministry of Finance towards improved service delivery under Outcome 4.2, UNDP is advised to consider assisting Government in building this form of capacity.
3 To improve upon the current effort, Government and UNDP should strive to contextualise the PFEM interventions as important components of the larger Public Service Reforms rather than as a separate entity. This would entail better harmonisation of UNDP inputs at this level with those of DPs that presently are involved in securing more effective public financial management systems in Malawi.
4 The UNDP advisory and operational support roles in public sector capacity enhancement under UNDAF need to include stronger advocacy for decentralised modes of service delivery. In the economic sphere, this entails fiscal decentralisation as this holds greatest promise for reaching out to lower level organs where MDG-induced effects must reach. Capacity building for economic management and governance is particularly required at this level of intervention in the light of the findings of this Evaluation to the effect that there are serious capacity challenges at district levels in such areas as project planning, budgeting and M&E. It is important to recognise that decentralised modes of delivery, justified though they are, in principle, rarely emerge on their own from support systems that focus capacity building attention at central structures. To reach out down there, UNDP needs to embark on an economic governance advocacy/crusade (similar to the global MDG effort) to influence the Government approaches towards more devolved modes of service delivery. The attainment of enhanced service delivery under outcome 4.2 is more likely to be realised through this process.
5 An important lesson for UNDP is that capacity development in the public service through public sector reforms is more than a technical process. It is profoundly a political one so much that it is important to be conversant with the political economy context of such reforms in order to effectively pull them off. In this regard, UNDP is encouraged to invest in understanding better Malawi?s political economy. This would allow the Organisation to better appreciate the real drivers of policy and policy choices and, consequently, be in a position to easily predict policy choices and actions.
6 To improve upon the current UNDP capacity enhancement effort within the Government of Malawi, the Organisation is urged to guard against too much emphasis on training government officials through workshops, an approach that is also too costly. Human resource training ought to also be closely linked/aligned to institutional/structural capacity enhancement. As long as the organisational structures for which the trained individuals are expected to perform are themselves moribund and require urgent transformation, an over-focus on training in the name of capacity development would not yield the desirable levels of transformation of the public service for enhanced service delivery as expected under Outcome 4.2 of the UNDAF. This conclusion also speaks to the need for improving the prioritisation and sequencing of UNDP interventions under UNDAF, which should take into account what must be supported first as prerequisites to subsequent interventions. The current modality of UNDAF implementation does not seem to prioritise interventions even within individual UN agencies, let alone when all the activities of a multiplicity of UN Agencies are put together.
7 A serious effort is required to upscale the profile of the monitoring and reporting function in Government. To do this effectively, better structured UNDP assistance shall be required. The aim should be to develop the requisite capacities at different layers of the national (not only Government) system to ensure that the MGDS II is programmatically monitored through different levels of implementation frameworks, including the District Assemblies through the decentralized governance structures; the sector ministries through their own strategic plans; and the Central Government as managed by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. The strengthening of the National Monitoring and Evaluation Database is equally important. The consolidation of district council databases ought to be an integral part of such effort. The revelation during this Evaluation that almost all the UNDAF-supported district council databanks are non-functional calls for urgent attention to this problem. Ideally, the national database should represent aggregates of data generated from the lower to higher levels of monitoring.
8 As a rejoinder to recomenation "7" above and in order to address the dearth in baseline data that has complicated the measurability of UNDAF outputs and outcomes, there is need for UNDP to contribute, in a better structured manner, to the enhancement of the capacity of all the strategic institutions in Government as well as among non-state actors that are in charge of statistical systems. More specifically, UNDP needs to better target its support to Government towards the strengthening of the M&E systems in a way that would allow the latter to better capture the total public expenditure behaviour. The facilitation of the production of stronger national statistical and information systems that would lend support to Outcome (as opposed to only Output) monitoring is called for at this level. In doing this, there is need to take advantage of existing advances in ICT solutions, focusing on hardware and software acquisition; computer skills enhancement through training; and communications infrastructure improvement.
9 Considering the finding of this Evaluation that much of the monitoring function (for both UNDAF and MGDS II) has thus far largely focused on outputs rather than on Outcomes/Impact, UNDP should, as a matter of urgency, revisit both (a) its approach in monitoring and reporting performance; and (b) its own M&E human resource base. In particular, the annual progress reporting of UNDAF performance should review its indices of performance/success to avoid the evident challenge of inappropriate reporting of performance ?success? that has evidently prevented the UN Agencies, in general, and UNDP, in particular, from taking timely and corrective actions towards the achievement of Outcome 4.2.
10 UNDAF monitoring in Malawi is yet to fully take advantage of Participatory Monitoring. Presently, data that is collected by NGOs/CBOs is not readily accessible by Government policy makers, a state of affairs that calls upon UNDP, in particular, to broaden its M&E support function to cover inputs from other actors. Better sharing of information on identified UNDAF indicators is recommended to secure a more coordinated, participatory and inclusive national monitoring of interventions.
11 UNDP should increasingly rely on its strong convening power to bring together the Government, DPs and civil society organisations towards delivering a better future for Malawi at the level of the re-definition of Malawi?s development route in the light of the serious economic and structural challenges the country presently faces. In the same context and as a strategic DP active in Malawi presently, UNDP is urged to assume the brokering role of facilitating the creation of an effective dialogue mechanism that brings Government and other DPs together to meaningfully initiate the much needed dialogue over the developmental route the country should take and towards which external support should be channelled. Such effort should aim to simplify working relationships in a way that ?softens? hard feelings post the Cashgate scandal; one that fosters flexibility, and facilitates better structured communication within the Government system, between the Government and its Cooperating Partners, and among DPs themselves.
12 It is important for Government leadership to take hold and ensure that, to the extent possible, SWGs remain largely advisory in nature and, hence, the State should not surrender its core responsibility of superintending over the planning, implementation, managing and monitoring of its developmental activities. Government should also account for its actions and inactions less to DPs and more to the legislated national systems/structures of oversight that include Parliament. In this regard, it is recommended that UNDP support towards the enhancement of Government systems and structures seeks to operationalise this principle and that DPs, including the UN System, should make a conscious effort not to make conditionalities that inundate Government in ways that divert its accountability protocols away from local systems towards external actors.
1. Recommendation: UNDP should consider supporting the Ministry of Finance in the creation of a dependable management structure that can sufficiently marshal and oversee strategic policy and public sector reforms. Similarly, the Ministry?s institutional capacity to manage the economy (including the enhancement of its supervisory function vis-à-vis other ministries) should be supported by a highly motivated team of managers that should provide policy and strategic direction at the senior level. Technical assistance at this level is merited.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

UNDP concurs with the need to develop the capacity of Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to effectively oversee strategic policy and public sector reforms. The public sector reforms role is understood to be limited to the Ministry as beyond this, public sector reforms are overseen by the Office of the President and Cabinet. While UNDP agrees with the need to strengthen the Ministry?s capacity for economic management, it is noted that such support was provided before but was not sustained. Hence, the design of technical assistance for economic management would need to take into account elements of sustainability including an exit strategy. Finally, it is important that support for strategic policy is finalised after the establishment of the National Planning Commission to ensure there is consistency and rationalization.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Assess specific management needs for strengthening strategic policy and public sector reforms oversight
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
Responsive Institutions and Citizen Engagement (RICE) and Development Impact and Advisory Team (DIAT) 2018/12 Overdue-Not Initiated The needs assessment should take into account the role, structure and functions of the new National Planning Commission History
Support the implementation of capacity development activities
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
RICE and DIAT 2018/12 Overdue-Not Initiated History
2. Recommendation: As a rejoinder to Recommendation (1) above, the weak project appraisal function at the Ministry of Finance level needs to be addressed as an important prerequisite to building the Government?s capacity to accommodate and better manage externally supported interventions that come through the UNDAF. When the project appraisal function is weak, the ability of the Government to invest in viable programmes, whether internally- or externally-financed, remains problematic, an aspect that leads to wasteful resource application. In this regard and as an integral part of its capacity building support to the Ministry of Finance towards improved service delivery under Outcome 4.2, UNDP is advised to consider assisting Government in building this form of capacity.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

UNDP agrees with the importance of ensuring a strong project appraisal function in the Ministry of Finance. UNDP is aware that the government has project manuals which include guidance on project appraisal. While ensuring that key personnel have capacity to appraise projects, it will be important to find out why the function is weak.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Train key staff in Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development in project appraisal
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
RICE Portfolio 2018/12 Overdue-Not Initiated History
2.2 Explore why the project appraisal function is weak
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
RIC 2018/12 Overdue-Not Initiated History
3. Recommendation: To improve upon the current effort, Government and UNDP should strive to contextualise the PFEM interventions as important components of the larger Public Service Reforms rather than as a separate entity. This would entail better harmonisation of UNDP inputs at this level with those of DPs that presently are involved in securing more effective public financial management systems in Malawi.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

UNDP recognizes the need to ensure complementarity and consistency between the Public Finance and Economic Management (PFEM) and Public Sector Reform. Efforts will be made to show how the two initiatives relate.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Advocate for joint committee on public sector reforms and PFEM reforms.
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
RICE 2018/12 Overdue-Not Initiated History
4. Recommendation: The UNDP advisory and operational support roles in public sector capacity enhancement under UNDAF need to include stronger advocacy for decentralised modes of service delivery. In the economic sphere, this entails fiscal decentralisation as this holds greatest promise for reaching out to lower level organs where MDG-induced effects must reach. Capacity building for economic management and governance is particularly required at this level of intervention in the light of the findings of this Evaluation to the effect that there are serious capacity challenges at district levels in such areas as project planning, budgeting and M&E. It is important to recognise that decentralised modes of delivery, justified though they are, in principle, rarely emerge on their own from support systems that focus capacity building attention at central structures. To reach out down there, UNDP needs to embark on an economic governance advocacy/crusade (similar to the global MDG effort) to influence the Government approaches towards more devolved modes of service delivery. The attainment of enhanced service delivery under outcome 4.2 is more likely to be realised through this process.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

UNDP agrees with the recommendations. More efforts are required to promote devolution of powers to the districts. However, it is noted that development of capacities for planning, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and reporting is a prerequisite for continued devolution of powers and budgets.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Advocate for implementation of the Decentralization Act which has provision for devolution of powers to the districts.
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
RICE 2018/12 Overdue-Initiated History
5. Recommendation: An important lesson for UNDP is that capacity development in the public service through public sector reforms is more than a technical process. It is profoundly a political one so much that it is important to be conversant with the political economy context of such reforms in order to effectively pull them off. In this regard, UNDP is encouraged to invest in understanding better Malawi?s political economy. This would allow the Organisation to better appreciate the real drivers of policy and policy choices and, consequently, be in a position to easily predict policy choices and actions.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

UNDP partially accepts this recommendation. While UNDP appreciates the importance of the political economy in influencing policy choices, the major challenges for Malawi is poor implementation of policies. So the important intervention for UNDP is to advocate for implementation of specific policies.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Review the status of implementation relevant policies
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
RICE and DIAT 2018/12 Overdue-Initiated History
Advocate for implementation of selected policies
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
Portfolio Managers 2018/12 Overdue-Not Initiated History
6. Recommendation: To improve upon the current UNDP capacity enhancement effort within the Government of Malawi, the Organisation is urged to guard against too much emphasis on training government officials through workshops, an approach that is also too costly. Human resource training ought to also be closely linked/aligned to institutional/structural capacity enhancement. As long as the organisational structures for which the trained individuals are expected to perform are themselves moribund and require urgent transformation, an over-focus on training in the name of capacity development would not yield the desirable levels of transformation of the public service for enhanced service delivery as expected under Outcome 4.2 of the UNDAF. This conclusion also speaks to the need for improving the prioritisation and sequencing of UNDP interventions under UNDAF, which should take into account what must be supported first as prerequisites to subsequent interventions. The current modality of UNDAF implementation does not seem to prioritise interventions even within individual UN agencies, let alone when all the activities of a multiplicity of UN Agencies are put together.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

UNDP agrees that there is need to understand the context/status of the institution from which individuals are trained and also to evaluate the suitability of the approach selected for training government officials. The UN is reviewing past capacity development efforts with the view to arrive at optimal approaches.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Support ongoing capacity review initiatives to find more cost-effective approaches
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2016/01/13]
UN Resident Coordinator's Office 2015/11 Completed
7. Recommendation: A serious effort is required to upscale the profile of the monitoring and reporting function in Government. To do this effectively, better structured UNDP assistance shall be required. The aim should be to develop the requisite capacities at different layers of the national (not only Government) system to ensure that the MGDS II is programmatically monitored through different levels of implementation frameworks, including the District Assemblies through the decentralized governance structures; the sector ministries through their own strategic plans; and the Central Government as managed by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. The strengthening of the National Monitoring and Evaluation Database is equally important. The consolidation of district council databases ought to be an integral part of such effort. The revelation during this Evaluation that almost all the UNDAF-supported district council databanks are non-functional calls for urgent attention to this problem. Ideally, the national database should represent aggregates of data generated from the lower to higher levels of monitoring.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

UNDP agrees that there is need to upgrade the national M&E architecture in Malawi. Following a Study of the State of M&E in the country, efforts are underway to address critical gaps including rationalization of data banks, improvement of district data banks, training of M&E focal points in sectors and districts. The key for UNDP is to support effective implementation of the recommendations of the study.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Support implementation of the recommendations of the State of M&E Study
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
RICE and DIAT 2018/07 Completed Key recommendations of the M&E study have been supported. History
8. Recommendation: As a rejoinder to recomenation "7" above and in order to address the dearth in baseline data that has complicated the measurability of UNDAF outputs and outcomes, there is need for UNDP to contribute, in a better structured manner, to the enhancement of the capacity of all the strategic institutions in Government as well as among non-state actors that are in charge of statistical systems. More specifically, UNDP needs to better target its support to Government towards the strengthening of the M&E systems in a way that would allow the latter to better capture the total public expenditure behaviour. The facilitation of the production of stronger national statistical and information systems that would lend support to Outcome (as opposed to only Output) monitoring is called for at this level. In doing this, there is need to take advantage of existing advances in ICT solutions, focusing on hardware and software acquisition; computer skills enhancement through training; and communications infrastructure improvement.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

UNDP agrees with the recommendations which are also the recommendation of the State of M&E Study conducted in 2014.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Support implementation of the recommendations of the M&E study
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
RICE and DIAT 2018/07 Completed Key recommendations have been embarked on including development of an integrated performance management system and formulation of an M&E Policy which is underway. History
9. Recommendation: Considering the finding of this Evaluation that much of the monitoring function (for both UNDAF and MGDS II) has thus far largely focused on outputs rather than on Outcomes/Impact, UNDP should, as a matter of urgency, revisit both (a) its approach in monitoring and reporting performance; and (b) its own M&E human resource base. In particular, the annual progress reporting of UNDAF performance should review its indices of performance/success to avoid the evident challenge of inappropriate reporting of performance ?success? that has evidently prevented the UN Agencies, in general, and UNDP, in particular, from taking timely and corrective actions towards the achievement of Outcome 4.2.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

The recommendation is partially accepted as it does not accurately reflect the basis for monitoring at the output level. The monitoring and reporting challenges emanate from the weak project design issues. The outputs were not substantive and outcome indicators were weak, pitched at assessing processes rather than substantive results. Corrective action lies in developing capacities for improved design and crafting of SMART indicators

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Develop capacity for formulating smart outcomes, outputs and indicators for the next UNDAF
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
RICE,DIAT and UN M&E Techincal Working Group 2016/12 Completed The UN has organized RBM training for staff in September, 2015 which addresses aspects of SMART indicators. History
10. Recommendation: UNDAF monitoring in Malawi is yet to fully take advantage of Participatory Monitoring. Presently, data that is collected by NGOs/CBOs is not readily accessible by Government policy makers, a state of affairs that calls upon UNDP, in particular, to broaden its M&E support function to cover inputs from other actors. Better sharing of information on identified UNDAF indicators is recommended to secure a more coordinated, participatory and inclusive national monitoring of interventions.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

UNDP agrees with the recommendation to engage NGOs/CBOs in monitoring development initiatives. UNDP will explore ways to establish partnerships with NGOs/CBOs to share information and/or conduct monitoring activities.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Explore and establish partnership to share information on implementation of development initiatives with NGOs/CBOs
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
DIAT an Partnerships focal point 2018/12 Overdue-Not Initiated History
11. Recommendation: UNDP should increasingly rely on its strong convening power to bring together the Government, DPs and civil society organisations towards delivering a better future for Malawi at the level of the re-definition of Malawi?s development route in the light of the serious economic and structural challenges the country presently faces. In the same context and as a strategic DP active in Malawi presently, UNDP is urged to assume the brokering role of facilitating the creation of an effective dialogue mechanism that brings Government and other DPs together to meaningfully initiate the much needed dialogue over the developmental route the country should take and towards which external support should be channelled. Such effort should aim to simplify working relationships in a way that ?softens? hard feelings post the Cashgate scandal; one that fosters flexibility, and facilitates better structured communication within the Government system, between the Government and its Cooperating Partners, and among DPs themselves.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14]

This recommendation is in line with what UNDP is always doing in Malawi. UNDP is continually in dialogue with government and DPs. In addition, UNDP has supported the introduction of dialogue fora on development issues at various levels through the Strengthening Institutional Capacity for Development Effectiveness and Accountability Programme (DEAP).

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Support Development Cooperation Group and High Level Forum to discuss strategic development agenda for Malawi
[Added: 2015/09/14]
RICE and DIAT No due date No deadline established DEAP has supported the organization of the HLF
12. Recommendation: It is important for Government leadership to take hold and ensure that, to the extent possible, SWGs remain largely advisory in nature and, hence, the State should not surrender its core responsibility of superintending over the planning, implementation, managing and monitoring of its developmental activities. Government should also account for its actions and inactions less to DPs and more to the legislated national systems/structures of oversight that include Parliament. In this regard, it is recommended that UNDP support towards the enhancement of Government systems and structures seeks to operationalise this principle and that DPs, including the UN System, should make a conscious effort not to make conditionalities that inundate Government in ways that divert its accountability protocols away from local systems towards external actors.
Management Response: [Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2015/09/14]

The CO accepts the recommendation but it should be noted that UNDP has limited capacity to support government systems and structures entailed in this recommendation. In this regard, UNDP will provide catalytic assistance for ensuring that DPs and the UN system are aware of government systems which need attention.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Support measures to enhance the functionality of sector working groups as vehicle for assessing the capacities of govt systems
[Added: 2015/09/14] [Last Updated: 2018/08/21]
RICE and DIAT 2018/12 Overdue-Initiated Review of the functionality of sector working groups has been conducted History

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