The Commune Council Development Project has shown that a successful program has to recognize the social, political, administrative, and historical context of the country. In this case, Cambodia was just beginning its post-conflict stage, challenged by various problems such as lack of basic physical resources at the commune level and absence of administrative capacities of elected council officials. The design and implementation of the project took into consideration these local contexts.
The project was among the first ADB-funded projects that supported the construction of commune offices. ADB did not normally fund such activities but in this case supported it based on consultation with the concerned officials. A similar observation can be made for ADB’s support for civil registration. A variety of partnerships have been initiated under the project: (a) between and among the national government offices (MOI-DOLA and MOLMUPC) with the PTC playing a key role; ( b ) between the national government (specifically t h e MOI) and the subnational levels, such as the provinces, districts, and communes, with the national government providing the D&D framework and the communes operationalizing and localizing these, taking into consideration the specific context of the commune; (c) emerging partnerships between the government and nongovernment organizations and civil society organizations, specifically in information and public awareness, including the civil registration with the use of mobile teams by the MOI; and (d) between the government and development partners.
The project experience has shown that decentralization can usefully begin with developing basic capacities (human and physical). Capacity development is, however, a continuous process.
Teachers, community-based volunteers, monks, and even hospitals were tapped to influence more people to register. Also, the use of a private bank for disbursement for the construction of council offices proved efficient.
The sustainability of rural infrastructure interventions, mainly rural roads and irrigation schemes relies heavily on securing funds for their proper O&M. Existing reliance on ad hoc government transfers to cover O&M expenses should evolve into user-paid fees to guarantee the proper functioning of the infrastructure during its expected lifetime.
Sector projects of a multisectoral nature face the risk of having implementation problems and achieving lower than expected development outcomes. Additional work at project design needs to identify and establish clear rules about the types of investments that are eligible for financing, ensuring that these contribute to the project’s stated outcomes. At implementation, a close communication of the rules for investment is critical to avoid delays stemming from extensive revisions to proposed investment plans.
For greater effectiveness of the monitoring and evaluation framework of the project, the overall logic and results chains as well as indicators need to be firmly established and tested before project effectiveness. Three main aspects can be improved: (a) project attribution needs to be addressed in the methodologies used for collecting indicator data, (b) measuring the degree of infrastructure use by beneficiaries provides more accurate information of the project’s results than focusing on physical progress in construction, and (c) the development results of capacity building activities are better assessed through measurement of the degree of behavior change of beneficiaries.
For example, ascertaining the extent of flexibility on procurement procedures, including the use of consultants and financing guidelines for government agencies, are vital considerations in a post-disaster reconstruction project. This is important especially when multiple government ministries and implementing agencies are involved in the implementation of key infrastructure components.
Post-disaster recovery requires strong institutions developed through staff trainings on managerial, technical, and administrative aspects. Enhanced capacity of agencies is crucial to better manage financing and to maintain project outputs. Thus, strengthening their capacities on the ground needs to be built early on to help enhance their responsiveness during post-disaster recovery periods.