Accurate cost estimates, particularly at appraisal, help minimize adjustments and revisions during implementation. ADB needs to undertake better duediligence of the project cost estimates at appraisal and a more realistic assessment of existing public procurement regulations. The possible inclusion of add-on security risk costs helps minimize cost overruns and poor project results.
Major changes in scope and implementation delays, including possible cancellations, are expected. Project processing can take more time as a result of unanticipated security concerns in post-conflict situations, frequent changes of government counterparts, and a lack of response from executing agencies. Building capacities and strengthening institutions is essential. Rigorous institutional assessment during project preparation is crucial to assess the managerial, administrative, and technical limitations within proposed executing and implementing agencies, especially regarding their ability to bid, award, and supervise contracts, and familiarity with ADB procedures.
This was demonstrated in the case of the leadership shown by the finance minister, which was not always matched in PMPL sectors. Given the multisectoral nature of the program and the utilization of the proceeds in various reconstruction and development projects, strong oversight mechanisms needed to be in place at the outset to ensure optimal use of and reporting on funds.
The PMU established satisfactory financial management systems with internal financial and accounting controls that met ADB’s requirements. It recorded all transactions andbalances, and prepared regular and reliable financial statements and financial monitoring reports. All audited project financial statements (APFS) for the fiscal years 2008–2017 were compliant and submitted to ADB for review. The APFS review checklist was submitted in January 2019. ADB accepted the audit statements with no objection replies. Provision by ADB of audit opinions on all financial statements and the use of loan and grant proceeds should in the future be sought to enable a reliable assessment of the project’s financial management performance. Automation of APFS and/or launch of financial management project performance rating and eOperations upgrades are all very timely and useful to achieve this goal.
Categorized as effective gender mainstreaming, core activities in this project’s GAP included promoting women's involvement in the development of non-irrigation and micro infrastructure such as bridges and culverts; increasing the range of agricultural income sources available to women; strengthening women’s skills and provision of tool kits; and gender disaggregation of data for improved monitoring. While all these core activities were undertaken, the absence of gender-related targets and indicators in the DMF prevented a reliable assessment of the project’s gender performance. Incorporation of clear and measurable gender targets and indicators in the DMF, in addition to a well-thought out GAP, should be ensured in future projects.
This project was administered by the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Division of ADB's Central and West Asia Department in a joint venture approach until May 2009, when the administration lead was transferred to the Afghanistan Resident Mission. Project administration under the resident mission was effective, and resulted in closer ADB interaction with the MOF, Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW), and the project cofinancier, the Canadian International Development Agency. It is recommended for future similar projects in the country.
The first 4 of the eight contracts awarded under this project for canal civil works comprised design-and-build contracts, which proved difficult because the national contractors lacked technical skills and experience. This slowed implementation progress, in response to which, consulting inputs for design and supervision had to be increased and detailed designs had to be prepared for subsequent tenders. The consultants also provided mentoring support to the contractors’engineers. The changes helped solve the implementation delays and supervision issues. The use of design-and-build contracts for complex water resource projects with hydraulic structures needs to be carefully weighed, especially when relying on national contractors.
A tax treatment issue affected project procurement. Although the government was supposed to finance all taxes, inconsistencies emerged in the drafting and wording of contracts, and between ADB and the Ministry of Finance's (MOF) legal advisors on how the tax was to be treated, both for this project and other ADB projects at the time. One package of equipment (vehicles) was delayed and not executed because of issues over duties (in Pakistan), and the government met the total costs involved. The reimbursement to ADB of payment under this contract was one factor in the delayed liquidation of advance accounts and project financial closure.
This project became effective days ahead of the schedule stipulated in the loan and grant agreement. Despite this, completion had to be extended for 21 months as essentially only minimal activities were initiated in the first 2 years due to delays in consultant recruitment and tendering and awarding of civil works contracts. The implementation of proactive approaches such as advance actions on consultant recruitment and procurement, immediately upon approval, would have helped reduce the delays. In 2008, with the project implementation consultants on board and the project management unit (PMU) staffed, implementation started in earnest. In 2010, the civil works contracts were awarded, although some required retendering because of a lack of qualified bidders.
This project was the first integrated water resource management river basin project to be undertaken in Afghanistan, and the approach adopted was to be transformational in supporting government reforms in the water sector. As such, it imposed challenges for the government institutions responsible for water resources, given their limited capacity and resources, the procurement requirements, and the need for policy, regulatory, and institutional or organizational changes within the government and the water user associations (WUAs). The challenges were largely overcome. At project completion, the river basin association (RBA) acquired the skills and capacity to implement the river basin plan, the WUAs operated effectively, water delivery was managed equitably with volume increases of 35%–160%, and a sustainable operation and maintenance (O&M) scheme was in place. Overall, the project has demonstrated the effectiveness of ADB and the government of Afghanistan’s partnership in the water sector. Building on this partnership, it is important for ADB to commit to a long-term sector engagement to achieve critical performance and reform milestones and thus create the foundation for long-term sustainability planning. This will involve policy, regulatory, financial (O&M water charges and RBA revenue sources), and technical (operational and management capacity) considerations in an FCAS context.
The enhanced project delivery approach, agreed by the Afghanistan government and ADB in 2016, outlines key measures to prevent security challenges from hindering efficient project planning and execution in the country. Such measures include mandatory pre-bid site-visits to allow contractors to assess security costs, when sites include insecure areas; recruitment of a risk management firm to help with planning security measures as well as with auditing the security situation at the sites; widening the pool of qualified local contractors to help deal with security issues, including incorporating in the bidding documents, on a case-by-case basis, mandatory joint venture arrangements with national civil works contractors for upcoming contracts in insecure locations; and including in the bid documents and terms of reference the requirement for all contractors and consultants to depute professional security advisors for contracts covering areas where there are serious security problems. Signifying ADB’s commitment to continue to support the development of Afghanistan despite the high risks, the approach should be adopted by all future water sector projects in the country.
FCAS countries face constraints that pose implementation risks to projects. A thorough assessment of the institutional capacity of governments and agencies will identify some of the most important risks that need to be addressed in the project design and right from the start of project implementation. For water resources management projects, as with most others, this would mean looking closely at government and stakeholder readiness to undertake reforms, provide counterpart staff and budget, and implement resource management and financial systems that would require significant changes in institutional, water user, and mirab (traditional irrigation managers) practices. The assessment will also provide the basis for determining the best approach to achieving critical reforms, possibly including a phased and incremental approach to reform implementation.
Each IA had its own project performance monitoring system, which allowed for more detailed data and indicators to be reflected in each of their quarterly and annual reports. However, an integrated reporting system would have been helpful in providing a holistic, more comprehensive view of project implementation progress and performance. This needs to be ensured in future projects.
As designed, each subproject contract required a separate bank account, with the approved disbursement mechanism involving part payment from the two grant funding sources in fixed percentages. This arrangement proved administratively complex, and was rectified through two changes that enabled one grant source to be used up first. The streamlined disbursement arrangement eased financial transfers and monitoring and management that, along with proper liquidation of the advance account and prompt audit submission, led to the timely project financial closure.
This project was processed by the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Division of ADB’s Central and West Asia Department that took turns with the ADB Afghanistan Resident Mission (AFRM) in project administration. Project administration by the resident mission was effective and resulted in closer ADB interaction with the executing agency and IAs and timely and adequate monitoring and review during the peak of project implementation. AFRM active field presence enabled prompt action on project matters, reducing the need for formal review missions. Nevertheless, an annual formal review or a midterm review may have assisted in promptly resolving initial consultant procurement delays.
This project’s implementation arrangements were satisfactory and resulted in the successful attainment of the planned outputs and outcomes. Supervision of the subproject works was the responsibility of the local offices of the PMOs of the two implementing agencies (IAs), the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Rural Development (MRRD) and the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), with national project staff and consultant support. Ensuring adequate technical and supervision capacity in future ADB-financed projects in the country will require using existing PMO capacity, early recruitment of supervision consultants, and provision of training to local project staff. ADB-financed programs/projects Afghanistan, implementation arrangements ADB-financed programs/projects Afghanistan)
Initial delays occurred in recruiting staff and establishing the project management offices, in part due to the newly appointed government’s suspension of new recruitments in early 2015. This resulted in some slippage in the design, approval, signing, and execution of planned CDC and nationally competitive bidding contracts. The delays would have been avoided through advance action, firm administrative follow-up, andclose monitoring. Adoption of proactive approaches at approval, timely effectiveness, and adequate project and procurement readiness would further reduce the risk of startup delays in future projects.
Although an emergency assistance project normally has a 2-year implementation period, given the Afghan post-conflict situation at appraisal, in which security issues and various constraints could cause delays, it was correctly decided that a 3-year implementation period for the project would be more appropriate. Project implementation was effective, with completion achieved within the planned period. Besides incorporating FCAS considerations in their design, future projects in Afghanistan would also benefit from the enhanced project delivery approach adopted by the government and ADB in June 2016.
Implementation of this project required strong community engagement and commitment, as nearly all the small-scale irrigation and rural road infrastructure subprojects were undertaken under community contracts. Use of community contracting proved effective in generating direct and indirect employment, as well as in building community project ownership and the capacity of community development councils (CDCs). Enhanced CDC capacities will benefit the conduct of other community livelihood and social activities.