Effective implementation of system reforms, given their long-term horizon, requires phased support from development partners. The multiple tranche arrangement employed by this program ensured satisfactory progression as a precondition for continued ADB assistance and strengthened the government’s accountability for the reforms.
The policy actions pursued under this program were developed in an open, participatory manner. They were fully aligned with the country’s Health Sector Reform Strategy and Health Sector Development Plan. The participatory development and full alignment of the reform program with the country sector strategy and development plan ensured strong and broad ownership and commitment from the government, and with the assistance of development partners, strengthened policy dialogue and coordination.
Incorporating utility shifting as part of the item-rate contract proved to be effective in the timely delivery of projects in some states of India. In road construction projects, the task of utility shifting is usually contracted out to a third-party entity specialized in utility shifting. However, contractors often utilize or abuse this arrangement as an excuse to delay civil works. To prevent such an occurrence, it may be necessary for utility shifting to be included in the bill of quantity items to be carried out by the contractor.
Some of this project’s initial delays can also be attributed to the need to revise the DPRs because of discrepancies or deficiencies in design, specifications, and quantities. For example, mismatches in the number of culverts and bridges relative to site conditions were found during project implementation. Additional requirements, including four lanes in urban or habituated sections, were included late in the project, requiring the issuance of variations. Further, because a wildlife sanctuary clearance was not obtained, one road was dropped from the project. In future, EAs should ensure that DPRs are more meticulously prepared to accord with the site requirements. Also importantly, that the required environmental clearances are obtained during DPR preparation.
Following the request made by the state public works department through the national government of India, this project was prepared for approval well ahead of the schedule proposed in the country operations business plan. The construction supervision consultants were recruited under ADB’s advance action facility, about 10 months before the start of loan negotiations. However, grounding the project took longer than anticipated. The benefits of advance contracting could not be realized because the EA was short of staff to undertake procurement-related tasks, and contract awards started only in quarter 1 of 2015, or three years after loan approval. This undermined the advance action’s intention to facilitate timely startup and completion. Especially for sector loan projects with multiple subprojects and contracts, such as this one, it is important that EAs/IAs have an adequate number of skilled procurement staff to ensure project readiness at loan approval and maximize the benefits of advance action.
Social safeguard designs initially underestimated the resettlement impacts, omitted right-of-way compensation requirements, and proposed unsuitable mitigation measures such as voluntary land donations. As a result, the project was non-compliant with social safeguards requirements for 26 months. Safeguards implementation came into better shape, following the reconduct of detailed measurement survey of losses and execution of a resettlement corrective action plan in 2018. Although some issues remained pending as of project physical completion in 2019, these were eventually resolved with the resumption of discussions between ADB and the EA in 2020. The experience highlights the importance of an accurate assessment of potential impacts and EA/IA safeguards capacity and EA/IA training and capacity building to ensure proper safeguards design and implementation. Context-sensitive issues such as the suitability of voluntary land donations, should be carefully weighed and agreed with the EAs/IAs at the early stage of project implementation.
The project had two turnkey contracts procured through international competitive bidding: (i) an ADB-financed $12.6 million contract, open to contractors from all ADB member countries, and (ii) the KEXIM-financed $34.82 million contract, open only to contractors from Korea. The ADB-financed contract, once awarded, was implemented smoothly. However, the KEXIM-financed contract encountered difficulties to the contractor’s limited experience in the Lao PDR, which caused delays in conducting surveys, fine-tuning technical designs, obtaining various approvals, and preparing the contractor environmental management plan.
Extended five times, the completion of this project was 5.5-year behind schedule. Delays occurred because of low project readiness and weak procurement capacity of the executing agency. As a result, against the procurement plan to award all transmission works contracts in quarter 4 of 2012, the ADB-financed contract for module 1 was awarded in quarter 2 of 2014 while the contracts for modules 2 and 3 financed by the government of Korea through the Korean Export and Import (KEXIM) Bank was awarded in quarter 2 of 2016. Contract awards could have been accelerated if the project was design or procurement ready at approval. In future, ADB and the government should identify and mobilize adequate resources to prepare detailed engineering designs and corresponding safeguards documents to launch procurement as early as possible.
The project implemented an integrated model to agricultural productivity growth, combining infrastructure development with the institutional development of farmer organizations and capacity development of farmers. Strengthening of the farmer professional associations and water users’ associations has provided the institutional mechanism for farmers to take over the operation and maintenance responsibility for small project facilities, including applying the cost-recovery scheme with the user-pay principle. Regular trainings to farmers in integrated pest management, soil testing and balanced fertilization application, water-saving technologies, and marketing, enhanced their productivity skills and capacities, making it more likely for income benefits to be sustained across time. Along with the participatory approach to infrastructure management, continued income increases will foster the sustainability of the project.
This project supported the comprehensive agricultural development (CAD) program of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) government to enhance national food security and employed a holistic approach to address common sector issues. It covered six provinces and 68 counties and consolidated county activities into provincial subprojects by applying a single integrated CAD model in all the counties. The project lending modality enabled the consolidation of the large number of activities scattered across six provinces into six provincial subprojects. However, it required the processing of an unusually large number of contracts (657), which was helped by the preparation and use of standardized bidding documents. Reporting requirements, including on safeguards were streamlined, and an integrated management information system was set up at the State Office for Comprehensive Agricultural Development. Adoption of a uniform integrated model and streamlining of procurement and reporting processes proved instrumental in the project’s success.
The impact and outcome indicators identified in this project’s original design and monitoring framework, i.e., absolute increases in grain output and farm income at the impact level, and yield growth and irrigation water use efficiency at the outcome level, comprised results that were attributable to many factors other than the project. While the comparison of indicators between the project and non-project areas in the provinces supported the positive impacts of the project, it was not possible to isolate the project’s impact from the other factors without baseline information and a precise definition of control group. In addition to well-defined indicators, future projects should also clearly define the baseline and control groups and monitor and assess impacts through periodic sample surveys to reliably evaluate their performance and contributions to changes across time and at project completion.
Eight civil works packages under national competitive bidding were procured successfully using Viet Nam's e-procurement system. All the e-procured packages achieved high efficiency with an average of 50 days end-to-end procurement time. However, there were only one or two bids per package. This may be because of the new procurement procedure but may also reflect small contract values (less than $1 million per contract).
All the works contracts under this project were supervised by consulting engineers appointed to ensure that detailed engineering designs were followed, and contractors’ claims were legitimate. However, the supervision of some subprojects was insufficient to ensure timely completion and handover of fully operational, quality works. Of note were (i) a nonfunctioning pressurized piped irrigation system in Cu M’Gar, Dak Lak; and (ii) a poorly constructed irrigation system in Ea Soup, Dak Lak.
During the completion review field visits, it was observed that irrigation facilities are better maintained than low-volume rural roads. This is because budget allocations to irrigation management companies provide for a minimum level of service and people are engaged on a part-time basis to maintain canals and keep gates in operating condition. In the case of low volume rural roads, not only are commune funds more limited than provincial sources, the institutional structure to maintain alignments is also inadequate. As a result, commune people’s committees often engage voluntary groups (youth or women’s associations) to carry out basic maintenance and vegetation control at a scale that requires mechanical intervention. Without a formal organization and institutional arrangement to do the job, the maintenance of rural roads is often left undone or done too late.
The project has been annually audited by independent external auditors. However, APFS covering only the physical implementation period may not capture all project-related expenses and loan disbursements. To facilitate the reconciliation of ADB records with the APFS on which the auditors have provided a qualified opinion, financial auditing was continued until project financial closure.
Not all safeguards monitoring reports were submitted under this project and the ADB loan disbursement records and latest audited project financial statement (APFS) remained unreconciled at project completion review mission. These non-compliances may have been mitigated through the participation of safeguards and financial management staff in review missions.
The need for some project outputs can decline over time, leading to changes in scope. Such changes should be documented and reflected in the DMF to ensure that they are properly considered and would not compromise the validity and reliability of project monitoring reports and performance evaluation.
Since some of the capacity building-related components under output 2 were linked to the transmission line and substation components under output 1, no separate arrangements for consultant engagement were made for output 2. With the project management unit (PMU) focusing on output 1, the two output 1-related capacity building activities were implemented. The others were not also due to the changed needs during implementation, but this was not brought to ADB’s attention. In the absence of consultants, the EA should have included staff from relevant divisions in the PMU to at least help in output 2 progress reporting.
In the initial stages of the project, the absence of a safeguards consultant resulted in the EA unable to submit some semiannual safeguards monitoring reports. This was timely rectified and based on the monitoring reports produced during implementation, the project did not come across safeguards issues significant enough to alter its outcome or outputs.
Although it traversed mostly rural and agricultural land, the construction of a new transmission line under this project was objected to by some locals. The objections were manifested between April 2017 and March 2018, delaying construction by 226 days. The issue was cleared when the High Court came out with a verdict in favor of the executing agency (EA). The experience highlights the importance of engaging in extensive stakeholder consultations and information dissemination early enough to address issues and concerns that may impede implementation. Mitigation measures, including minimizing the slack time and cost implications of objections and complaints, should also be mapped out and implemented as soon as possible.
Against an estimated $183.2 million, the total project cost at completion amounted to $202.1 million. The cost increase was prompted by minor modifications to the technical design of the project components. The modifications also required a longer implementation period than estimated at loan appraisal. The modifications enhanced system stability and reliability and made the project more relevant. They were addressed through loan reallocations and a 6-month extension in loan closing.
Many public resource reforms, especially those relating to taxes or concessions as in the SPBL, have political and economic implications and are often difficult to undertake without strong ownership. The SPBL implementation success is attributable to (i) a good understanding of the vested interests, (ii) the institutional capacity of government agencies, (iii) effective partnership and coordination between ADB and the government, and (iv) a strong sense of appreciation for the overall benefits of the program.
Neither the ADB project team nor project coordination office could fully comprehend the financial management requirements and financial covenant issues raised during this project’s review missions. As such, they were unable to follow up on audit opinions and recurrent issues, leading to the recurrence of the same issues and delays in submitting the audited project financial statements This improved only with the inclusion of a financial management staff toward the project’s end.
Part of the project’s design innovation is the construction of modern SLS. The Nepalgunj SLS construction was successful due to continuous community engagement, cooperation among political leaders, and early implementation of a community development program targeted at communities living near the SLS. However, the SLSs in Janakpur and Siddharthanagar had to be dropped, as nearby communities did not agree to their construction. Due to haphazard operation of existing SLSs and dumping sites, there is a growing “not in my backyard” syndrome in these communities towards SWM facilities. Discord among local political leaders, inadequate coordination at inter-local level, and political misunderstanding disrupted stakeholder engagement and contributed to the two sites’ cancellation.
The initial design of this project was delayed and required modifications during implementation mainly due to the unavailability of information on existing underground utilities such as by plan profile and as-built drawings. Final designs were likewise not always comprehensive, necessitating variations for most contracts, resulting in both startup delays and contract modifications. In future, ADB should ensure that the scope of work of design consultants for urban development projects include an assessment of all existing utilities, including those underground. Also, that the consultants make every effort to meet their deliverables, comply with the agreed schedules and contract obligations, and respond to requests from client governments and ADB.