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.
With the tremendous pressure on Viet Nam’s provincial administrations to achieve economic development, investments have tended to prioritize the expansion of PRI with designs that are often based on outdated standards and cost norms. Irrigation and road designs thus typically result in lower capacity with structural weaknesses, consequently requiring repair and/or upgrade shortly after commissioning. For example, significant periodic maintenance was required for the subprojects in Buon Tria–Buon Triet communes of Lak district within just 2 years after commissioning. However, due to the limited revenue generation capacity of provincial governments, it is not always possible to meet the operation and maintenance (O&M) costs of the project assets. Given this, it is of great importance that PRI design standards adequately address current risk factors, particularly under expected climate change scenarios and the changing land-use patterns.
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.
While the key urban sector and executing agency for this project, the Ministry of Urban Development (MUOD), adopted a structure for GESI mainstreaming with separate budget head, this initiative faced challenges after the country’s administrative restructuring. There were no division offices and GESI units in the districts, and the sociologist’s position that used to support GESI activities was removed from the departments. Nevertheless, using the resource materials developed under this project as guide, the GESI-trained staff in the divisions can push for establishing and institutionalizing GESI in the new structure of the provinces and at the local level. This would require revising MOUD’s GESI operational guidelines 2013 to define the roles and responsibilities in all tiers of government.
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.
The financial management arrangements of the borrower and EA were robust. Separate project financial accounts were maintained and audited by statutory auditors. Except for fiscal year (FY) 2018, APFSs were received, albeit with delays up to 3.6 months from the due dates but within the grace period of 6 months. The APFS for FY2018 was rejected because it included a combined audit report for all three projects despite the requirement for separate reports and opinions. Also, the AEFSs for FY end-2017 and prior years were combined with the APFS. All non-compliances could have been mitigated with tighter monitoring from ADB.
The number of overhead water supply tanks built under the project was reduced from 10 to 8 because of poor contractor performance. But the outcome target of augmenting potable water supply by 23.5 million liters per day (MLD) was substantially achieved and reached 20 MLD with the installation of 19 tube wells and by replacing more pumps and other electro-mechanical equipment than targeted (148 actual against the 112 target). The adjustments also resulted in an additional 10,200 people in low-income or poor households (against the target of 3,800) benefiting from the increase in water supply. These accomplishments demonstrate how being outcome-oriented could lead to better results. Nevertheless, the design could have considered incorporating more comprehensive solutions, such as 24x7 water supply with O&M arrangements, into construction contracts. This would have maximized the benefits from the improved water supply systems and enhanced the sustainability of both the project benefits and assets.
The financial sustainability analysis conducted at MFF completion showed that there are enough state operating receipts to meet the O&M expenses of the project facilities. Given that the operating institutions did not achieve recovery of the O&M costs as envisaged at appraisal, fiscal transfers from the state and central governments need to continue to ensure the sustainability of the project assets.
The project’s target to have the municipalities adopt the accrual-based accounting system and publish their balance sheets from fiscal year 2015 were only partly achieved. The target to have semi-autonomous water supply entities prepare and adopt organizational development plans was achieved but with delay. So was the target to install a more efficient water billing and collection system that materialized only post-project completion. Therefore, it became evident that the reform targets were rather ambitious considering the state’s limited capacity and the local context, including frequent local unrest, which required a longer implementation period.
The overlapping implementation periods between project 1 and then-ongoing ADB Loan 2151 and other national programs, and concurrent preparation and appraisal of projects 2 and 3 of the MFF imposed a heavy burden on the ERA. Exacerbating this burden was the initially weak capacity of project implementation units (PIUs). ADB providing greater implementation support, particularly for the preparation of subsequent tranches, would help address this challenge in future MFFs. Such support would also help enhance the quality of subsequent tranches of the MFFs and mitigate the risk of implementation delays.
Safeguards implementation arrangement in the executing agency (EA) was adequate. A chief engineer was deputed as director of safeguards and supported by four environmental and resettlement experts. Two officers from the state revenue department were posted as land acquisition officers. These land acquisition officers provided much-needed support to the high-powered committee Divisional Level Committee established by the state government to fast track the implementation of the resettlement plans for subprojects under the project. Creating a land acquisition office in the PMU to manage unavoidable involuntary resettlement may be explored in ongoing and future projects.
Project 2 was completed with a minimal 3-month delay. This was attributable to, among other things, the preparation of better detailed designs concurrent with project 1 implementation.