ADB missions for this project were infrequent and did not provide strong supervision and guidance. The inception mission was fielded in a timely manner in July 2008, and the next mission was held in April 2009. However, no mission was conducted in 2010 and 2011 when procurement was ongoing. Validated rather late, the weaknesses in project design were recommended by the joint midterm review mission in 2012 to be addressed through a significant reduction in scope. Options to deliver the outputs envisaged at appraisal would have been identified and implemented early enough had regular monitoring and project review missions been conducted. Early adjustments in the original design and monitoring framework, which addressed binding constraints on skills development in the country but did not reflect the results of stakeholder analyses and consultations during project preparation, would have also been implemented.
Late procurement of works, goods, and services delayed the implementation of this project, which was physically completed only in June 2015, two years after the expected completion date. Consultants were recruited only about 14 months after loan effectiveness; the first contract for goods was signed 19 months after effectiveness; and the first civil works contracts, two years after. Weak capacity and unfamiliarity with ADB procedures of the project implementation unit accounted for the long procurement delays. ADB should do more to facilitate timely procurement in future projects. Aside from advance actions, which did not help much under this project, procurement training, handholding, and implementation support should be provided by ADB especially to new EAs and IAs. Ensuring that a favorable policy environment and institutional mechanisms are in place to support the pursuit of new and innovative approaches will also help ensure the timely and smooth implementation of ADB-assisted projects.
A comprehensive and in-depth assessment of EA and IA capacities, undertaken as part of project preparation, would have enabled the formulation of more realistic targets. This would have also allowed the identification of measures to address critical capacity constraints or improve implementation arrangements. For future projects, especially those that entail carrying out new and innovative approaches, government should assign well-qualified and motivated staff and ensure the support and cooperation from of relevant agencies. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) can also consider more proactively taking up with borrower governments the need for the most suitable implementation arrangements and capable project management staff to take charge of ADB-assisted projects.
Due to the complexity of government internal approval procedures, a 2- to 3-month delay in the release of the provincial government’s counterpart funds was experienced at the start of project implementation. The PID proactively coordinated with the Finance Department and Treasury Department in improving internal fund transfer procedures so that, in subsequent years, counterpart funds were transferred without delay to the provincial government’s project account within the first quarter of each fiscal year. This fund transfer system has since been applied to other PID externally-funded projects. Learning from this experience, it is possible for government counterparts to work out changes in their internal procedures to ensure the timely release of counterpart funds and thereby facilitate the smooth implementation of projects.
A one-year delay in the procurement of the major civil works package comprised the key reason for the two-time extension of the project completion date from 30 June 2016 to 30 September 2017. While it did not adversely affect project implementation, the delay could have been avoided had a market analysis been made on the most apt and effective contracts to tender for the project’s major civil works. Bidding failure on the two initial packages ─ international competitive bidding (ICB) for the construction of the new Khanki Barrage and national competitive bidding (NCB) for the preparation of the barrage construction site ─ despite the international roadshow and advance action on the ICB, and their eventual merger into a single ICB won by a Pakistan-based contractor highlighted this lack of market analysis. Procurement for future similar projects should explore the local construction industry, which as shown by this project, does not lack in contractors with adequate technical competence and financial and human resources to complete modern civil works with sound quality.