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LESSONS:

Fiscal Management and Public Administration Reform Program

sector: Public Sector Management | country: Afghanistan

Monitoring framework. How the design and monitoring framework (DMF) was prepared constitutes a major design and evaluation issue, and its lack of clarity made assessment of achievements across the program very difficult. The standards used in conceptualizing DMFs have evolved significantly since the program – s approval, and the new practices should soon make it possible to design more effective assistance in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But it is also important to recognize that the nature of reforms in public fiscal planning and financial management reforms makes the adoption the new monitoring framework practices more complex; professionals with expertise in such work should develop more tailored approaches in this regard.

Future assistance. Further assistance to the government, especially the Ministry of Finance (MOF), is crucial in order for reforms under subprogram 1 to become effective and be sustainable. But the approach to the provision of this assistance must also change. Instances have been highlighted in which high levels of technical assistance (TA) have constrained learning-by-doing on the part of local counterparts, and overwhelmed the incentives that normally underpin successful capacity development. Future ADB institutional reform programs in Afghanistan should include a specific and realistic strategy for capacity development that takes the following into account that:

(i) In the absence of absorptive capacity in ministries, little technical skills transfer will occur. However, the level of fiscal resources needed to sustain hiring of more qualified staff to the civil service (to increase that absorptive capacity) is also affected by current development partner financing of externally-funded national staff (the so-called ?second civil service?), which is now hired on inflated terms. Coordination between these two dimensions is a priority if core government
capacity is to be developed.

(ii) In the absence of specific terms of reference for international advisors for on-the-
job training, or if those are not strictly focused on the most technically challenging tasks, the availability of these experts to provide general support within the ministries will tend to crowd-out the inputs provided by, and the learning process of the local staff. Thus, experts should be given specific terms of reference that (a) require the provision of on-the-job training to local counterparts, and (b) limit their overall involvement to the most technically challenging tasks.

(iii) Continuous recourse to resident international advisors may perpetuate the dependency of decision-makers on such experts.

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