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North-West Frontier Province Urban Development Sector Project

sector: Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development, Finance, Transport, Water and Other Urban Infrastructure and Services | country: Pakistan

The project supported reforms only in the 24 participating tehsil municipal administrations (TMAs). The provincial government was expected to undertake reforms and address capacity gaps in all the other TMAs (52 in all). This arrangement seriously isolated the reform process. Sector loan projects should assess the political will, capacity, and incentives related to policy actions at all levels before building the support and incentives mechanism for reforms.

The policy reforms agreed on at appraisal were overshadowed by the broader reform agenda introduced under local government ordinance (LGO) 2001 before project approval. Where major changes occur in the external environment of projects before ADB approval, it is more efficient to revise the project design up front rather than postpone the major adjustments.

The project design was based on the assessment of seven sample TMAs and assumptions related to support for LGO 2001 from other sources to address capacity issues. The basis of the capacity assessment was seriously compromised during implementation. The project design did not have enough flexibility and depth to fill these capacity gaps, which would have required major changes in institutional arrangements and additional funding, a possibility that was avoided during implementation. Sector loans that include policy reforms should have much more flexibility and depth to absorb the changes that accompany most reform processes.

There was a 3-year gap between the project preparatory technical assistance (PPTA) evaluations (in the last quarter of 1999) and the start (effectiveness) of the project (in the last quarter of 2002). Most structural and financial management plans, base maps, and priority subprojects therefore had to be reappraised at the start of the project, further delaying the project and straining limited capacity. To keep evaluations and project designs relevant, the time between project preparation and start up should not exceed 1 year.

The project did not provide market-based salaries. Good staff was therefore hard to retain and turnover was high. This was a major reason for project failure. The overall cost implications of paying professional managers market-based salaries are marginal, especially when the substantial impact of weak capacities on project output and outcomes is considered, as this project demonstrated.

The project design offered flexibility in developing models for community and private sector participation in the delivery of urban services, without providing a clear framework or adequate resources for these activities. Flexibility is important in the design of sector loans, but for this flexibility to be effectively used, additional capacity, a guiding framework, and resources should be included in the sector loan, with supporting technical assistance for project administration to guide the use of the resources.

The project schedule was unrealistic for a complex project that relied heavily on existing capacity and several up-front conditions before the subproject investments. The scheduling of complex sector and policy loan projects has to be improved and streamlined on the basis of actual implementation experience.

A major reason for the delay in project start-up was the variance between the report and recomendations of the president (RRP) and the government’s PC-1 planning document. Draft RRPs and PC-1s for a project should be shared between ADB and the borrower well before loan approval.

The consultants under the loan were hired through quality- and cost-based selectio (QCBS). The staff remuneration in the bids was inadequate for good-quality staff. The level of effort and the skill set specified in the request for proposal (RFP) also did not match the complexity of the assignment. Similar issues encumbered the RFP for the nongovernment organizations (NGOs), allowing generally weak firms to submit bids that could not fully appreciate the tasks ahead. The terms of reference should adequately capture the complexity of the sector loans, and the RFP fro such loans should either be quality based or include a bid rejection option in case of underbidding in QCBS.

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