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LESSONS:

Social Services Delivery and Finance Project

| country: Kyrgyz Republic | region: Central Asian Republics

Experience highlighted the need for significant project contact with the national government even when the targets are local governments and communities.The location of the project implementation unit (PIU) made monitoring of the development of national policies and initiatives difficult. The cost of implementation arrangements was minimized by establishing a project presence only at the project sites and by recruiting only civil engineers, administrators, training specialist, and discretionary grant fund (DGF) coordinators. The PIU did not have either education or health specialists who could have been effective interlocutors with line ministries. The project manager discussed sector issues with line ministries only when problems arose. The implementation arrangements ensured the quality and timely implementation of civil works, and provision of equipment and strong support to communities. However, disbursements, consultation with the executing agency and coordination with line ministries suffered. The liaison office established to resolve these issues proved insufficient.

It is important to ensure that appropriate national policies and strategies are at an advanced stage of preparation when planning local capacity building. During preparation, the project had two options regarding scope. One was to reform policies and set standards nationally, and the other to strengthen decentralized management and service provision by local government and communities. The project took the second option and achieved its objectives and produced the intended outputs. However, technical effectiveness, impacts on the poor, and the sustainability of investments were undermined by the limited scope of reform nationally, particularly regarding budget planning and allocation, and by the failure of reforms to proceed at the same pace as project investments locally. Although national policy reforms were not in the project scope, the project could have worked more closely with other donors to help the government accelerate the planning and implementation of reforms.

The discretionary grant fund (DGF) successfully responded to community social infrastructure needs and mobilized community support. However, poor communities without strong leadership had difficulty preparing proposals and needed significant support in accessing the DGF. To ensurethe full participation of the most disadvantaged communities, similar schemes should ensure that adequate support is provided.

The project provided computers and training for the social protection management information system (SPMIS) in the project oblasts but did not provide technical support nationally toward designing the system. At appraisal, it was envisaged that other agencies would help the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection (MOLSP) design the system, but this support did not materialize. Eventually, MOLSP technicians developed the system, but they pointed out that designing it was difficult and time consuming and were uncertain of the quality of the network. This component could have been implemented more promptly and efficiently if the project had provided a comprehensive package including hardware, software, and technical support.

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