On July 20, 2021, the Secretariat of the Interagency Coordinating Council for Public Administration Reform (PAR) presented the Annual Report on the Implementation of the Public Administration Reform Action Plan 2019-2020 prepared by the Secretariat of the Council and the report on the implementation of the PAR Roadmap prepared by an independent expert. The Institute for the Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) as an alternative monitoring organization of the Action Plan, examined the documents presented by the Council and identified several important circumstances.
The fact that the Secretariat of the Interagency Council was relatively critical in assessing the implementation of the commitments and did not share all the positions of the responsible agencies on the outcomes is a positive development. In the four areas monitored by IDFI, the Secretariat changed the status implementation indicated by the agencies in almost half of the outcome indicators (≈44%) and unlike the responsible agencies, did not consider any progress to be made with regards of eight objectives. A similar approach is observed with regard to output indicators, however, in some cases the comments of civil society were not taken into account by the Secretariat without any clarifications.
In the annual monitoring report, the Secretariat indicates that the necessary measures to achieve the outcome indicators were, in most cases, delayed by the pandemic, which had a negative impact on the implementation of the action plan. As part of the alternative monitoring, IDFI indicated that the responsible authorities were using the pandemic as a template deterrent, so that no specific indication was made as to which specific factor caused by the pandemic affected implementation of particular obligation and how. The detailed explanations are not given in the report of the Secretariat as well and there is only a general statement that the mobilization of human/financial resources has become necessary for crisis management and that the pandemic has changed the work regime of public administration leading to reassessment of existing coordination systems.
The Secretariat cites the lack of financial resources as one of the main challenges along with the pandemic. However, it should be noted that the fulfilment of the obligations under the Action Plan was mainly dependent on donor assistance (donor assistance amounted to GEL 2,205,841; state budget amounted to GEL 11,400) which has not been fully utilized. The report does not specify why the said funds could not be utilized (except for the general statement related to the pandemic). Overall, at the end of the action plan, about 30% of the donor financial assistance allocated remains unused.
Interestingly, more money was spent on policy planning and accountability directions during the reporting period. However, the share of commitments not implemented (or not fully implemented) is quite high at 50% and 80%, respectively for these directions according to the Secretariat report (according to the alternative monitoring, none of the objectives in policy planning direction was fully implemented: one out of four objectives was mostly implemented, three were not implemented. None of the objectives was fully implemented in the accountability direction: three out of five were partially implemented and two were not implemented). Only administrative expenses were determined by the Action Plan in the direction of public financial management and according to the information provided by the Council, no unimplemented objectives were recorded in this direction (according to the alternative monitoring, two out of three objectives were mostly implemented and one could not be verified). As for the public service direction, the donor assistance provided in this direction was not fully utilized, and the share of unimplemented objectives is 71.2% according to the monitoring carried out by the Council (according to the alternative monitoring, only one of the seven objectives was fully implemented, one - mostly, three - partially, two objectives were not implemented).
It is welcome that in the framework of PAR's 2019-2020 Action Plan Implementation Report 2020, the Secretariat focuses on a number of challenges identified by IDFI and GYLA in the Alternative Monitoring Reports. In particular:
- Inadequate assessment of the amount of work required to perform the activities and, consequently, incorrect determination of implementation deadlines and delays in those deadlines;
- The need to determine interim targets for the objectives;
- Duplication of activities;
- Lack of direct connection between the activity implementation and the objectives, which leads to cases when the activities may be fully performed, but this does not (or less so) lead to the achievement of the final objective.
Some of the challenges identified by IDFI and GYLA in the alternative monitoring reports were also mentioned in the report on the implementation of the PAR Framework by an independent expert. In particular, as indicated in the report:
- The Roadmap identifies the main challenges in Georgia's public administration, although it was not clear in all cases how the set objectives would help solve the problem. Besides, the indicators provided under the objectives were not sufficient and could not ensure a proper measurement of the progress achieved;
- The Roadmap does not provide for formal renewal procedures. Although the approval of the Public Administration Reform Action Plan is carried out every two years, it does not have a unified and formalized structure. Besides, the adoption of the new action plan did not provide for the updating and/or adaptation of objectives, which in some cases weakened the link between the activities and objectives set out in the action plan.
In response to these challenges, IDFI and GYLA issued recommendations as part of the alternative monitoring, some of which are repeated in the report on the implementation of the PAR Roadmap prepared by an independent expert. The expert like IDFI and GYLA points out that it is important to:
- Provide clear political support and oversight for the future goals of PAR;
- Consider the resources available to actually achieve the objectives and set deadlines correctly;
- Determine impact indicators and interim targets in future strategic documents;
- Harmonize the indicators with OECD/SIGMA standards; etc.
It should be noted that in order to achieve the strategic goals and objectives in a timely manner, relevant strategic/policy documents should be developed and published in the beginning of the period provided for in the specific strategy/action plan. According to the PAR Action Plan Implementation Report 2020, "to ensure the continuity of the reform, work on the Strategy document and the relevant Action Plan is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2021." However, in August 2021 the documents are still not prepared. This is a significant shortcoming of the policy-making process, which IDFI has repeatedly highlighted.
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