Commencement Address: 2020 Building PFM Capabilities Programme Certificate Ceremony

30 March 2021

Welcome to the Certificate Ceremony of the 2020 Building Public Finance Capabilities programme.

The preamble of CABRI’s status report on Good Financial Governance says that an effective State should be able to: mobilise revenue; borrow prudently; plan and manage the spending of public money in an effective and efficient way; and account for the use of funds and the results achieved. The report argues that these functions are necessary for economic growth and sustainable development.

The Good Financial Governance report and its corresponding declaration adopted by finance ministers at the 2012 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank in Arusha, Tanzania provides an orientation for our strategic direction and a rationale for our approach. It provides the foundation for our Building PFM Capabilities (BPFC) programme, which is about the functionality of the State – how we mobilise revenue, plan and manage the spending of public funds, amongst others.

The 2020 BPFC cohort is the 4th group of country teams to participate in the BPFC programme. Started in 2017 with 6 countries and as a partnership with the Centre for International Development’s Building State Capability programme at Harvard University, the BPFC programme has worked with over 16 countries, represented by 30 teams of public officials, who completed over 1000 team assignments and close to 2000 individual assignments. In addition, coaches and their teams undertook 400 hours of check-in discussions. These statistics provide an insight into the quantities involved, but not the quality of the programme. The quality is measured by the approach that teams use and the progress being made in solving very complex problems. As you know, the BPFC programme uses the PDIA approach, which is problem-driven and provides the space for iteration and adaptation.

In a Harvard University working paper by Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett, and Michael Woolcock, the PDIA approach is described as one that: aims to solve particular problems in local contexts, through the creation of an ‘authorizing environment’. This authorizing environment is necessary for decision-making and experimentation. The paper authors emphasis the need for active, ongoing and experiential learning and the iterative feedback of lessons into new solutions. And doing so by: engaging broad sets of agents to ensure that reforms are viable; legitimate and relevant. In particular, the changes that are proposed need to be politically supported and practical.

To avoid making comparisons between the PDIA approach and the more traditional approaches used by multilateral and bilateral programmes, let me merely mention the benefits of the PDIA approach. Firstly, it provides for ownership in every aspect, including the identification of problem statements and the authorizing environment. Secondly, the approach ensures that teams engage with a broad set of stakeholders to ensure that reforms are viable, legitimate and relevant, as suggested by the Andrews, Pritchett and Woolcock paper. Thirdly, the PDIA approach creates the space for experimentation (trying new things), and fourthly, by building capabilities, the approach contributes to the strengthening of institutions and sustainability of the reforms that are undertaken.

Over the past 5 years, the locally-nominated problems have covered a wide array of public finance topics, such as cash-management practices; conceptualization and appraisal of infrastructure projects; tax compliance; capital expenditure; governance and oversight of public entities and state owned companies; public participation and accountability, challenges of decentralization, and procurement, amongst others.

Over the past two days, you shared with your peers in the 2020 cohort the causes of your locally-nominated problem statements, how you went about collecting the evidence, which stakeholders you met, what are some of the innovative ideas and actions you applied, the progress that you have made, and the next steps going forward. These are the qualitative aspects of the BPFC programme, which is about the way that you have worked and the progress made. In this regard, there is a 5th benefit in the PDIA approach. The PDIA gives you a sense of pride in your achievements. This benefit was expressed by Thierry Lobaka, a member of the 2018 Central African Republic team that worked on the problem of low spending of the capital budget.

“The PDIA approach has made it possible for me to showcase the expertise and skills that I possess, [and] which I use to the advantage of my country. Henceforth I will feel proud each time that I see any administrative infrastructure that has been rebuilt or rehabilitated using state resources.”

You all should be proud of your achievements, so far, and the potential to achieve much, much more.

Thank you

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