Strengths and Weaknesses of Financing Modalities
August 23, 2011 – 11:30 a.m.
||Joseph DeStefano, RTI International
Meredith Fox, USAID/Ghana
Hala El Serafy, USAID/Egypt
||Suezan Lee, USAID Office of Education
This session focused on USAID’s experience with projectized and non-projectized education funding assistance, specifically in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Joseph DeStefano of RTI International discussed the cons of non-projectized assistance (NPA). He stated that some think that large disbursements are an easier way to move funds and accordingly, providing NPA would be less of a management burden. However, monitoring and keeping track of funds can become an issue, particularly since the new USAID Education Strategy seeks tangible results for each project. In addition, the USAID Evaluation Policy is rigorous regarding monitoring performance and impact. Due to the issues that arise from providing NPA, it may not be the proper funding option for programs, especially because of the new 2011 Education Strategy.
Meredith Fox of USAID/Ghana discussed the benefits and lessons learned from funding education programs through implementation letters (ILs). ILs enabled USAID/Ghana to provide teacher training for every teacher in Ghana; using country systems allowed USAID to train many more teachers. The Ghana Mission saw ILs as an opportunity to build the capacity of the country while meeting specific objectives. Although the ILs allowed the Ghana education service to take the lead in program design, it gave The Mission an opportunity to work with the education service closely. When there is a high level of engagement, the potential for sustainability is increased since government counterparts are meaningfully involved from the beginning. Identifying active engaged partners from the start is key to program success. Requiring the host government to assign a project manager who has sufficient time to manage the project is important. Starting in small implementation phases is wise. Contracting a company such as Price Waterhouse Cooper to assist in financial management can be helpful. Financial reporting requirements should be as simple as possible and should follow government guidelines whenever possible.
Hala El Serafy of USAID/Egypt discussed the strengths, weaknesses and lessons learned from funding education programs in Egypt through the cash transfer mechanism. This mechanism enables the government to set its own reform priorities and assume greater responsibility for program design, implementation and management than most other mechanisms. In addition, it contributes to capacity building by allowing the Ministry to lead implementation, and thus the potential to sustain achievement is much higher. Weaknesses include the limited capacity of the Ministry of Education (MOE) regarding monitoring, documentation and report writing. Another weakness can come from a change of key Ministry of Education officials and the impact this can have on the order of reform priorities. El Serafy identified lessons learned: It is important to be clear about benchmarks; avoid using vague statements; and ensure that there is mutual understanding and clear expectations. In addition, regular follow up and documentation are necessary.
Key take away points included the need to look at different funding scenarios besides NPA because of the new Education Strategy. Implementation letters have allowed USAID/Ghana to provide teacher training for every teacher in Ghana. While MOE involvement presents some challenges, the key to success is to identify active engaged partners. USAID/Egypt implemented a cash transfer program which also served to build capacity. However, when working directly with MOEs, it is important to build sustainability at multiple levels as changes in political power often result in staff turnover at MOEs.