28 June 2013
Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council forum
28 June 2013
Forum theme: Revitalising the districts of Papua New Guinea: achieving effective community participation for quality and sustainable public services in the districts
Forum session: Contributions by the development partners in promoting inclusive rural development
Address by Mr Stuart Schaefer
Head of Australian Aid to PNG
Good morning and thank you for inviting me here to speak today.
Today is a timely opportunity for me to talk to you about our work with communities and sub-national governments.
We are finalising a new strategy for supporting governance in PNG that picks up on some of the key themes of this forum.
This is not about improving governance for its own sake, but to improve service delivery.
Quality services; sustainable services; community-driven services – these are high among our priorities.
These are themes of my address today.
First, I’d like to talk briefly about governance in the Australian aid program, the PNG budget and provinces and districts.
Promoting good governance in PNG is arguably our most important task.
Achieving good governance is most likely to result in development that is sustainable and PNG-led.
PNG has experienced more than a decade of economic growth but this has not translated into commensurate improved development outcomes.
Increased government revenues will only translate into a more educated and healthier population if these revenues are effectively governed.
The Government has committed itself to improving service delivery.
Australia is here to help the government do so by improving the accountability, transparency and effectiveness of its spending.
We support better governance in PNG by focusing on the Partnership for Development priorities which Australia shares with PNG.
In health and HIV, education, transport infrastructure and law and justice – a good governance approach underpins everything we do.
I’d like to highlight an example in education which is pertinent to the forum’s theme of community participation.
This year, AusAID is supporting more than 609,000 elementary school children to receive tuition free education.
Measures are in place to oversight the distribution of funds, but we are supporting the Government to take an additional step – a feedback loop from citizens to government.
You need to know how a service performing to make it better and to stop irregularities from occurring.
So AusAID is funding a free hotline so parents and teachers can report problems in subsidy payments
Radio announcements tell parents and the community about the school services they’re entitled to, and encourage them to report teachers who don’t turn up to class or who charge fees.
Subsidy amounts for all eligible schools are published in the newspaper, so communities know the amounts going to schools.
Measures such as these help strengthen the line of accountability between citizens and the state.
The Government is also keen on new ways of doing business – innovation in service delivery.
Take, for example, the procurement of goods and services.
The Government of PNG has agreed to establish an Independent Health Procurement Authority, to ensure a long term solution for medical supply in PNG.
Establishing the Authority would promote capacity building of core functions of Government such as policy, legislation, and monitoring and evaluation, while allowing other aspects of service delivery to be provided through contractors.
The best test of policy effectiveness is when you can provide some evidence through good monitoring.
You may be aware Australia – at the Government of PNG’s request – has been procuring and distributing quality-assured 100 per cent medical supply kits to all rural health centres and aid posts.
We are now supporting a multi-year evaluation of medical supply reform to assist the Government of PNG to improve procurement and distribution systems.
The first stage of the evaluation indicates that essential drugs and medical supplies are highly available in rural health facilities, almost entirely due to the 100 per cent medical kits program.
These early findings can inform us of where kit contents and distribution levels can be improved.
A detailed re-analysis of health information data and consultations with government and partner programs is underway.
AusAID is also interested in better tracking of the Service Improvement Programs and development budget expenditures.
Arguably the PNG Government’s most bold and expansionary program is the allocation of up to 1.5 billion Kina to be spent
through the Provincial, District and local level Service Improvement Programs this financial year.
AusAID very much wants this PNG initiative to work, and like the political and bureaucratic leaders in the government we continue to ask questions about the way this initiative is turning out.
Are funds getting out to districts? Are they being expended correctly against core functions to improve the lives of Papua New Guineans? How well are authorities able to account and report on what is happening?
We can ask questions and hope this initiative will work, but beyond this how can we assist?
Let’s put the situation in context – Australia’s aid is now only seven per cent of the PNG Government’s total Budget spend.
The Government has the money to deliver but bottlenecks in financial and procurement systems continue to be major impediments to services reaching Papua New Guineans.
Australia’s comparative advantage here is in helping the Government to develop the capacity to deliver.
I’d like to turn to our work with communities and sub-national governments.
The essential aim of our sub-national programs is to ensure funding reaches frontline service delivery and that the Government is accountable for its spending – particularly in the poorer provinces.
The Provincial and Local-Level Governments Program, which commenced in 2012, is the latest phase of our sub-national support.
We deploy more than 30 long term advisers as well as nine AusAID staff in five provincial offices to work with PNG to assist the decentralised service delivery system.
The program supports the PNG Government’s Provincial Performance Improvement Initiative, which is led by the Department of Provincial and Local Level Government Affairs.
The PPII was established to improve PNGs service delivery system by working with Provincial Administrations to strengthen corporate systems.
A set of stronger and more assertive provincial administrations is emerging which are better able to plan, budget, report as they implement and address their human resources needs.
We work with provinces and districts on improving public financial management systems and data collection capacities for budgeting and spending on key service delivery functions.
We are also starting work with national agencies and provincial administrations to look at a whole of government approach to addressing governance bottlenecks to service delivery
The DSIP has a place in developing PNG, but is not the entire solution to address service delivery impediments. There will be a need to ensure there are recurrent budget for maintaining improvements to health, education and infrastructure obtained through DSIP.
The Government’s move to develop one budget for both the development and recurrent budget next year is a positive step in that direction.
We would like to see local MPs play a more active role in working with Provincial and District Administrations to seek recurrent funding for services provided by national agencies, and better coordination between SIP spending and recurrent budgets.
Going forward, I envisage increasing emphasis in addressing governance bottlenecks to service delivery.
We are looking to increase incentives and accountability, and more closely link incentives to service delivery performance.
We plan to focus on transparency and accountability and expand community level and sub-national governance interventions.
We anticipate supporting the drivers of change – leadership and demand for better governance – where historically there’s been an emphasis on the supply side of good governance through technical assistance.
Community driven development will be an important component of our future program.
We want to mobilise communities to use their own resources to address their development problems.
We want to build lines of accountability between government and communities.
We would like to see communities advocate to government for their development needs, and the government respond by allocating and spending resources in line with community priorities.
It would see communities that have access to information and resources organise themselves to provide goods and services to meet their immediate needs.
Remember that seeking improvements to service delivery is not just about demanding more from government. Community involvement in development comes with responsibility.
Communities will participate more in identifying, planning, designing, implementing and monitoring projects.
Ultimately they will be forced to make the tough choices of prioritising projects within limited budgets.
Some of AusAID’s current community programs already have elements of these approaches.
The Strongim Pipol Strongim Nesen program encourages participation and support from the community.
Grant recipients include Ward Development Committees or Local Level Governments, illustrating that partnership at all levels can contribute to achieving service delivery.
AusAID supports CARE International in PNG to deliver an Integrated Community Development Program in Obura-Wonenara District in the Eastern Highlands.
This program operates on the principal that communities are best placed to provide information about service delivery shortfalls and needs, and they do so through ward planning.
The significant devolution of funding in the 2013 budget confirmed the need for supporting this type of bottom-up planning.
The CARE project has also facilitated the pooling of community resources to support service delivery.
For example, a remote community has allowed the primary school headmaster to live in health staff accommodation in the absence of teachers’ housing.
And the community in one ward with a functioning elementary school has invited families in wards with no school to send their children to live and go to school in their community –– and they have even built additional houses to accommodate them.
The Obura-Wonenara District is now using ward plans to form a consolidated Local Level Government Plan.
This will feed into the Obura-Wonenara District Plan, to prioritise District budget spending including the District Services Improvement Program.
These plans are prioritising community needs – school teachers, community health workers, village birth attendants, foot bridges, and other basic essentials.
I’d like to conclude with some comments about the CIMC.
You play an important and increasingly effective role as the nexus between the government and civil society in contributing to the policy dialogue on behalf of so many Papua New Guineans.
I congratulate you on your efforts and great energy in continuing to support information sharing, dialogue and discussion through the regional and national development forums. They are timely, topical and important.
You have a very engaged and proactive Planning Minister who is supportive of the policy dialogue and forum and I would encourage your close engagement with him.
The Government’s funding of the CIMC and alignment of regional and national development forums with budget processes are important developments.
I encourage and challenge CIMC to always consider ways to influence change in practical ways.