World Bank Approves $50 Million Assistance

The World Bank approved a package of assistance worth $50 million to support the implementation of Punjab’s governance programme by improving service delivery, an official said. The programme titled Public Management Reform (PPMR) programme, a subset of the government’s governance reform programme that focuses on addressing critical constraints to service delivery. The programme will help improve transparency and resource management of targeted departments of Punjab. “Despite being the country’s biggest and wealthiest province, Punjab faces significant governance, poverty reduction and inequality challenges,” Rachid Benmessaoud, country director for the World Bank in Pakistan, said. “The programme will help the government of Punjab in delivering quick results in public services, while sustaining the reform momentum.”

The most critical constraint to improving service delivery in Punjab is the weak performance management of the departments responsible for providing public services. Moreover, citizens face significant challenges in accessing government services due to the strongly entrenched position of field officials and other structural handicaps such as distance, language, cultural practices, and the lack of information about services, he said. Without good administrative data, it is difficult to assess whether the government programmes are achieving their goals, identify the required corrections and hold government agencies accountable.

Benmessaoud said the provincial government is acutely cognizant of these challenges and has undertaken several initiatives to improve the efficiency of service delivery. It has shown its commitment to address the governance constraints to service delivery and improve the results focus of the public administration, including several performance management innovations supported by the bank. “The absence of reliable information about the performance and service delivery, limits accountability of those along the service delivery chain,” Zubair Khurshid Bhatti, task team leader of the programme, said.

“This operation will support the government of Punjab in collecting information about service delivery and performance, making it available to the citizens and decision-makers, and strengthening feedback loops for improved accountability.” The instrument that will be used for this operation is a Program for Results (PforR) credit. The PforR design provides financial and non-financial incentives to deliver programme results, and supports counterparts along the reform process through the agreed results targets linked to disbursements. Disbursement-linked indicators (DLIs) have been carefully selected to provide incentives on critical roadblocks to improving the programme’s effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability.

The PPMR programme is the first bank operation that will utilise the PforR lending instrument in public management sector in Pakistan. It aims at leverage Punjab’s track record in results management, its experience with the bank’s results-based operations, and the overall engagement on governance and service delivery with the bank. Besides financial incentives, the PforR instrument and the underpinning institutional arrangements also have the potential to influence government management of day-to-day service delivery beyond the targeted departments. By disbursing against the national budget on the basis of key milestones achieved, it aims at fostering a discussion between finance and line departments on results and value for money.

By focusing on key cross-cutting results, it aims at facilitating dialogue within public agencies and across layers of government. Some of the systems supported by the programme, such as the citizen feedback mechanisms, have already been incorporated in the bank-funded Land Records Management Information Systems project, and could also benefit the rest of the portfolio in the province. The credit is financed from the International Development Association (IDA) and will be on standard IDA blend terms, with a maturity of 25 years, including a grace period of five years.

THE NEWS  I ISLAMABAD I Sun, Nov 17, 2013 I