By The Independent Reporters
Paul Wade, World Bank Senior Economist and Chair of the Joint Budget Support Framework Task Force explains how the newly agreed Joint Assessment Framework (JAF) works.
What challenges is the Joint Assessment Framework (JAF) addressing?
The JAF is a tool for helping the government of Uganda (GoU) to get more value for money from its public investments. This is important because, despite huge investments in service delivery, Uganda is struggling to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals.
The main obstacle is not insufficient money – it is about the efficiency and effectiveness of how public money is used. This initiative addresses underperformance by government spending departments and identifies areas where reforms are needed to unblock poor performance. The JAF includes a set of indicators which capture the main challenges for effective service delivery. These include excessive overheads, corruption, absenteeism, and sub-optimal budget allocations.
What has been in place before JAF?
Before the JAF, each donor had their own process for assessing the government’s performance and for making decisions about giving budget support to Uganda. This new approach provides a set of well-defined and shared targets and actions by which performance can be measured. These have been derived from the GoU’s own targets and reform commitments, as expressed in sector policy papers and the national budget framework.
How will JAF will work in practice?
Each December, GoU’s performance for the previous Ugandan FY will be assessed, drawing on information from key sector review documents and national survey data. The JAF indicators will be the basis of this assessment; for example, has teacher absenteeism been brought down? Are drugs available in health facilities? Has vehicle axle loading been reduced? The timing of the assessment is important. It needs to allow enough time for the foregoing year’ achievements to be collated ready for assessment. But it also needs to allow sufficient time for assessment decisions to be built into the budget preparation for the financial year starting in the forthcoming July.
The outcome of the JAF will determine the Joint Budget Support Framework (JBSF) disbursement. What will happen in case of noncompliance with the JBSF?
An assessment report will be prepared, and shared and discussed with the GoU. The balance between targets met and unmet will determine overall performance. Budget support donors will use this assessment to individually determine what level of financial commitment to provide to GoU in the form of budget support for the following year. These commitments will be announced each February, giving enough time for MoFPED to adjust its budget for the forthcoming year. Good performance will be rewarded; poor performance will be penalised.
Donors, govt agree to combat corruption
In October, the government and a group of 11 development partners endorsed a new framework under which donors will fund activities of the government.
Called the Joint Assessment Framework (JAF), it will determine direct budget support over the next three years. It takes effect this financial year 2009/2010.
The eleven Joint Budget Support Development Partners include: the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Commission, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Of the top 10 donors to Uganda, only the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) which contributes up to 7% of the total package is not on the list.
Those on the list contribute beyond 80% of direct donor funding to Uganda.
According to this group, the JAF will improve delivery of services, improve quality on big budget projects like roads, and ensure donors get value for their money.
The donors are concerned about poor quality health care, education, and access to clean drinking water and sanitation. They want the government to take firm action.
‘The fast-growing Ugandan population needs more and better services. For the first time, development partners have agreed on one joint assessment framework with the Government of Uganda to support the improvement of these services in four critical sectors. This should improve the impact of Government spending and reduce transaction costs in delivery of aid, thus making it more effective,’ said Jeroen Verheul, the Netherlands Ambassador and Co Chair of the Head of Missions Budget Support Committee.
The JAF is based on the government’s own targets. The donors are insisting on integrating the reporting system of Government and aligning it with budget cycle.
‘The actions and targets that were endorsed are a milestone for Uganda because the Government has unequivocally stated that it wants to improve the impact of public spending,’ said Kundhavi Kadiresan, World Bank Country Manager and Chair of the Local Development Partners Group.
The JAT contains actions to combat corruption, especially regarding government commitment to act on the outcomes of audits into the expenditures for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) of 2007.