Field Study in the Prey Veng Province
Government officials at the local level, i.e., provinces, districts, and communes, play critical roles in managing and implementing the programs studied. Teachers at local schools and medical and health specialists at local hospitals and health centers provide public services directly to people. What are their views on the programs and the sectors studied? What are the challenges they face in implementing the programs and providing service delivery? What could aid coordination do to assist their work?
To obtain insights into those questions, the study team visited Prey Veng Province during 22-25 October and 11 November 2003, and interviewed government officials at provincial and district offices, commune councilors, teachers, hospital and health center staff, and advisors to some donor-funded projects. The team was able to meet with around fifty people during the field study, including the Governor of the Province and the heads of Provincial Departments in Education and Health (see Annex 1 for the list of interviewees). Prey Veng Province was selected because it has the third largest population (929,000) and the third highest percentage of the poor (54%) among 24 provinces and municipalities, and it was recommended by senior government officials at the central level and foreign experts in the respective sectors and cross-cutting issues studied. This field study focused on Education SWAp, Health SWiM and Local Governance Seila. TCAP is not included because it focuses primarily on the central government.
Key findings which are particularly important to our respective case studies are summarized below. It should be noted that the findings of the field study are only indicative, and should not be generalized to the whole province or country, as they reflect interviews with only limited number of people in one province.
SWAp and ESSP
The provincial office has participated in the provincial workshop in connection with the annual ESSP Review since 2000. In particular, the provincial office prepared a provincial report and submitted it to the ESSP 2003.
The strategy presented in the ESSP does not seem to be fully shared by district education offices. In fact, one of the district officers confessed that he knows ESSP by name, but is not very familiar to its contents.
It was difficult to measure the impact of the SWAp process to the district level. However, the Priority Action Programs (PAPs) initiated in line with the SWAp process have brought about some positive changes locally (detailed in the next section).
PAP and public financial management
The study team visited the provincial health office and OD offices as well as health facilities and interviewed key people at each place. The key findings are summarized below.
Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSP) and SWiM
The HSP and the new planning manual have enabled the provincial and OD offices to develop annual plans in a way that budget and activities are linked with clear targets to be achieved in the province. Costed planning will be introduced at referral hospitals and health centers from 2004.
Despite the improved planning process mentioned above, there are still capacity gaps in the areas of planning and to a greater extent of monitoring at the provincial and OD levels. In order to address the identified management capacity gaps, UNICEF has been supporting capacity development of management staff at the provincial and district levels in Prey Veng Province.
Public financial management
Local Governance Seila
The study team visited Prey Veng Province to deepen their understanding of how the Seila program works at the provincial level, and to obtain views and opinions from the people who are involved in the program at the field level. The team was able to meet with Partnership for Local Governance (PLG) advisors and Executive Committee (ExCom) staff, and with Commune Councilors and Villagers in Damrei Puon Commune. The team was also able to observe a District Integration Workshop (DIW) at Peam Ro District held on 11 November 2003.
The Seila Program started its operation in Prey Veng in 2000. As in the other provinces, the Program is executed by the Executive Committee (ExCom) under the Provincial Rural Development Committee (PRDC) with support of Partnership for Local Governance (PLG) advisory services. Under ExCom, Seila program activities are managed by the Contract and Administration Unit (CAU,) the Financial Unit (FU), the Technical Service Unit (TSU) and the Local Administration Unit (LAU) (see Box A3-1 for the roles and responsibilities of each unit). The numbers of staff in the respective units are 8 for the CAU, 4 for the FU, 14 for the TSU, and 57 for the LAU. The LAU consists of 16 staff of the Provincial Facilitation Team (PFT) and 41 staff of the District Facilitation Team (DFT). An ExCom permanent member serves as secretary of ExCom. A provincial senior advisor under the PLG supervises overall activities, and a PLG advisor is attached to each managing Unit. All advisors under PLG in Prey Veng are Cambodian nationals.
Capacity of ExCom managing units and Commune Councils
ExCom managing units: To the question about the capacity building of ExCom management units, a majority of the ExCom staff interviewed reported that they had gained skills and knowledge from PLG advisors, had become able to manage some 60% of program activities by themselves, and would acquire more skills and knowledge by the end of the program in 2005. However, they also said that they were not fully confident whether they could manage the entire program by themselves after 2005.
Capacity of Commune Councils: According to the LAU staff interviewed, the capacity of commune councils varies depending on the communes, but that in general their basic knowledge of local administration and management is very low. Commune councilors need more time and support for gaining experience, skills, and knowledge to manage commune council activities by themselves. Also, the FU staff interviewed reported that the capacity of commune clerks was extremely low and they needed more training.
Damrei Puon Commune
The Damrei Puon Commune implements 8 small irrigation projects funded by Seila, for which villagers contribute their labor. The commune councilors interviewed reported that they were revising the five-year Commune Development Plan and the three-year Commune Investment Program. Following the Seila’s standard procedure for commune planning, priority activities of the commune were selected by the Planning and Budget Committee (PBC) under the Commune Council. The PBC consists of commune councilors, village heads and representatives of women from each village.
The commune councilors and villagers reported that the problems of the region had been flood and drought in rainy and dry seasons, respectively. To address this chronic problem, they decided to build irrigation and drainage facilities as the priority activities of the commune. They also reported that road reconstruction and maintenance was also important to transport their products to markets. Seasonal immigration to the urban areas has been a common practice of villagers to earn supplementary incomes. Their income has been reportedly reduced in half in the last year due to a drought. The commune councilors and villagers were planning to apply for WFP’s Food for Work Program, which had been explained at the District Integration Workshop (DIW) under Seila (described in the next section). The PRASAC (an EU project) and an NGO called PNKS have been supporting the commune since 1990s.
The villagers interviewed reported that people came up with more ideas now than the time before the commune council had been established. The commune councilors appreciated the training provided by Seila. They expressed confidence that they could manage the commune council by themselves within a few years.
Disbursement of Commune Fund
According to the Seila Program’s annual budget and work plan, the transfer of Commune Funds to the provincial treasury is to have been completed by September each year. As of the end October 2003 in which the research team visited the Province, only 50% of the Commune Funds were transferred to the provincial treasury. The government reported that this delay was due to the shortage of national revenues to the government. However, commune councilors’ salaries were paid for 8 months.
District Integration Workshop (DIW)
The team had the opportunity to observe the DIW at Peam Ro District in the Prey Veng Province. The Workshop started at 8:30am and finished around 11:30am. The procedure of the DIW described below followed the Seila guidelines for the DIW process. The representatives of all communes in Peam Ro District reported program performance in the past and proposed their high priority activities for the next year; Then, the provincial departments of line ministries and NGOs participating in the Workshop sought to identify which activities they could support. The main activities proposed by the communes included, but were not limited to: (i) irrigation facility developments; (ii) installation of drainage pipes across the roads; (iii) rehabilitation of the roads; (iv) school construction; (v) the digging of drinking water wells; and (vi) installation of toilets to each house. The PLG’s provincial senior advisor who attended the Workshop reported that the participation of line department and NGOs to the DIW was not as active as that in other districts in the Prey Veng Province. In fact, only five line departments (i.e., provincial departments of Rural Development, Health, Education, Social Affairs, and Women and Veterans Affairs) and two NGOs (Care and World Vision) participated in the Workshop. It was reported that not all the NGOs working in the District participated.