Countries band together to improve delivery of services

October 3, 2013

Six countries form Global Network of Delivery Leaders; ‘You need to deliver on your programs,’ says one leader

UNITED NATIONS, October 3, 2013 -- Political leaders from six countries today announced they were forming an unusual network to share knowledge about what works -- and what doesn’t -- in delivering government services to citizens. The countries -- Albania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Malawi, and Senegal -- decided to start this joint effort after meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week.

The countries, while facing a wide variety of issues, share a common desire to improve the delivery of services, ranging from improving education in classrooms to increasing vaccination rates of children to building bridges.

The group, called the Global Network of Delivery Leaders, was formed following a meeting with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. The leaders met with Kim and Blair during the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. The World Bank Group and the Office of Tony Blair will provide technical support to the network and its members. Details are still being worked out with the countries.

“I believe delivery is at the core of governance,” said President John Mahama of Ghana. “We can come out with beautiful policies, but policies alone will not do the job. In order to succeed as a leader, you need to deliver on your programs.”

All six leaders said they would encourage other countries to join their network focusing on delivery leadership.

They said the burden should be on elected leaders to deliver more effective programs, but that the transition from running a campaign to running a government was not a simple one. In order to run effective programs, they said, they needed to build up expertise in their offices and gain access to best practices around the world to help them deliver on their promises.

“In health or education programs, or even in building a bridge, we don’t need to repeat something that hasn’t worked somewhere else,” said Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. “We have to focus on getting things done and demonstrating leadership by focusing on delivery as a critical part of our job.”

Several of the leaders said the process of improving delivery would not come easily.

“There is resistance in bureaucracies to implement change,” said Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe. “We have examples of middle managers in government who sit on projects for two or three months or more. There is a culture of inaction. We need to make it very clear as leaders that we need our bureaucracies to implement our programs efficiently and successfully.”

Lamothe said he has set up a system in which managers will receive a couple of emails a week reminding them about project deadlines. He said it has unlocked several bottlenecks.

Some of the countries have already created delivery units, which monitor whether priority programs are working as designed. The other countries are now exploring whether to establish a delivery unit as well.

Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi, said she has set up an Implementation Unit in her office after holding a National Dialogue on the Economy, which led to the government setting priorities over the next two years. “What’s critically important in Malawi is strengthening our governance institutions,” she said. “We have to make sure those institutions are strong enough in order for us to deliver on our promises.”

President Mahama of Ghana said his office also was beginning to establish a Delivery Unit, which will report directly to him. “We intend to ruthlessly prioritize, and ensure reforms are translated into noticeable results,” he said.

Getting delivery right sometimes was complicated by donors’ demands, some leaders said.

Senegalese President Macky Sall called on donors to simplify and harmonize their processes and procedures, including procurement rules. He said his country has to deal with different procedures from 50 donors, which does not help with effective delivery.

He also said that Senegal, like many African countries, could use help in “developing more public-private partnerships, and improving the investment climate.”

But ultimately, delivery takes political leaders’ personal conviction and commitment.

Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama, who took office just three weeks ago, said he was interested in setting up a delivery unit that would collect and analyze data each day, but also would conduct ongoing research to determine what was working and what wasn’t. He said one possible area of focus for a delivery unit in Albania was to enhance the absorption capacity of the country and to tackle key challenges like energy.

“I strongly believe that getting this right means you need a combination of the rational and the inspirational,” Rama said. “The rational is making sure you set up an effective delivery system, and be on top of collecting information, analyzing it, and then putting it to use. The inspirational part is making the case of why this is really important:  doing delivery well means improving education, health care, and all government services for people.”

Inspiration is a part of making delivery work, he said. Leaders need to communicate the importance of delivery to their ministries. “You need to really inspire people. You need to give them a purpose,” he said. “Then you need to set up a rational collection of information and make sure the information, or the evidence, helps to improve delivery.”

The World Bank’s Kim said he was inspired by the determination of the six leaders to make delivery a priority.

“Often, people think that if you have a good policy, you are done, that’s it. But these six leaders, and many others, know differently,” Kim said. “Delivery is difficult. But if leaders get delivery right, they will make a major impact on people’s lives. We need to help create a network that will capture both successes and failures in delivery, and make that information instantly available to country leaders. When that happens, children will learn more in schools, mothers will receive better health care, and cities will build more effective public transportation systems, among many other things.”

Blair agreed with Kim and said that leaders need to turn their visions into reality, “and this is perhaps the greatest challenge for the new leaders of today. How do you govern effectively? How do you get the right policy? How do you get it implemented and make sure you get the right results?”

He continued: “It’s why the Global Network of Delivery Leaders can be transformative. We’ll bring together political leaders to share experience, and to learn about building effective government and successful implementation. We’ll equip people with those skills they need to really make a difference.”


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