Public Sector Capacity Building Secretariat: Consolidating liberation ideals; enhancing workforce capacities, stimulating public sector growth

Rwanda has made considerable progress in delivering its own development goals in tandem with the national development agenda and the Vision 2020.Capacity challenges, however, still remain in all sectors.

Rwanda has made considerable progress in delivering its own development goals in tandem with the national development agenda and the Vision 2020.Capacity challenges, however, still remain in all sectors. As a strategic response, the Government of Rwanda established the Public Sector Capacity Building Secretariat (PSCBS) in 2009 to enhance capacity of public institutions to ensure efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and transparency in service delivery.

PSCBS guides, facilitates and coordinates the implementation of capacity building interventions in the public sector. These interventions are facilitated by funds from the Government of Rwanda and development partners.

PSCBS puts emphasis on progress the planned activities at the level of implementing institutions and also assess progress against stated objectives as well as planned activities in a harmonized way and as aligned to the country’s development aspirations.

The approach to capacity building in Rwanda is blended with optimization hinged on government’s development priorities and benchmarking of commendable practices locally and internationally selecting the ones that best suit the Rwandan context. This is one of the key reasons why Rwanda’s unique approach to capacity building has become successful. The most recent example is the strategic capacity building initiative (SCBI).
SCBI is focussed on building capacity in priority areas. These priority areas are defined by the Government and are guided by the country’s Vision 2020. Assistance is demand led, and is consistent with the local leadership and drive which is so critical to building capacity. The priority areas for SCBI are driving up agricultural productivity, increasing energy production and distribution, mining sector development, and boosting Private Sector investment. These institutions were selected because they offer significant prospects for economic growth, job creation, and revenue creation.

It is important to note that capacity building is a challenging and complex issue and therefore has continuous challenges. PSCBS acknowledges these challenges and therefore adapts its capacity building initiatives to be in line with national priorities.

It is these very national priorities that have seen Rwanda emerge from the abyss and calamities of 1994 when the country’s human resources were decimated eroding capacities that existed. The liberation in 1994 ushered in the renaissance and re-birth of versatile development aspects including capacity development to which PSCBS is tagged to coordinating capacity building interventions. These efforts bore modest achievements including, but not limited, to the following:

Strategic Human Resource Development

This component assistedPublic Institutions to reduce skills gaps through training and recruitment of well-qualified personnel.
Strategic human resource development is an important pillar in the development strategy of Rwanda. Most Human Resource Development (HRD) activities coordinated by PSCBS with the support from development partners that include the World Bank, African Capacity Building Fund (ACBF) and the Belgian Government through the Belgian Technical Cooperation (BTC) have targeted training of public servants currently holding critical functions in public service. In addition, a specific arrangement for training of trainers from local training institutions has been put in place to ensure the availability a large resource pool of in-country and the delivery of quality training which will in turn enhance service delivery in the public sector.

For example, using funding from ACBF through PSCBS, the National University of Rwanda in cooperation with PSCBS has been able to strengthen the capacity of its teaching staff especially in the departments of Economics, Management and Statistics by training lecturers at PhD and Masters Levels.

Umutara Polytechnic is a young training institution whose role is critical in the development of Rwanda due to its strategic importance in the agricultural development of Rwanda. Funding has allowed the staff of this institution to enroll for Masters Degree training.

Other activities that have been undertaken under HRD include training of trainers from local training institutions (LTIs) that include the National University of Rwanda (NUR) and Rwanda Institute of Management and Administration (RIAM) both abroad and in the country to help them acquire Masters and PhD Degrees.
It also included provision of institutional support to LTIs, training of public servants at managerial, professional and technical levels in short term courses in-country and abroad.

Institutional Capacity Development

Participating Institutions acquired sufficient capacity to be able to perform their tasks efficiently and effectively. These have been facilitated by Capacity Needs Assessments (CAN) and the formulation of the Capacity Building Plans (CBP) Handbook developed by PSCBS, which holistically facilitate these participating institutions.

The handbook conceptualized CNAs and CPBs in five phases: (i) Preparatory Activities; (ii) Setting the stage; (iii) Conducting Capacity Needs Assessments; (iv) Designing CBPs; and (v) Implementing, monitoring and reviewing the CBPs of participating institutions. These phases will ultimately facilitate change over time ensuring sustainable development for these institutions.
Public Financial Management (PFM) Reforms

The ultimate goal of the PFM Reform Strategy as contained in Vision 2020 is to ensure efficient, effective and accountable use of public resources as a basis for economic development and poverty eradication through improved service delivery. This requires strengthening budget execution as well as strengthening external audit in the medium term.Key achievements of the PSCBS PFM reforms include: Upgrade/Customisation of the SMARTGOV/IFMIS General Ledger, Accounts Payable and Revenue Modulesand design of the IFMIS Blueprint

Civil Service Reforms (CSR)

In brief, some of the achievements for Civil Service Reform component were the elaboration of pay and retention policy, the recruitment of a senior coach to coach Senior Cadres in the Ministry (Permanent Secretaries, Director General and Directors), Developing, Testing, Documenting and Deploying IPPIS software and upgrading IPPIS System (payroll system) and Training 200 Civil Servants in English Language.

Capacity Building Fund (CBF)

In the few years of its existence, PSCBS has implemented a lot through CBF, a home-grown initiative which became operational in February 2009. The purpose of the CBF is to coordinate and harmonize all Capacity Building initiatives across government as well as align Capacity Building interventions with national priorities.

With support from the Government through CBF and the development partners, PSCBS has made great strides in major capacity development initiatives and include management of the CBF; support to civil service reforms; public financial management reforms; public procurement reforms; strengthening local government capacities; enhancing policy and strategy development; building local training institutions as well as strengthening capacity of the national parliament.

Challenges

The effectiveness and efficiency of a country’s public sector is vital to the success of the national development agenda, yet challenges remain that have impeded the achievement of defined capacity building objectives which include;

Inadequate relevant and up to date data.
Capacity building interventions without needs assessments.
Coordination and synergy of capacity building activities.
Varying interpretations of the concept of capacity building.
Limited ownership and capacities.
Managing expectations of stakeholders.
Delays in submitting training programs.
Challenge of getting highly qualified experts in some fields.

Lessons learned

Capacity building itself is a complex process and achieving the actual growth targets from capacity interventions remains a daunting challenge.

The sustainability of capacity building investments requires ownership of benefiting institutions to drive the process and yield the expected results. However, experience has demonstrated that it is imperative to secure good will and commitment of the top leadership in benefiting public institutions if the continuing challenge of ownership is to be addressed.

There is limited capacity in procurement, strategic planning and M&E that impact on disbursements. There is need for capacity assessments before interventions, aligning capacity interventions with national priorities. Collective training requires lots of attention and close follow up if the objectives of the trainings are to be realized though the newly measures established in the Capacity Building Needs Assessment Handbook of which will tackle this in the near future.

Strategic Capacity Building Initiative (SCBI)

The Government of Rwanda‘s response to the challenges it was facing around achieving sustainable and effective capacity building was to develop a new approach to this challenge, called, the Strategic Capacity Building Initiative (SCBI) and delivered through PSCBS.

SCBI is a four year initiative set up to drive delivery and improve aid effectiveness to achieve outcomes for Rwanda in its four priority areas. These four areas of agriculture, energy, mining and private sector development, were selected for their potential impact on the achievement of the country’s development goals.
SCBI is a unique approach to capacity building in that, whilst the initiative does recognize the value of training, it is also appreciates that sustainable and effective capacity building needs to go one step further.

As a result, a decision was taking to move away from the traditional hiring of consultants who ‘fly-in and fly-out’ and the delivery of ad hoc one-off trainings,  towards a more sustainable approach which sees local Rwandan counterparts paired with experts in a particular field to be coached and mentored by them.
SCBI is now one-year old and, to date, experts in the fields of geology, limnology, peat-to-power, mechanization and International Finance have been paired with young Rwandan professionals to allow them to gain both skills and on-the-job experience with a view to eventually becoming experts in their own right.

Consolidating ideals, 18 years of efficient and effective hard work

PSCBS is a result of Rwanda’s will to liberate itself and achieve its development aspirations in line with economic development and poverty reduction.. 18 years down the road, Government has a system in place to respond to capacity needs in a harmonized manner for the public sector for rapid development.