EDPRS: Decentralisation takes public services closer to the citizens

BY GODFREY NTAGUNGIRA Rwanda’s decentralization programme is proceeding at an ambitious pace and is fundamentally shifting the dynamics of public service in the region.

BY GODFREY NTAGUNGIRA

Rwanda’s decentralization programme is proceeding at an ambitious pace and is fundamentally shifting the dynamics of public service in the region.

As a new policy initiative started in 2006 decentralization is now in its third phase of implementation, covering the period between 2008 -12.

The programme is expected over time to enable the government provide public services in a much more inclusive and accountable way.

It is strongly supported by donors, going by the proportion of overall official aid flows to Rwanda now being allocated to the program.

Substantial numbers of central Government staff were transferred to Districts following the 2006 Local Government administrative reform, indicating a very high degree of political commitment by the government as well.

Government and donor partners are trying to establish a shared agenda on other aspects of governance not yet fully addressed in the EDPRS through what is referred to as decentralisation, citizen participation, empowerment, transparency and accountability (DCPECTA) initiative.

The DCPECTA mission statement

1. DCPETA initiative aims to contribute ‘Equitable, efficient and effective pro-poor services and local development in an environment of good governance’.

2. The DCPETA initiative contributes to the Government’s over arching Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) which aims to improve social and economic well-being and reduce poverty.

It does this by providing a framework for the delivery of decentralised services to all corners of the country and setting high standards of governance.

3. The initiative will ensure that People’s participation at grassroots level is being promoted through the decentralisation process, whereby local communities are being empowered in decision making.

4. At a village level (umudugudu) planning process is beginning to take shape. The initiative will encourage local people to participate in discussions on project proposals.

Decentralization and fight against poverty

District councils

District Councils have rapidly become the key local institution mediating between central government and the citizens.

Rwanda’s 30 district Mayors hold deliberations with the President’s office each year, leading to individual contracts of performance which are reviewed on strict quarterly basis with the Prime Minister’s Office. The system is now entering its third year.

Although an evolving process, it reflects a major shift towards district and local level implementation with a high degree of central direction.

Umurenge Program

The government of Rwanda put in place Vision 2020 Umurenge Program (VUP) which is an integrated local development program to accelerate the rate of poverty eradication, rural growth and social protection.

This programme started with 30 Imirenge (i.e. one of the poorest Umurenge in each of the 30 Districts).The design and structure should facilitate an informed and orderly roll-out across the other 386 Imirenge in the country over a period of 3-5 years, after successful completion of the start-up pilot phase of 18 months by end-2008.

While start-up phase is usually difficult, the scale-up phase is critical. Success in these phases, however, usually means the take-off is almost autonomous and much easier.

It is a matter of policy choice, political support and availability of resources that determine the length of the scale-up phase. With clear choice, strong support and commensurate resources the critical scale-up is often easier and faster.

General description

VUP uses the existing decentralization system and leverages technical and financial assistance to accelerate the rate of poverty reduction in Rwanda with an intent of eradicating extreme poverty by 2020.

The initiative builds on past experiences which show that ‘isolated’ interventions by sector ministries, donors or NGOs were not sufficient to lift people out of extreme poverty in a cost-effective and sustainable fashion.

The other extreme recourse to ‘integrated’ development has also shown its limits in many circumstances. One of the main limitations of both isolated and integrated approaches has been the failure to address two of the most important insights of economics: (i) ‘resources are scarce’ and (ii) ‘people respond to incentives’. Because resources are scarce compared to people’s needs, choices must be made.

When choices are made for people (e.g. centralized planning), there are risks of not satisfying these needs or distorting local incentives.

This generally leads to waste of scarce resources. When choices are made by people (e.g. participatory mechanisms), these risks are alleviated but the incentives may not be compatible with the stated aim of eradicating extreme poverty.

In order to capture these insights, the VUP balances central guidelines for socio-economic transformation (i.e. economic growth, job creation and extreme poverty eradication) with local participatory mechanisms.

This intends to make the best possible use of scare resources while, at the same time, ensuring adequate local incentives for sustainable progress.

Vision 2020 ‘Umurenge’ is an explicit recognition of the role and importance of the decentralization system to implement the national policies and strategies in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the objectives of Rwanda Vision 2020.

This means that households living in extreme poverty will initially receive support but will be assisted to ‘graduate’ to a livelihood enhancement scheme by receiving skills.

With additional assistance, these households are expected to ‘post-graduate’ towards self-sufficiency.

The VUP programme is funded through the Common Development Fund, is currently piloting this scheme in 30 sectors. This will then be up scaled countrywide in the next five years.

The program is expected to contribute to reduce extreme poverty levels from 36.9% (2005/2006) to 24% (2012).It is also meant to ensure economic growth is pro-poor (1st EDPRS flagship program is economic growth) and that the vast majority of the population’s living standards are improving.

Public works
The VUP is organized around components. The first component revives public works but these are planned using community-based participatory approaches (example Ubudehe) to build community assets and create off-farm employment infrastructure.

Examples include projects like watershed management, terracing, water harvesting, irrigation, feeder/access roads construction, building of classrooms, health facilities, training centres, business workshops, village settlements.

This creates direct benefits to the hitherto poor citizens in terms of employment creation, (abatindi n’abatindi nyakujya), while observing sustainability of environmental protection as has been the case within 28 out of 30 pilot Imirenge.
 
Achievements
- Reclaimed 415,085 ha of radical terraces;

- Reclaimed 23,004 ha of progressive terraces.

- 1,609 kilometres of feeder roads constructed connecting cells within the vision 2020 Imirenge;

- 40 Valley dams built in Kamabuye sector, Bugesera District which will be used for irrigation and reducing soil erosion;

- 19,626 people were employed and earning wages which enabled them to undertake some savings;

- Rwf.1,058,265,240 was transferred to Vision Imirenge as wages to those who participated in Public Works;
- Rwf. 203,972,798 have been so far saved within financial institutions by people who worked in these projects as a means of security for accessing small loans (Microfinance);

- Workers are paid through banks and other financial institution;

- Through banks and micro-financial institutions, people have started to acquire small loans to carry out some activities like trading, modern animal husbandry, paying school fees etc

Direct support

Direct support to improve access to social services has been incorporated into the VUP. The support is directed towards interventions such as provisions for landless households or expansion of health and education coverage.

The support will target people’s productive capacities such as the creation of off-farm employment opportunities thereby facilitating the eventual transition of rural societies into modern knowledge-based communities in tandem with the larger Vision 2020.

It will also allow for accelerating the process of monetization and formalization and long-term sustainability of the economy. The support will allow redirecting social protection to the neediest people who are landless and unable to attain formal employment thereby rationalizing and improving the effectiveness of social protection programs, along the social protection strategy.

 Progress Made

-  A small survey was carried out to identify the poorest of the poor households totalling 6,860 in 30 VUP sectors to benefit from Direct Support.

-  Procedure manuals for Direct Support were prepared and internally approved;

- The major elements in these manuals were translated into Kinyarwanda to facilitate the user engagement;

- Districts and VUP Sectors Staff, NGOs and  EDPRS facilitators at Provincial level were trained on the Direct Support component;

- Direct Support documents were sent to Districts and VUP Sectors in order to help them to implement this component;

- Direct Support implementation roadmap was sent to Districts and VUP Sectors;

Financial services and Resource mobilization

 The VUP’s financial architecture had to be shared among the stakeholders. As such a financial services procedures manual was prepared and discussions with AMIR (Association of Microfinance Institutions in Rwanda) one of the key stakeholders was undertaken.

Thereafter a contract between VUP and AMIR and the one between Districts and the microfinance institutions was prepared and affected. 

Preliminary outline for re-design of Microfinance Component was prepared in collaboration with an International Expert in Microfinance. Study tours were carried out within select sectors such as Nyamirama, Gashaki and Cyinzuzi.

The VUP is in partnership with different partners. Negotiations process has reached promising stages. VUP is currently working with various institutions:
1. The World Bank: With WB, the process is in final stages of preparing a development policy operation to provide grant financing for VUP of US$15 Million.
2. DFID: A grant agreement preparation in process for Sterling pounds 20 Million.
3. EU: Negotiations in process for support in the region of 4.4 Million Euros.
4. UNCDF: negotiations under process.

Monitoring and evaluation

In collaboration with the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, the ministry is carrying out a Baseline Survey in order to compare the living standard in VUP Sectors with that in non VUP Sectors. This Baseline Survey is on the stage of data collection.

The VUP features as a flagship program under EDPRS covering the budget years 2008 to 2012. It is an explicit recognition that the ‘way of delivering’ public services has changed in Rwanda.

As a flagship program, the VUP does not concentrate on ‘what’ should be done (i.e. sector ministries’ strategies contained in their logical frameworks), but ‘how’ it will be done.

Ends

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