Project consultants who have been bagging government tenders worth millions of pula are expected to be among the biggest losers as the government moves to implement drastic measures in how its development projects should be funded. Among other things, the government’s roadmap to incrementally reduce waste of public funds and making unwise investments will “consider discontinuing financing project consultants and stop questionable projects”.
These are some of the steps contained in a savingram from the Coordinator of the Government Implementation Coordination Office (GICO), Thatayaone Dedede, addressed to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MFED), Dr Wilfred Mandlebe. Contributing to the draft 2022 budget strategy paper that was recently presented by the Ministry of Finance and Development, Dedede said his office continues to monitor implementation of projects across Ministry/Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
He warned that his office “had identified issues with projects to which attention was drawn to MDAs for action” and called for stricter requirements and recommendations. Among these are that ongoing projects by MDAs should be rationalised and then prioritised in line with available resources in any particular financial year. “Consideration should be given to taking a decision, to stop certain projects whose attainment is and has been questionable, for example, going for more funds to undertake designs, which are of (no) consequence,” Dedede said.
His savingram also says no designs must be funded if there is no consequence of implementation in the short to the foreseeable future in so far as it is defined by a funded and executable plan. “Government should consider discontinuing financing consultants where there is existing capacity within government, such as restructuring (HR) and framework development projects …,” says Dedede’s savingram.
He emphasises that during submission of proposals by different Thematic Working Groups (TWGs), his office has noted with concern the same development projects being justified for further funding. “GICO further notes the silo manner in which a project would be repeatedly duplicated across the different TWGs, for instance, digitisation, implementation of SEZA, maintenance of buildings, poverty eradication and different entities, vying to digitise their services in the same localities using different providers, irrespective of cost implications,” he points out.
To reduce costs and failure, Dedede recommends packaging such ‘projects’ under one portfolio. GICO recommends that a project that is cross-cutting/creating overlaps should be packaged into a portfolio or programme to allow for making decisions at control points, stages and procurement gates.
Dedede notes that his office being interested in accentuating delivery and minimising opportunity, it became aware of a litany of projects that perennially hoard budget allocations but do not get executed, with the result that money gets returned to MFED. In GICO’s view, most cost overruns, delays and project failures are sown during this process of budgetary preparation “when ill-conceived projects (result) in a poor project delivery approach and ill-considered procurement decisions (that) lead to delays, higher costs and ultimately diminished returns”.
According to the GICO savingram, MDAs struggle to address issues with their current projects, yet they continue to ask for more (funding) under financial constraints that currently prevail. Given the reality that cash is short, funding must be availed only in circumstances where implementation capacity is available within the MDAs and during the subject plan (2022/23 budgets) period.
Therefore GICO recommends that a project that is cross-cutting/creating overlaps should be packaged into a portfolio or programme to allow for making decisions at control points, stages and procurement gates.
“Based on the reality described above, all projects, portfolios, (and) programmes should be subjected to stage-gates approach to ensure that they do not progress without key deliverables being completed.” says the savigram. “Stage-gates approach to ensure that resources are channelled only to the most rigorous business case.”
Dedede further stated that stage-gates are no-turning-back moments at which the MDAs “and more important, Accounting Officer commits to major investment or design decisions that balance the product-level trade-offs among cost, time and quality.
“Connecting the outcome of stage-gates to release of funding ensures that MDAs have an incentive to thoroughly prepare for meetings and that MFED/GICO drill in the soundness of the business case before allowing the project to proceed to the next stage.”