Tunis, June 9th, 2009 - A two-day conference on "contracting out Core Government Functions and Services in Fragile and Post-Conflict Situations," ended on Tuesday June 9, 2009 in Tunis, after in-depth and wide-ranging discussions which boiled down to a unanimous conclusion that government regulation was paramount in the entire process.
Participants also agreed that contracting-out required some sort of contractual arrangement as well as a clear understanding of the content of any arrangements in terms of duration, services delivered amounts involved, financing, and accountability mechanisms.
“I think we also agree on the fact that we have to know the limits of contracting-out government services and functions. “Not everything can be contracted out,” said Jerzy Pomianowski, head of the OECD’s Partnership for Democratic Governance (PDG) Advisory Unit, which partnered with the AfDB’s Fragile States Unit (OSFU), headed by Ms Margaret Kilo, to organize the gathering.
“Decision-making cannot be contracted out,” Mr. Pomianowski said, quoting a participant. But then, he noted that this could pose problems of links between funding and deciding. “We have to observe that even when the contracting-out arrangement is funded directly by donors, the decision “always lies within the government”.
The bottom-line, the participants agreed, was that the government should have the capacity to regulate, while donors should endeavour to support efforts at strengthening regulatory capacities through technical assistance.
The conference, attended by over 100 finance ministers, donors, representatives of NGOs, civil society organizations, private sector companies, researchers and consultants, also agreed that prior to any decision to contract-out, there should be a proper assessment of existing local and national capacities, as well the contractor’s capacity.
However, the conference acknowledged timing and sequencing problems given that fragile states do not usually have the capacity to regulate and manage, which is a prerequisite for proper contracting-out arrangement.
The conference agreed on the need to deploy creativity to ultimately get some policy and contract designing guidelines.
Finally, participants endorsed the idea of producing a contract template to establish a clearing house that can serve as a neutral broker to government with very weak capacity.
The guest speaker at the conference, Prof. Paul Collier of Oxford University, said it was time to dump old practices that had not worked for 40 years and build institutions that could be more helpful to the state.
The conferees participated in plenary and break-out sessions on such issues as the political dimension of sub-contracting and technical assistance; Maintaining state and capacity building as major objectives; Meeting the needs of citizens; Concerns about aid effectiveness; The choice of modalities and sources of assistance; Adopting sub-contracting models to the peculiarities of countries; Making recommendations for the design of policies for interested parties.