BALADI CAP CEDG Kick-Off Event – Building Capacity of Municipalities to Face Growing Challenges in Lebanon

The Building Alliances for Local Advancement, Development and Investment – Capacity Building (BALADI -CAP) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), launched its Civic Engagement for Democratic Governance (CEDG) component during an event held on Thursday July 14, 2106. CEDG is a two-year capacity-building component of the larger BALADI CAP program with a focus on strengthening the institutional capacities of municipalities, primarily in organizational development, financial management, information technology, and disaster management/contingency planning. With a strong emphasis on increased citizen engagement in public policy and decision-making, component activities will assist municipalities to make better decisions and deliver quality public services.

Presidents and representatives of various Lebanese municipalities attend the CEDG Kick-off event

Presidents and representatives of various Lebanese municipalities attend the CEDG Kick-off event

CEDG will work with 35 selected municipalities throughout Lebanon and is in the process of conducting a mapping of the various municipalities in order to identify a geographically diverse pool of municipality partners that will take part in CEDG’s Tailored Technical Assistance Program (TTAP). This mapping exercise will examine the capacity of municipalities to commit to the intensive TTAP capacity-building approach, including the number of full-time employees, municipal council members, active municipal committees, and overall budgets.

The event brought together presidents and municipal council representatives from 15 municipalities across Lebanon in order to provide them with detailed information about the program and gauge their interest in participating. Following introductory visits, a final list of CEDG municipality beneficiaries will be announced and implementation of the benchmark capacity assessments will begin.

BALADI CAP’s Chief of Party, Dr. Fares El Zein, presenting the CEDG component to the attendees

BALADI CAP’s Chief of Party, Dr. Fares El Zein, presenting the CEDG component to the attendees

“We hope one day we become an e-municipality, whereby everything becomes online. This will be a cornerstone to combating corruption, something which has sadly become all too familiar in Lebanon”, said Antoine Abu Younes, Vice President of the Zahle Maalka Municipality.

During his presentation, BALADI CAP’s Chief of Party, Dr. Fares El Zein, stressed the importance of the comprehensive approach the program applies during its interventions, including regular participatory benchmark capacity assessments, standard and specialized training workshops, on-the-job coaching and Community of Practice regional meetings. The tailored technical assistance and follow-up provided by BALADI-CAP’s municipal experts in improving the individual capacity of municipality staff will impact overall institutional performance, while ensuring the institutionalization and sustainability of the acquired skills within municipal institutions.

Captain Marwan Al Aawar, President of Qornayel Municipality, speaking to BALADI CAP’s Senior Communications Specialist, Ahmad Jaber

Captain Marwan Al Aawar, President of Qornayel Municipality, speaking to BALADI CAP’s Senior Communications Specialist, Ahmad Jaber

The presentation was followed by an active Question & Answer session where the attendees raised concerns and voiced challenges that they face at the municipal level, including those municipalities which are hosting a high concentration of Syrian refugees and the resulting impact on service delivery, resource management and security concerns. “Resource management is the single most important element to bring our municipality into the 21st century”, said Captain Marwan Al Aaawar, President of the Municipality of Qornayel. “We have invested in 25 young men and women by providing them with the necessary training and courses to become active members of the local police force, firefighters, etc.”

The discussion allowed for the exchange of information between municipalities and an overall consensus on the importance of CEDG in tackling these priority cross-cutting issues.

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Project Highlight: BALADI CAP

The USAID-funded BALADI CAP program (Building Alliances for Local Advancement, Development and Investment – Capacity Building) provides capacity-building assistance to more than 50 CSO partners in Lebanon, with primary emphasis on internal governance, financial management and M&E.

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Evidence-based Research on Corruption Impacts Supports Policy Reforms

Vietnam-Anti-Corruption-Research-Symposium-370x298 MSI’s three-year anti-corruption project in Vietnam has supported rigorous quantitative research into the costs of corruption with the goal of influencing policy reform by the government. The research – undertaken by Vietnamese think tanks and university – has stimulated public debate and helped government policymakers target corruption risks through new regulations to reduce corruption’s negative impacts on economic and social development. The project was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development.

Researchers produced seven peer-reviewed papers. These focused on the detrimental effect of corruption on national economic growth and on private sector investment, employment, and per capita income at the provincial level. They also included research into corruption risks in Vietnam’s large household business sector and into the effects of petty corruption on innovation.

The last study analyzed the problem in a different way, by examining the benefits of anti-corruption programming for development, especially for low and low-to-middle income countries. Rather than exploring the costs of corruption, this paper looks at the inverse relationship: the benefits that a country can accrue by effectively implementing anti-corruption programming. The study finds that strong implementation of anti-corruption initiatives is more important to achieving social, political, economic and human development benefits for society than merely establishing a good legal-institutional framework to fight corruption. Most interestingly, the study finds that a country’s level of development and wealth has little to do with its level of anti-corruption programming. Thus, it is not a good excuse for Vietnam or other developing countries to point to their level of development or wealth as a reason for why they are lagging behind in implementing anti-corruption reforms effectively. A country’s wealth is not a predictor of progress or success in this area.

All of these papers are included in a thematic issue of a major international academic journal on corruption issues, Crime, Law and Social Change (Vol. 65, no. 4-5, June 2016). The articles are available on the publisher’s website.

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TARABOT NEWS BULLETIN: Tugboat Captains Steer New Course

IraqTugboatThe bridge of the tugboat is silent, save for a terse radio conversation between the Iraqi river pilot and the captain.

“Maintain pull, steady as she goes…”

Filling the window in front of the captain is the stern of a rust-streaked oil tanker. To the side there is a glimpse of the Basra Oil Terminal, and the waters of the Arabian Gulf glitter below.

The tanker is almost moored when with the filp of a switch, the sky darkens and the sea transforms into a threatening two meter swell, snapping the towrope and sending the 70,000 ton tanker out of control…

At this point the lights go on, the gulf disappears, and the state-of-the-art simulator comes to a halt.

In partnership with the Ministry of Oil, and the General Company for Ports of Iraq, USAID-Tarabot recently brought 11 tugboat captains and pilots from Iraq’s Basra oil terminals to Hamburg, Germany’s largest port, for advanced tugboat handling training.

The group spent six days on simulators and real-life tugboats in the North Sea with instructors from the marine training institution, Nautitec.

Rough weather halts Iraqi oil export operations for around ten days a year, costing a staggering billion dollars in lost export potential. Enabling tugboat captains to work safely in high winds and rough seas will help Iraq’s oil sector to maintain consistent exports, and provide the government with much needed revenue for public services.

Iraq Tugboat1USAID-Tarabot is working with the Government of Iraq to lay a foundation of international standards and practices throughout the Ministry of Oil, and its state owned oil companies. The tugboat training is part of a series of interlinked ‘quick win’ initiatives designed to kick-start stalled projects, solve technical problems and boost export and refinery production.

“When the towrope broke I was frightened,” said Captain Mudher, one of the senior captains on the course. “I felt like it had happened in real life. The simulators allowed us to practice the same procedures over and over again until we got it right.”

Iraqi oil terminals sit in a shallow sea, strewn with shipwrecks from various conflicts. The channels are narrow, and winds can produce waves of up to three meters. With an increasing output of crude from the Iraqi oil fields, and rock bottom oil prices, it is a national priority to ensure that the export systems are as efficient as possible.

Captain Rocco, a Nautitec instructor, explained how they had prepared the program for the trainees. “We simulated the actual Iraqi terminals and tankers in 3D so that the captains could work in an environment they were used to. Though they are experienced, many of their methods are unorthodox. When we increased the wind velocity the gaps in their technique showed.”

Iraq Tugboat2“Most of us began work as apprentices, and have little formal training, and no international certification, “ said Captain Al-Maliki, a river pilot from Basra. “The training was a chance to access new technology, techniques, and ideas and put it into practice.”

USAID-Tarabot has already helped put $20 million dollars back into the economy through its assistance in the refining sector, and it is set to do the same on the export side. Its interventions are built on a decade of experience in the reform and implementation of management systems in Iraq.

All 11 captains earned certificates in rough weather tugboat handling, and comprise the first of two waves of trainees that will travel. The next group will go to Germany in early July after Ramadan.

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Modernizing Public Spending in Iraq

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Earlier today in Baghdad, Government of Iraq (GoI) officials joined by USAID staff, the USAID-Tarabot project, and MSI celebrated the launch of a system to effectively track the government’s 4000 capital investment projects and significantly speed up the delivery of public services.

The Iraq Development Management System or IDMS is a comprehensive web-based application available in both Arabic and English that manages the entire cycle of government and donor-funded development projects. The system will manage the government’s $25 billion investment budget for the coming year.

In April 2016, the Minister of Planning (MoP) called for its use on all capital investment projects, from schools to roads to bridges.

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“We’re extremely honored and pleased to stand side by side with the Ministry of Planning and so many more Ministers and officials to celebrate their newly developed ability to track investment in capital projects,” said Andy Griminger, MSIs Executive Vice President. “Better tracking means faster and more efficient delivery of services by the government for the people. That has been the Iraqi government and USAID’s focus throughout the success of the Tarabot program and we are excited to be a part of that team.”

MSI has worked in partnership with USAID and the GoI for more than a decade to support public procurement reforms, development of capital investment budgets, enhance project management, and improve public services. Twenty-four ministries, governors and provincial leadership have partnered with USAID and MSI on these initiatives.

This assistance has been provided through two successive USAID-funded MSI projects – the Administrative Reform Project, Tarabot, and its predecessor, Tatweer, which began in 2006.

In May 2015, following a historic agreement with MoP, USAID-Tarabot partnered with the American software company Synergy to commission the IDMS.

IDMS is a ‘living’ knowledge base of public spending which monitors, stores and tracks information and allows transactions to be done transparently. Constantly updated, it can isolate a province, a company, a project, or a theme – primary care, for instance – and catalogue all aspects of a project (who, what, where, when, and how).

At its heart it is a performance management tool, designed to provide an overview of projects, with details of budgets, spending patterns, timelines, and efficiency. It will help get public services up and running, repair and replace infrastructure, and boost production in the oil sector.

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