The Provincial Performance Improvement Initiative: Papua New Guinea: A Case Study on Subnational Capacity Development

Cedric Saldanha

The Provincial Performance Improvement Initiative (PPII) is a Papua New Guinean (PNG) Government undertaking that seeks to improve public administration at the subnational level. The case study describes how PPII has benefited from “enthusiastic leadership” and a high level of PNG ownership. The initiative has also built on a systematic diagnosis of capacity issues, with PNG stakeholders playing a central role in both the diagnosis and in the subsequent preparation of capacity development plans for participating provinces. This AusAID-funded initiative has a projected time frame of 15–20 years with a design that recognizes the need to proceed at a pace consistent with the capabilities and absorptive capacity of participating provinces and districts.

The key lessons from the pilot phase may be summarized as follows:

  • The provincial management team (PMT) is the central coordinating and management body in the province and should be the focus for support from PPII and other similar initiatives. PMTs need to be empowered to fulfill their role of coordinating the development of their divisions/districts, including inputs from the national government and funding agencies.
  • Strong political (governor) and high-level administrative support (provincial administrator) has been a key ingredient to successes and achievements so far in PPII. Lack of this support can be an impediment to the reform process under PPII.
  • A strong coordinating relationship between the provincial executive council and the joint provincial planning and budget priorities committee on the one hand and the PMT on the other appears necessary for sustained service performance improvement. This also applies to the relationship between the district management teams and the local-level governments and joint district planning and budget priorities committees. This is particularly relevant with regard to budget allocation decisions at the provincial and district levels.
  • Significant improvements in service delivery are contingent on improvements in corporate management and administration. A strong, effective PMT is essential.
  • All levels of government are critical to service delivery. Supporting the correct level of government responsible for service delivery is important. PPII should support the service delivery system, as outlined in the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Government, and be mindful not to distort it.
  • A district focus on service improvement plans is important. Provinces should identify targets by district (as against overall provincial targets), as part of their key coordination role. Broad provincial targets can obscure targeted planning and implementation.
  • There can be an overemphasis on PPII’s budget support. It is management, coordination, and motivational changes in the administration at the provincial and district levels that make the most difference in performance.
  • Each pilot province has different capacities with respect to management. The type of assistance provided should account for this (for example, more training and capacity development focusing on systems as opposed to more budgetary support). Furthermore, the differing capacities to absorb or effectively sustain any improvements in public administration brought about by PPII must be considered. Therefore, measuring the performance of provinces will need to be done under a framework that accounts for these differences. A “one size fits all” approach should not be used under PPII.
Year of publication: 
ADB Capacity Development in the Pacific
Themes and sectors: 
Public administration
Case story length: 
36 pages

The above is a summary or extract from the original source material. For the complete case story, please see the address given above.