Creating capacity for decentralized service delivery, Papua New Guinea

AusAID and Papua New Guinea Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs

When the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Government introduced the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Government in 1995, it decentralized responsibility for service delivery. The new law set in train a complex reform process that has gathered considerable momentum in recent years.

AusAID has supported the PNG Government in creating key enablers for decentralized service delivery which, along with the Government’s commitment and leadership, have brought intermediate but important development results and have made sustained improvements in service delivery more likely.

Development results

The reform process has achieved several significant medium-term gains: it has strengthened corporate governance and administration, which has improved public service administration in all of PNG’s 18 provinces; a review of intergovernmental financing brought more clarity to the responsibilities of provincial and local government and fiscal decentralization has increased funding for service delivery; and through national support and coordination, the Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs has led a stronger national engagement in service delivery. These achievements in administrative capacity, funding, and accountability and coordination have now started to bear fruit in more and better services for people.

Enhanced performance

Because of the investment and the results the reform process has brought, most provinces, districts, and local governments are integrating planning and budgeting processes, allocating more money to key priority areas (a 32 percent increase between 2005 and 2009), moving staff from provincial headquarters to districts and local government to improve services, and becoming more accountable for service delivery by submitting statutory national performance reports and through local multi-stakeholder performance monitoring forums.

More money is now flowing into service provision. The 2010 national budget increased funding for provincial and local service delivery by 22 percent, and by 2012 people will see 40 percent more money being channeled into local service delivery.

There is more public accountability. The Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs has revived the inter-departmental provincial and lower level service monitoring authority that monitors and coordinates national and sub-national cooperation, and resurrected the practice of provinces preparing annual reports on service delivery outcomes for the PNG Parliament.

These developments suggest that the system is better able to manage its own affairs, which bodes well for further advances in service delivery, but PNG remains a complex environment with many challenges still to overcome. Although generally impressive, progress varies significantly across provinces. The most encouraging outcomes have been in provinces whose leadership – both political and administrative – is committed to positive change.

Support to the capacity development process

National investments

Decentralization is complex. It demands vision, leadership and, ideally, a joint approach by key stakeholders. The leadership of the PNG Government has confirmed its commitment to a three-tier governance structure. In its medium- and long-term development visions, it clearly recognizes the role of sub-national government in leading the drive to improve service delivery.

Its steps to advance important fiscal decentralization reforms aim to revitalize the service delivery mechanism, encourage more whole-of-government support, and promote the Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs as the lead agency in sub-national capacity development. But most critical is its recognition of the role of provincial administrators as chief accounting officers who exercise leadership and drive change at the provincial and local levels.

Development partners’ support

AusAID has worked with the Government as its principal external partner in advancing decentralization. Other partners, such as NZAID, the European Commission, and the World Bank, have also supported the process.

AusAID has channelled its support through the Sub-National Program, which began in 2004 as a pilot project and has since evolved into a longer-term, flexible programme of support. It emphasizes the importance of forging strong working relationships with counterpart organizations, and has placed staff in provinces to strengthen dialogue, programming, and monitoring. These efforts have also supported research and policy analysis. It has sought to work iteratively, responding to opportunities when they arise, and supporting the Government’s leadership and initiatives. Its capacity development approaches have included technical assistance, along with peer-to-peer learning, stepped performance-based incentive funds, and secondment of staff across provinces. Its key strengths lie in its longterm commitment to, and support for, PNG systems, plus a flexible and responsive approach that has helped the programme develop as those systems have

Find out more


Year of publication: 
LenCD "Capacity: Results"
Themes and sectors: 
Decentralisation and local government

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