Country systems capacity


Among the wide range of CD challenges that developing countries seek to address, there are a number of generic capabilities that relate to the core functions of government/ public administration that need to be in place to facilitate effective and transparent management of public resources including those received through development assistance.

These core capabilities are commonly referred to as country system capacity(ies) and include: public financial management, monitoring and evaluation, statistics and information management, and procurement. While these are rightfully addressed as fundamental concerns of public administration and management, they necessarily involve stakeholders in civil society such as parliaments, representatives of the private sector and interests groups, the media etc. Thus a multi-stakeholder approach ought to be encouraged that allows these capabilities to be addressed as fundamentally national or system-wide capabilities.

The focus on country system capacity is also driven by the aid effectiveness agenda.  It is recognized that progress towards donors working through country systems, reducing reliance on parallel implementation mechanisms, and promoting harmonization and alignment behind country driven national and sector policies/strategies depends on core country systems being in place that meet minimum standards of functionality. Creating robust core capabilities is also fundamental to for developing countries to exercise ownership and to manage their own affairs while strengthening legitimacy vis a vis society at large.

Significant donor attention is being given to strengthening the core capacities of partner governments. However, experience suggests that past efforts have been overly technocratic and have not taken adequate account of the drivers and impediments to change and reform. It is also acknowledged that donor assistance has remained highly fragmented, with inadequate attention paid to issues of prioritization and sequencing and often resulting in overwhelming counterpart governments.

The significant level of investment in strengthening government systems is reflected in the substantial knowledge resource base that is building up around these areas. This resource corner highlights some key resources but does not more than signpost the reader to more specialized sources.

Readers are also encouraged to review the resource corner on the enabling environment.

Editor's choice

Sector Capacity Development: Perspectives Note

This Perspectives Note discusses opportunities for and challenges of capacity development in a sector context. It examines these challenges from an endogenous vantage point. Sectors are thus regarded first and foremost as frameworks for organizing the design and implementation of domestic development policies, rather than as instruments for structuring the delivery of aid. The endogenous perspective is, however, used to consider how external support for capacity development at sector level can be effectively provided, as an adjunct to locally driven processes.

Role of Aid Information Management Systems

Scaling up development assistance and the Paris Declaration commitments demand urgent steps to increase the quality, transparency and accountability of ODA. This global agenda, reiterated at the UN World Summit in 2005, places importance on the reliability, transparency and accountability of public financial management systems and monitoring of ODA flows. A prerequisite for the effective coordination and management of aid is easily accessible and timely availability of up-to-date information on planned and ongoing aid flows by funding agency, sector and geographic location. Consequently, many governments have worked to set up databases, websites and other information management systems and tools to more effectively track, document and analyse aid flows to their countries. This paper describes how aid information management systems support all aspects of implementing the Paris Declaration and good practice in selecting and implementing such systems, based on several years’ experience in a variety of country situations.

Integrity in Public Procurement: Good Practice from A to Z E Beth and J Bertók 2007

Could governments do more to prevent corruption in public procurement? This OECD report maps out good practices adopted around the world when embracing anti-corruption strategies in the whole procurement cycle, from needs assessment to contract management. The report analyses public procurement from a good governance perspective, identifying the conditions under which elements of good governance - in particular transparency, good management, corruption resistance and accountability - contribute to integrity in public procurement.

Capacity Development of Country Systems – CD learning Issues brief no.1 2009

Developing the capacity of “country systems” - particularly in the context of the Accra Agenda for Action - is all important, as acknowledged at an informal working group discussion (5 March 2009) which brought in several relevant work streams from across the OECD.  When country system capacity is addressed in a compartmentalised manner it can fragment and overload the reform agendas of partner countries. The discussion confirmed, therefore, the need to work towards a more joint approach to meet the challenge of strengthening country systems. Collective action and experience sharing is also necessary if we are to learn about what best impacts on the development of country systems.  This Issues Brief contains highlights from the above discussion. It first examines strategic challenges, then operational ones. It concludes with an outline of possible perspectives for future joint action in, and beyond, the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

2008 Survey on Monitoring the Paris Declaration

How effective is aid at helping countries meet their own development objectives? Some of the answers can be found in this survey report which presents the results from the second-, follow-up survey on Monitoring the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. It assesses progress in 55 developing countries and helps us understand the challenges in making aid more effective in order to advance development.

How to build M&E Systems to support Better Government?

Governments in a number of developing countries are devoting considerable efforts to strengthen their monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems and capacities. They are doing this to improve their performance ― by establishing evidence-based policy-making and budget decision-making, evidence-based management, and evidence-based accountability. This volume highlights the experience of several countries which have succeeded in building a well-functioning government M&E system, including Chile, Colombia and Australia. The special case of Africa, where there are many severe capacity constraints, is also examined.

Good Practice / Case Materials

Something Funny Happened on the Way to Reform Success: The Case of Budget Reform Implementation in Ghana  J Roberts and M Andrews 2005

Why did budget and management reforms in Ghana eventually falter after an initial period of progress? This article from the International Journal of Public Administration examines the development of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) in Ghana between 1998 and 2002. A number of factors may explain why reform implementation was derailed, including reform ownership and political will, organisational integration and organisational incentives, and strategic capacity. All of these factors are commonly presented as influences on reform implementation. The Ghanaian experience provides detail as to how such influences could work.

Public Financial Management Reforms in Developing Countries – Lessons of Experience from Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda

The Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (IFMIS) are two major public expenditure management reforms that have been adopted in many developing countries in recent years. A review of the publicly available literature on the implementation of these reforms in three African countries considers the history of their introduction and their relative success. On the basis of this review, consideration is given to the risks involved with adopting such large scale reforms; the extent to which the international financial institutions and consultants were wise to recommend such widespread adoption of large scale reforms; and whether public sector financial officers in developing countries were wise to accept these prescriptions quite so uncritically in preference to paying more attention to tried and tested financial controls and getting the basics right.

Country Capacity for Results Management

This guide describes an approach for rapid assessment of a country's capacity for results management. It is constructed on five building blocks that constitute key factors that influence the demand for results management, namely, improving performance, increasing efficiency, and enhancing the effectiveness of the machinery of government.

Useful Web-sites and partners

United Nations Procurement Capacity Development Centre

An important element of the UNPCDC's work is to capture, develop and disseminate procurement capacity development related knowledge to government partners, partners in the development community and within the UN system. The aim of this website is to provide our partners with a central point, where they can easily access the most relevant and up to date information within the procurement capacity development arena.

Making Aid Work

This UNDP webpage compiles resources and news of activities related to the implementation of the Paris Declaration on Aid effectiveness. It focuses in particular on the actions needed to improve country management and coordination of aid and provides information on country aid management systems.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): Public Governance

This website hosts two sections with OECD material on Public Financial Management: Budgeting and Public Expenditures, and Public Finance. The OECD also hosts the Joint Venture on PFM (see below), which aims to foster good practices in implementing PFM reforms;  harmonise the measurement of PFM performance; and share PFM knowledge and experiences among donors and partners on using country PFM

Task Force on Public Financial Management (OECD)

The Task Force on Public Financial Management seeks to build on the recognised importance of pro-active measures taken by the development community to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to manage public financial management, and the need to examine ways in which it might more effectively support partner country efforts.

GSDRC Gateway Guide on Public Financial Management

This gateway guide is designed to point readers to the most useful, credible and up-to-date resources available on the internet in relation to public financial management and accountability (PFMA) in a development context.

World Bank: PFM Reform Database

This database contains reference material on public financial management reforms, drawn from a wide variety of sources within and outside the World Bank. It includes country case studies, good practices, reference models, tips and guidance, and academic studies.

ODI: Centre for Aid & Public Expenditure (CAPE)

This ODI research centre contains a range of ODI’s own publications on public financial management. Much of the research is framed in the context of aid and donor relations and takes a political-economy perspective.

Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI)

CABRI is a new pan-African network of senior budget officials which aims to contribute towards the efficacy of public finance management in Africa. The site contains documentation on seminars as well as country studies

Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA)

PEFA is a partnership between the World Bank, the European Commission, the IMF and various donors. It aims to support integrated and harmonised approaches to assessment of public financial management (PFM). It showcases the PEFA PFM Performance Measurement Framework and contains country assessment reports as well as training resources.

Evaluation Capacity Development Resource Centre

The Evaluation Capacity Development Resource Center provides ready references and tools for evaluation capacity development.

Other knowledge resources

Capacity Development and Aid Effectiveness

This practice note seeks to address key policy issues and instruments for aid to work for development effectiveness. It focuses on the key drivers of change in the existing recipient/donor partnership paradigm: national leadership and ownership, national capacity and partnerships.

Institutional Frameworks for Addressing Public Sector Corruption in Africa

Today, citizens everywhere demand greater probity of government officials. The new transparency in domestic and global markets brings corruption more quickly to the public eye. Corruption flourishes where distortions in the policy and regulatory regime provide scope for it, and where institutions of restraint are weak. Corruption lies at the intersection of the public and private sectors. It is a two-way street. Corruption violates the public trust and corrodes social capital. Unchecked, creeping accumulation of seemingly minor infractions can slowly erode political legitimacy to the point where non corrupt officials and members of the public see little point in playing by the rules.