The preparation of a sector study is a project involving a concentration of resources over a limited time scale to achieve a stated objective. It is likely to be sponsored by the government of the country concerned, although other institutions may be involved in the decision to undertake an analytical review of the fisheries sector.
For its completion the team leader needs to have in his/ her mind a concept of what he/she is trying to achieve. This must be agreed with the sponsor of the project. The team leader has to convey this vision of the final output to the team of consultants employed to do the study.
The consultants might be from the private sector, but might also be from a public sector institution.
The team leader is the project manager. His/her job is to produce a document within the constraints of cost and time. In this context, project success is the production of a document which meets the requirements of the project sponsor.
A key condition to achieving success is a carefully prepared project brief, usually described as terms of reference. This is a document that must be agreed to by all the relevant parties.
The contract between the sponsor and the consultants has a legally binding basis but is also, in very large part, a “relational” contract. Relational contracts are put in the context of sector study contracts in section 7.2.
The successful completion of the project, namely the completed report, depends on goodwill and a mutual understanding of what is required; in short, good relationships. The need to build good relationships is an obligation on all ideas.
Who prepares the terms of reference?
In theory, the terms of reference should be prepared by the sponsor of the sector study, likely to be the government of the country concerned. In practice, however, the sponsor my invite the consultants to prepare draft terms of reference.
The preparation of the terms of reference merits particular attention because they are the basis for agreement between the sponsor and the consultants. However, they can never include everything. It is in the sponsor's interests, therefore, that the consultants should be able to identify and deal with aspects of the industry which have been omitted or only covered partially in the terms of reference. Business contracts in such situations are known as relational contracts because many of the obligations upon the parties are implicit and cannot be written out in full.
Agreement is essential between the sponsor, the consultants, and other interested parties on the terms of reference, as well as on any other issues concerning the conduct of the study. Such agreement ensures that the sponsor, other interested parties and the team leader know precisely the limits of their respective responsibilities. In turn, this mutual agreement enables the team leader to convey to the team members their individual terms of reference.
What should be included in the terms of reference?
There are no hard and fast rules about the contents of the terms of reference because they depend on the circumstances of the sector. The Appendix contains an example of what might be included in the terms of reference for a study of a fisheries sector which includes an artisanal sub-sector, some aquaculture, and an industrial fishery with some industrial fish processing.
Box 11 shows a summary of what is required in terms of reference.
The sponsor of the project would normally circulate the terms of reference to companies which might be interested in bidding to undertake the study. The list of companies invited to bid is usually restricted, although open competition is possible. The preparation of a bid might take up to a man/month and could also involve travel to the country concerned, representing a considerable investment of time by the bidding consulting companies (Westring, 1985).
The selection process is usually formal. Sealed bids are compared on the basis of agreed criteria. The evaluation of proposals may be on the basis of four main criteria. These are as follows:
the firm's general experience in the preparation of sector studies;
the adequacy of the proposed workplan and the general approach;
the quality of the personnel proposed;
Box 11: Summary of content of the terms of reference for a fisheries sector study
The overall objectives of the study should be stated. These give the consultants a clear picture of what the sponsor hopes to get out of the study. They are an elaboration of the overall purpose of the study in the light of the agreed standpoint of the chief interested parties - usually the government and (if different) the funding agency.
This is the main part of the terms of reference. The list of detailed tasks is a guideline for the sector study team leader. It should aim to note all the main issues as perceived by the government. However, as noted in the main text, the contract between the sponsor and the consultants is relational. The work of the study must be built on a good understanding between the team leader and the sponsor; what is written is a guide rather than a set of hard and fast rules.
The terms of reference also state how the preparation of the report is to be managed. While the work is going on, the team will have to report to a senior official or a steering committee in the country. The terms of reference also clarify the relationship between the team and other individuals, departments or institutions. It will be important for the team to have access to information other than that held by the fisheries authorities.
Special Skills Required
The sponsor will have developed a view of the special skills which it has deemed are required for the successful completion of the study. The expertise required will depend on the perception of the problems in the country concerned.
These Guidelines have expressed a bias for concise sector studies which focus on broad issues rather than the details. Under this approach, the time required from the date the consultants begin work to the presentation of the final report could be from three to six months. The terms of reference will state the allocation of time to the study as well as stating the number of man/weeks or man/months which are allocated to report writing. The precise length of time taken by the study will depend on the sponsor's requirements. The consultants would then be expected to set out a detailed workplan to accompany their bids for the work.
A section of the terms of reference will outline the contractual conditions for the study. It will state the responsibility for costs, including fees, per diem and fares, printing, etc. The number, timing and language(s) of the draft report and the number, timing and language(s) of the final report will be set out. In some cases, the sequence of reporting is more complicated, with inception, mid-term, draft final, and final reports being required.
A sector study is primarily an economic appraisal of the fisheries sector and its preparation depends on economic expertise. This does not necessarily mean that the team leader should be a trained economist - project management skills might be more important. However, it should be recognised by all concerned that economics expertise should take precedence, in guiding the selection of information and ideas, and in the writing of the final report.
No attempt is made here to define in detail precisely what other skills are required. This will depend upon the circumstances. For example, a sector study team for a developing country attempting to foster inland aquaculture as part of a policy of intensification of agriculture production, will probably require the inclusion of a team member with experience in farm systems and aquaculture; a sector study in a developing country with large numbers of artisanal fishermen operating along an extended coastline would require a significant input from a socio-economics expert with experience of working in artisanal fishery subsectors; in most capture fisheries projects, a fisheries management expert will be required; in almost all projects, an institutions expert is likely to be included.
The approach recommended here is that the sponsor should identify the specialisms required rather than particular persons. It may be that a team member is able to contribute in more than one area, such as economics and marketing.
Team members will be internationally recruited experts but nationals of the country concerned should also be considered. There may be considerable benefits from including in the team as many national experts as possible. At the least, international experience and analytical skills contributed by the internationally recruited experts will be complemented by the detailed knowledge of the local industry provided by the national experts. Increasingly, however, good analytical skills are to be found in developing countries and this factor might be taken into account when a sector study team is being recruited.
The preparation of a sector study is a project and the team leader is the project manager. As for any other project manager, a sector study team leader has to achieve a certain objective within a defined time period and within a budget. The team leader also has to contend with uncertainty of operating in a new environment, working with a group of people whom he/ she may not know, and seeking to be an inspiring as well as a competent administrator. It is an extremely challenging and difficult task to do well.
What makes a good leader of a sector study? Turner (1993) and Geddes et al. (1990) include further discussion of this question.
The team leader must understand the overall picture. As noted above, this fact does not necessarily mean that the team leader should be an economist but it is important that he/she demonstrably is able to recognise the paramount importance of economic analysis. Some of the ways the study can go wrong are considered in sections 3 to 6. People who do not have a grasp of the underlying economic issues may well misjudge the significance of factors such as food supply and demand, foreign exchange, economic benefits, externalities and linkages. In this connection, also, the team leader should be able to identify, as early as possible, those issues which are not referred to in the terms of reference for consideration within the study.
The team leader must have the authority to win the respect of senior government people, from ministers downwards. He/she must, therefore, be personable, as well as astute enough to recognise the concerns of the sponsors and government officials. It is also important to win the support of staff in the country's agencies with which the sector study team will be working because much of the information will come from them and their contacts will contribute to the completion of the study.
The team leader should be aware of the importance of presentation. The final report must look attractive and so must be easy to read, well set out, laser-quality printed and well bound. The team leader will also have to make oral presentations to the steering committee during the study and on submission of the draft and final reports.
The team leader should have administrative skills. He/ she is responsible for the plan of campaign for the completion of the study within cost, time and specification. He/she must be able to plan, organize, coordinate and control through a systematic procedure for reporting back.
The team leader must be able to communicate. The team should be aware of the overall purposes of the study; the team leader, therefore, will need to keep in close contact with the sponsor, the steering committee and other key personnel. The team leader also needs to be able to translate the overall objectives of the study into individual assignments for team members. In turn, their results must be consistent with the overall objectives.
The team leader also has to be strict about quality control. The standard of contributions by team members should be consistently high.
The above section is summarized in the following points:
good terms of reference are a basic requirement for a good sector study;
terms of reference define the responsibilities of all interested parties and should have the agreement of all parties;
terms of reference should be drafted to enable the sector study team leader to use his/her initiative in determining whether issues not specified in them should be the subject of study;
strict criteria should be employed in the selection of the consulting company;
the team leader should have economics expertise to enable him/her to guide the selection of information and the writing of the report;
high professional, administrative and leadership attributes in the team leader are critical to the success of the study.