218. Two Liaison Offices work primarily with the UN system (Geneva and New York). These report to the Special Adviser to the Director-General through the Unit for Relations with the UN System. Three deal with groups of countries and report to the Director-General through OCD (Washington for the US and Canada; Tokyo for Japan and Brussels for Belgium and the EU). The offices in Brussels and Tokyo were established with the 1994-95 decentralization.
219. The evaluation found strong support for the Liaison Offices from national governments, non-governmental partners and the European Commission. The offices are fully justified, covering the countries who make the largest contributions to FAO’s budget, and are among the world’s, largest agricultural producers, as well as importers and exporters. No criticisms at all were heard of the Liaison Office in Washington, although advantages as seen from the point of view of Canada may be more limited. In the case of Japan, there was more criticism of the performance of the office. As the second largest contributor to FAO’s Regular Budget and a major trust fund contributor, Japan feels the office is under-resourced. There is felt to be a need to promote FAO much more actively, including with the general public through greater coverage in Japanese. The Brussels (LOBR) office has been making slow progress and the level of interest in it by the European Commission and other European institutions is relatively low but they firmly support a need for the office. Work by the office has contributed to FAO being among the first of the UN organizations to conclude a strategic partnership agreement with the Commission.
220. The evaluation noted that the Washington office is active in drawing attention to US agricultural and trade policy changes and to media coverage that may have implications for FAO and its member countries. This has also been done to some extent in Japan for instance on food safety, but in Brussels, the FAO interaction with the Commission on the CAP and European agricultural and trade issues, seems to be minimal, with the focus on aid and EU policy towards FAO. In Japan, there has been much emphasis on TeleFood, for which there is now some decline in interest by the Japanese supporters.
221. Potentially valuable technical cooperation work is being carried out by LOBR with the ACP countries. This has concentrated on promoting greater inclusion of agriculture in the EU funding to the ACP. The evaluation team considers that technical support to ACP and other developing countries making trade and other agreements with the EU should be expanded. The evaluation believes agreements on trade with the main trading blocks (EU, NAFTA, etc.) are as important for developing countries as WTO agreements. FAO has a legitimate role to play in transparently making available to many developing countries, information which helps them to understand the implications and trade-offs within such agreements. This is certainly as, if not more, important to developing countries than FAO influence on development assistance. Support for trade work in Brussels could come from LOGE (see below). A focal point within FAO for the ACP-Cotonou agreement should be clearly designated and ideally should be the post working on the ACP in LOBR.
222. Both the Liaison Offices are performing very valuable functions and have established good links with the United Nations partners.
223. The various UN partners in New York were found to value the contribution of the office (LONY). Increased focus has been given to World Food Day. LONY is specifically providing information to delegations of member countries which are not represented in Rome. The NGO community is also an important target.
224. In Geneva, LOGE performs an important technical support role for countries in the WTO. The office was praised by developing country delegations to WTO and their organizations as providing valuable advisory and analytical support. For agricultural trade, FAO was regarded by those interviewed as much more useful than the UN trade organizations in Geneva, although LOGE itself felt that countries might turn to such organizations, rather than FAO, because of the number of personnel available. The office was concerned that they could not always get an adequate response from Rome on ad-hoc requests for briefs, etc. and were forced back on doing it themselves without the time or facilities. An issue is that the whole success of this highly-valued work hangs on one very capable staff member. The evaluation concludes that to ensure continuity and the availability of enough staff on the spot at peak periods, as well as to develop possible joint work with UNCTAD, 1-2 staff from the Commodities and Trade Division (ESC) should be outposted to Geneva, where they would continue to do analytical work linked to Rome as well as carrying out on-demand work to assist the developing countries in analysing issues and liaison work as required. In view of the ease of the links, it is felt that this group could also provide support to developing countries on trade issues in Brussels in close liaison with LOBR.
225. In both New York and Geneva, an important activity has been liaison humanitarian assistance and a former staff member of the Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division of FAO (TCE) serves on the staff of LONY in New York. Geneva is the world centre for coordination of response and policy development on humanitarian issues and the main donors maintain staff in Geneva for coordination of humanitarian response. Much decision-making relating to funding allocations for humanitarian assistance is thus significantly influenced by discussions taking place in Geneva. The evaluation concluded that FAO would gain visibility in the humanitarian community and fund raising would be facilitated with a strengthened presence in Geneva, possibly through the outposting of an officer from TCE to LOGE.
226. The evaluation identified a number of areas for strengthening in the Liaison Offices, some of which are generic. Now the offices have matured, their functions should be reviewed and rolling 2-3 year strategies should be developed with clear sets of goals, specific to the situation of the countries and institutions they serve. This could be supported by annual work-planning with outcome goals against which performance can be assessed, as is the case for LONY. Also:
227. Resourcing of the offices is adequate overall, but there is inadequate non-staff funding to undertake ad-hoc work which can improve FAO visibility and partnering. Resources for the Japan office need to be increased with a full media officer and more resources for assisting in documentation in Japanese and website development and maintenance.
228. FAO’s capability to deliver services to members through its decentralized structures is very much dependent upon the match achieved between staff profiles and capabilities and needs. The evaluation found many very good staff in Regional Offices at all levels and excellent FAORs in terms of the required competencies and overall quality. The discussion below concentrates on the extension of excellence to all aspects of FAO’s decentralized work and is not intended in any way to suggest that there is not considerable existing excellence.
229. The evaluation assessed the competences and performance of FAORs and national staff in the FAO offices. In addition to the views formed by the evaluation team in extensive discussions at each of the offices visited, these were assessed as follows:
230. The evaluation consulted a cross-section of FAO staff knowledgeable on FAO Representations for their considered assessment of specific competencies and performance of FAOR international and national staff. The majority of FAORs were assessed as meeting a satisfactory standard but 30 percent or more were defined as not meeting the desired level. In the case of policy matters, this was 38 percent. FAORs in Asia scored lowest overall and 50 percent or more were scored low on field programme development and policy. Latin America was also disappointingly low in these two areas. In the Near East, rating was generally poorer on operational matters but higher on policy and on field programme development.
231. Ministries of agriculture were more satisfied overall and only 23 percent stated that FAORs were less than good. They may have been reluctant to criticise in a questionnaire which was often transmitted to the evaluation team, through the FAOR.
232. Thirty-four percent of FAORs reported in response to questionnaires that they had been FAORs for two years or less and a further 14 percent had served for 3-4 years. Fifty-six percent of FAORs had never worked in FAO headquarters or a Regional Office, which diminished their immediate knowledge of the Organization. It was also found that FAORs who were at the end of their career, could have reduced motivation. Some 34 percent of FAORs had specialised technical backgrounds and four percent were former administrators. Although very possibly highly-experienced in their fields, they lacked the broad overview possessed by the remaining 60 percent of FAORs. The evaluation team notes that no rigid formula can provide the ideal selection criteria and two of the best FAORs it met had not worked for FAO in headquarters or in the regions. They had however, both been a substantial time with FAO and had both made a great deal of effort to get to know the Organization. Careful assessment of competencies as well as performance is thus essential.
233. The evaluation team found in its bench-marking against other agencies that the competence of the majority of FAORs was appreciated by commentators in finance and planning ministries, UN Resident Coordinators, and donors. However, with a few very significant exceptions, their competencies and performance were not generally judged as being better than other specialised agency representatives, and in a significant number of cases were considered worse. It was overall strategy and policy capability which was commented upon as the greatest weakness, but it was also often noted in mitigation that the FAORs were limited in developing their roles by the lack of decentralization of authority.
234. The evaluation team further noted that the FAOR is unique in often being the only international professional officer in a country, with far greater consequence when competencies and performance are not in place, than is the case for a headquarters or regional office situation.
235. Ministries of agriculture assessed 75 percent of national staff as good. FAORs who also had a problem of confidentiality in transmitting their assessments on this issue, reported that the quality of national programme staff was a significant problem in 18 percent of cases and was a major problem in a further 11 percent of cases. The worst problem was reported in the Near East. For support staff a significant problem was reported in 16 percent of cases and in a further 13 percent the problem was reported as major. The least incidence of problems was in Latin America. Informed FAO staff rated the senior national programme staff poorly on policy and strategy work and 55 percent as not meeting the required standards on field programme development. The lowest overall assessment of national staff competency/performance by FAO staff were for Africa, and for policy and strategy the weakest situation was found in the Near East. The picture which emerges from this and the evaluation team visits is that national staff are unlikely to be able to offset any weaknesses in the FAO Representative in the areas of policy and strategy or generally in field programme development but there can be reasonable national competence in the FAOR offices for operational management.
236. The evaluation concluded that FAO needs to raise the calibre of national staff, particularly professional and programme staff. The team found during its country visits that the contrast between the calibre of FAO national staff and those of other UN agencies (particularly UNDP) and the IFIs was unfortunately quite striking. The evaluation team also heard many complaints from national staff who felt that they were second class citizens within the UN system. Although the evaluation team was unable to document all the reasons for this, they included, quite importantly the level at which FAO recruits, with grades lower than in other agencies. FAO has four grades of national professional. Sixty-three percent are currently at the lowest grade, 24 percent in the second grade and only four percent in the top grade. The only real divergence between regions in this picture is that of the Near East where more staff are in the higher graded categories.
237. A question arose as to whether the FAO staff requirements were for lower graded staff with more limited competencies than other agencies, especially in view of the budgetary constraints. The evaluation team concluded that this was not the case. In the programme, policy and administrative areas FAO staff are required to deal with work which is quite as complex as other agencies and to handle the FAO work in the country in periods of absence or vacancy of the FAOR.
238. Promotion possibilities were also a cause for complaint, although the evaluation team concluded that FAO has no solution to this, except facilitating consideration of staff of good calibre for posts in other organizations in their country to which they might aspire, including posts in the UN system. WHO is introducing career enrichment assignments for national professional staff, whereby they will have the opportunity to work in another country for up to six months. Training can also help in demonstrating that staff are valued and the evaluation noted that other agencies also provide greater possibilities for attendance at inter-country seminars, etc. These problems cannot be corrected by simply raising grades as many of the staff would be promoted with no increase in their calibre. Grades should be raised as vacancies occur, following re-examination of job descriptions.
239. The evaluation was informed that, at the time of the decentralization that in order to place them, staff were moved into posts in the regions, when there was not always an exact fit. Headquarters divisions freely admit that in 1994-95, and in some cases also today, they chose to transfer weaker staff to the regions. The Policy Assistance Branches were a special case because generalist programme staff were transferred, as well as policy specialists. It does appear that staff are now being recruited more stringently. However, there is still a problem of the degree of specialisation of regional staff, rather than them having more general expertise within their sector. The grade structure for technical staff in the regions is also somewhat lower than for headquarters and this reduces the seniority at which specialists can be recruited and the extent to which the staff can supply value added to the national expertise in government.
240. There is now a project underway in FAO for developing staff competency requirements, beginning with headquarters managers. This project is subject to resource constraints and currently comes to an end in October this year but is hoped to be extended to decentralized offices. In the view of the evaluation, this should be with a particular priority for FAORs. The UN funds and programmes and among the specialised agencies WHO and UNIDO have defined specific core competencies for their country representatives. ILO applies its general managerial competency requirements to country representatives. Annex 3 provides the thoughts of the evaluation team on profiles of work to be carried out by FAORs, regional and sub-regional representatives and technical officers in the regions, with the related competencies.
241. Senior management has strengthened the interview and selection process and this is welcomed. The evaluation team was informed that a set of criteria based on competencies are applied in the FAOR selection process. In 2003 FAO placed a generic vacancy announcement for FAORs on the Web and since July this year, FAO resumed advertising of FAOR posts. For Resident Representatives, who as Resident Coordinators are also representatives of the UN Secretary-General, UNDP applies an in-depth and open selection procedure managed by a private centre, but this is clearly expensive. WFP, UNICEF and UNFPA also report they apply this general type of procedure for selection of representatives. UNIDO and ILO appoint professional staff in all the decentralized offices through open advertisement and selection procedures.
242. However, the evaluation found that FAO selection procedures for FAORs and for senior regional staff have not been fully open and competitive. This reduces the extent to which recruitment and transfer systematically match staff selection criteria against competencies and other selection criteria such as gender and geographical distribution. The previous lack of advertisement for a pool of candidates also reduced the number of competing candidates from which the Organization could make its selection.
243. The information base for assessment of FAOR’s performance has been strengthened with judgement sought from various sources, and a tightening of criteria. The evaluation was informed that the performance of FAORs was now reviewed in consultation with all concerned units at least once every two years. However, the team concluded that assessment criteria based on performance have not been adequately developed, or meaningfully applied, for any category of decentralized staff. The evaluation was informed that in FAO as a whole the staff associations had resisted staff assessment and although staff assessment procedures are in place they are not generally made much use of or taken very seriously. Encouragingly, the majority of FAO Representatives (66%) responded to the questionnaire that they would prefer a performance assessment system where they were assessed against outcome targets and actual achievements. The UN funds and programmes and ILO, UNIDO and WHO, all have formalised staff assessment systems. The UNDP system links staff assessment into its results-based management system.
244. The evaluation team concluded that there are many decentralized staff in all categories who do not meet required competencies or whose performance was inadequate. This was drawn to the attention of the evaluation team through the comments of government officials, other members of the international community and staff in FAO, as well as by the limited observations the evaluation team could make itself in discussion with decentralized staff and with necessarily cursory reviews of their work. Where staff without the necessary competencies or motivation for performance are in managerial positions, this reduces the effectiveness of subordinate staff, as well as undermining morale. Weak staff affects not only the image of the Organization but also, of course, the relevance, quality and quantity of its output and services. The problem has been significant in reducing the effectiveness of the 1994-95 decentralization. The success of recommendations in this report for strengthened decentralization does require the question of competencies and performance to be seriously addressed, including the inter-related issues of staff selection, performance monitoring and assessment, training, etc.
Recommendation 17 (implementation by 2007): It is recommended that:
245. FAO does not have a rotation system between headquarters and the regions. Forty percent of senior technical staff in headquarters felt this to be a major problem, as did many regional technical officers (from 48 percent in Latin America to 80 percent in the Near East and Europe) and 55 percent of FAORs. Similar views were held on the lack of career opportunities, which was perceived as a major problem by regional technical staff (57 percent in Latin America and in Africa, 67 percent in the Near East and 71 percent in Europe).
246. The evaluation team warns against a simplistic view of these issues. Among the UN funds and programmes such as UNDP and WFP, rotation is now the norm but their posts are more homogeneous than those in the specialised agencies. In UNESCO, service in the field is considered as a positive factor in promotion policy, especially to P5 level. WHO is now putting in place a strengthened mobility policy. The specialised nature of technical work in headquarters, as compared with the equally senior discipline-wide expertise required in the regional technical teams, reduces but does not eliminate the possibility for institutionalised rotation between headquarters and the regions. Many staff also do not wish to move from their home region but should be encouraged to do so in order to gain wider experience. Certain posts should be designated in the technical divisions to be filled through rotation. There are also many posts in administration and in the Technical Cooperation Department which could be subject to systematic rotation, including for FAORs. This would not only broaden staff knowledge but also help to overcome a headquarters and field (them and us) mentality.
247. It is very important that decentralized staff at all levels are made to feel a part of FAO. The evaluation found that this was not always the case. Interchange with staff from other offices is very important and FAORs found this lack of interchange a major problem. FAORs senior national staff and regional staff all need to visit headquarters regularly for briefing and getting to know people. FAORs and senior nationals also need to visit Regional Offices. Meetings for interchange between FAORs are important.
248. Provisions for training are limited in decentralized offices. The role of training as a motivational tool as well as in raising competencies should not be underestimated. However, training should not be regarded as a panacea in producing competencies, or overcoming poor performance, where the necessary latent potential is clearly lacking.
249. The evaluation team considers that there is no substitute for face-to-face contact in getting to know people, discuss issues, acquire information and a sense of belonging and unified purpose. Other contacts by telephone, Email and video conference then become more productive (for FAORs video conferencing is not usually an option at present, although possibilities are rapidly increasing). The evaluation team did systematically question UN specialised agencies on policy and practice for decentralized staff briefing, interchange and training. It was clear that other agencies devote a greater proportion of resources to this than FAO, although figures were not available.
250. A particular issue for the efficient use of national professional and programme staff in FAORs with multiple accreditation is the restriction that national staff cannot normally work outside their own country. This could become more important if technical groups on hubs are introduced. The basis for this requires re-examination. It is not the practice in other specialised agencies where national staff do carry out functions beyond their home country. It is also not a UN system wide rule and can be adjusted within FAO’s own rules, with the agreement of the Council.
251. The evaluation team also observed that problems of gender balance were greater among regional professional staff than is the case in headquarters. Progress has been made since 1994 especially in increasing the proportion of female FAORs. It is strongly recommended that this issue be further addressed in the recruitment and rotation of staff.
Table 9: Internationally Recruited Female Professional and Director Level staff (May 1994) in:
Headquarters – 31%
Regional and Sub-regional Offices - 17%
International professional staff in FAO Representations – 18%
252. The Organization finds itself without the flexibility to adjust its staffing profile to the changing requirements of member countries. If FAO’s response is to increase its relevance through the decentralized structures, it needs to be able to change the geographic posting and skill mix of staff, more easily than has been the case in the past.
253. The evaluation team reviewed the practice of other agencies in the UN system and has been provided background on the legal situation with regard to the termination of staff. The team was also told by FAO that the willingness of management to address problems of non-performing FAORs has increased. However, it was concluded that FAO is applying a policy which is more cautious than several other organizations, in its willingness to separate staff who do not meet the requirements of available posts, but there are major legal impediments. In UNDP, staff termination has normally been on the basis of a year’s salary. The cost is preferable (in the view of the UNDP human resources managers consulted) to keeping staff who cannot meet competency requirements, regardless of the reason why they cannot fulfil the needs25.
Recommendation 18 (for implementation by 2008): It is recommended that:
254. Member countries and development partners welcomed the decentralization of operational activities for the Field Programme to FAORs. They also welcomed the increased flexibility provided to FAORs by such instruments as the TCP facility which can be used by FAORs for small consultancies, etc.
255. Nevertheless, the perception of partners, stated strongly to the evaluation team, is that they feel FAO is one of the least decentralized agencies in terms of decision-making on country activities. They believe this limits the capacity of FAORs, to contribute in the UN country team and work flexibly with government and development partners. This has negative implications for FAO’s influence and Field Programme in pursuing its goals in reducing hunger, economic growth and sustainable resource use.
256. At the same time, the evaluation team has been told that FAORs do not always apply the authority levels they have, preferring to refer to headquarters or to the Regional Office. To the extent that this is true, it is a problem of organizational culture and staff briefing. FAO should make it clear to all that recognition will go to those who exercise the authorities they have, not to those who avoid them.
257. Responses to questionnaires confirmed by the evaluation team visits found that virtually all developing member countries and development partners feel FAO Representatives have too little authority to discuss with donors, finalise projects with donors and to approve TCP. This diminishes their standing as partners of the government and the international community. Their authority in this regard is far less than that of the UN funds and programmes.
258. Twenty-seven percent of FAORs identified as a major problem the limits on the flexibility of use of TCP funds (including the internal guidelines on TCDC, proportion of budget to equipment purchase, etc). A further 53 percent of FAORs find it a problem. The view is shared by regional technical officers (with 67 percent finding it a problem). Twenty-five percent of FAORs also felt that it was a major problem that they could not approve TCPs and a further 52 percent felt it to be a problem. FAORs were highly appreciative of the TCP facility which enables them to purchase consultancy services up to US$ 10,00026. Two thirds of FAORs have used the facility at least once, but they complained that this is not the flexible instrument it could be, because of limitations on its use, the small amount of money, the requirement for governments to formally agree to it and the clearances in Rome. Thus, only half the facility has been used up until now. The evaluation team was however, informed that it was being reviewed with a view to making it more flexible.
259. Headquarters staff reported, and the evaluation found, that technical clearance of projects, through lead technical units, including even small TCP projects, could become an excessive burden for technical officers and a source of delays (40 percent of senior headquarters technical staff reported this). Clearance was also found to have a tendency to push projects into the technical boxes of the headquarters units concerned. On the other hand, efforts to accommodate different technical units could lead to pressure for an excessive number of distinct disciplines to be included in a project. The same procedures are applied for all individual projects (small and large), with each undergoing technical, operational and financial clearance followed by review in the Programme and Project Review Committee (PPRC).
260. At country level, the evaluation found that use of TCP resources was focused to varying degrees, but sometimes prioritisation appeared to be absent and there could even be a desire to spread their use across different ministry offices.
261. The evaluation concluded that although delays have been a problem, TCP is important in providing a prompt response to governments. Other specialised UN agencies do not generally have a comparable facility on the scale and flexibility of TCP to respond to individual requests. It could, however, be used much more strategically and effectively by FAORs in the context of decentralization to:
Recommendation 19 (for early implementation): In order to provide FAORs with greater authority, standing and opportunity with government and the international community: - putting them much more on a par with their colleagues from the UN Funds and Programmes (who as well as disposing of greater resources, also have considerably greater authority to commit those resources):
Facilitate more flexible use of TCP for technical support from FAO. Countries should be provided annually with an indicative TCP funding figure. FAORs should be authorised to agree projects of a certain maximum size (e.g. US$ 100,000) up to a maximum proportion of the indicative TCP funding figure (e.g. half) provided that they fall clearly within the agreed country priority framework. Such projects would be subject to normal technical consultation but would not require formal clearance. The adherence of FAORs to the rules and spirit of this authority should be closely monitored.
262. The evaluation was informed that FAORs had been clearly advised that the lead role for field programme development at country level now lies with them. Most FAORs reported, however, that they perceived the limits on their authorities to negotiate with donors as a problem. A particular frustration was that they could not accept from the decentralized donors, relatively small amounts of money to pay for consultants, enter into project preparation, etc. Many reported to the evaluation team what they considered to have been lost opportunities in this way27. They also felt that FAO had lost standing in the international community.
Recommendation 20 (for early implementation): The evaluation recommends that for activities falling clearly within the agreed national priority framework recommended above (Recommendation 19), or to address an agreed emergency:
263. The capacity of an FAOR to exercise greater decision-making authority is a function of a number of factors, which need to be distinguished and also considered separately for: i) their authority levels with respect to programme development and approval; and ii) their authority levels with respect to financial and administrative actions. In the case of programme development and approval, the authority level is a function of the capacity of the FAOR, the supporting national programme staff, and the quality, quantity and timeliness of technical support. Administrative and financial authorities are also dependent upon the capacities of the FAORs and of the national staff, but include also the availability of communications and infrastructure support.
Recommendation 21 (for early implementation): With priority to countries with large exiting programmes or potentials for growth, FAORs as individuals and their staff and systems should be assessed for capacity, differentiated on the basis of the staff and infrastructure capacities and their authority levels determined accordingly. At the same time, assessment will identify weaknesses which can be addressed through training and infrastructure improvements. Where the requirements of the country require a higher authority level than existing capacity, this assessment should trigger the necessary measures to raise that capacity.
264. In member countries and among important development partners, including the donors, there is a conviction that FAO’s authorities and procedures are overly slow, bureaucratic and centralised. Virtually all member countries stated in their responses to questionnaires that more authority should be given to FAO Representatives for purchasing and contracting. In the decentralized offices, there is a very high degree of frustration with authorities and procedures which is often shared by headquarters technical and field programme units. The great majority of FAORs responded to questionnaires that the limits on their authorities in the administrative areas are a problem and over 20 percent felt that they are a major problem with respect to purchasing, contracting, making payments and recruiting nationals. Sixty-one percent of FAORs said they would be prepared, if they were granted greater authority, to accept a change in their contract which would make it easier for FAO to take disciplinary action in the case of misjudgement or abuse of authorities. Only seven percent said that they would not be prepared to accept such a change.
265. Comparison of actual levels of delegation with other agencies reveals that the UN funds and programmes give much higher levels of authority. In WFP, country authority for emergency food purchases is US$ 200,000 for example. The comparison with other specialised agencies shows that authorities at country level for contracting and purchasing are comparable with FAO, as are those for temporary contracting. Authorities in Regional Offices are much higher for WHO and higher for ILO. ILO country offices can authorise international travel. However, it did appear in general from discussions by the mission at country level that there was often more flexibility and rapidity of approval in other UN specialised agencies. This has been subjected to almost continuous internal study for improvements in FAO but it is also an area in which there is considerable scope for improvement.
266. There is at the same time general acknowledgement that FAO is operating with public money and cannot function with the same flexibility on risk of abuse which prevails in the private sector. It also has to be accepted that there are virtues in specialisation for execution of certain functions and that capacity to carry out administrative actions in decentralized locations can be constrained by staff capacities and support systems.
267. The evaluation team concluded that although FAO is slow and bureaucratic in its managerial, administrative and financial decision-making, it may not necessarily be particularly worse than the other specialised agencies. If, however, it is going to respond adequately to members’ needs, FAO must move more in the direction of the UN funds and programmes, against which governments and donors judge the Organization (however unfair this comparison is). A better understanding of the nature of risk and the implications for impact and cost-efficiency of control measures is important in FAO including in the Governing Bodies. The underlying reasons why FAO has not made more progress in removing administrative constraints lie in an organizational culture which:
268. There have been considerable improvements in information materials available to decentralized staff on the conduct of administrative actions and the project operations manual is now on line, but there is still a major problem of lack of user-friendly manuals. Computer support systems have also been continuously improved, but much remains to be done in these areas.
269. The evaluation commissioned a background paper on administrative streamlining which is being made available to management. Most of the proposals considered were based on those arrived at in FAO’s own internal study of possibilities for improvement in field programme implementation in Asia and the Pacific, but the study was broadened and feasibility discussed with the MSUs in each of the regions. Performance levels and capacity were also reviewed for each MSU. Some of the changes proposed by the team are already under active consideration by FAO. The evaluation team considers that implementation would provide a boost in the responsiveness of FAO and to the confidence of FAORs, as well as resulting in significant savings which could be utilised to strengthen the key areas of administrative training, information on procedures and user-friendly support systems in the decentralization. The recommendations would also eliminate duplicative work.
Recommendation 22 (for phased implementation by 2007): For administrative improvements, the evaluation team particularly emphasises consideration of:
270. Making regional auditors responsible for local contract auditors of FAORs would have a number of advantages. At the moment regional auditors have little travel money and are largely restricted to working in the Regional Offices. The local auditors’ terms of reference in auditing FAORs are apparently being broadened and they could become the front-line of a strengthened risk management and control regime, accompanying the greater decentralization of authority. At the same time, with an increase in travel funds to the regional auditors, the effectiveness would be enhanced of both the local auditors and the regional auditors.
271. For all the above points, the evaluation believes that there is the opportunity to make fuller use of the capacities in the regional MSUs to enhance cost-effectiveness, without opening potential for major increases in risk and lowering of standards.
272. An important related issue is that of planning budget holding and budget management for the FAO Representations. This is currently handled by OCD on a global basis. The budget, in the case of the local office, consists mainly of the national staff and rent (where applicable), plus the international staff. It is proposed that the FAORs make their budget proposals to the Regional Representatives. Regional Representatives would then agree these with headquarters in the context of global budget planning for FAORs, with the final responsibility for allocation of FAOR budgets remaining in headquarters. FAOR expenditures would then be monitored and managed by the Regional Offices.
273. It is now time to move to a system which relies more on individual responsibility, underpinned with the necessary controls, linked to the extent of risk and strategic monitoring of budgets and expenditures. Implementation of the recommendations and related measures with necessary increases in staffing at the regional levels would potentially improve the responsiveness of FAO and the confidence of FAORs and result at conservative estimates in savings of slightly over US$ 4 million per biennium once the change process is complete, of which US$ 1.9 million are from OCDS.
274. With the decentralization, management support units were established in each of the Regional Offices to provide transaction processing, control functions and authority levels for transactions. Although there were some initial teething problems, this has in general worked well. The country offices greatly value the fact that the MSUs and the associated operations units and information technology support are available in the same time zone and are familiar with the individual country issues (at least to some extent). Speaking the same language is an added value in Latin America and the Near East. In all regions, FAORs in response to questionnaires said that administrative support had either improved since decentralization (44% overall) or remained the same (47%). The level of satisfaction was particularly high in the Near East. Speed of response was reported as better by a full 50 percent of FAORs and only worse by 11 percent. Recruitments and contracting and purchasing were the areas in which most FAORs reported no change. Although there was general agreement that OCDS supplied an adequate level of service, the evaluation found that in view of the above considerations, there was a demand from FAORs and their staff for the management support for the Regular Programme aspects of their work (currently handled by OCD in Rome) to be handled by the regional MSU. The exception to this picture has been Africa for a number of reasons, mainly poor voice and electronic connectivity to other African countries.
275. FAORs and the Regional Offices themselves also feel that they could directly perform a number of operations which at present involve duplication in headquarters, such as for travel. They suggest that, in addition to raising the levels of authority in the FAORs, authority levels should also be raised in the Regional Offices.
276. Major efforts have been made to upgrade telecommunications infrastructure, information technology and computer systems in FAORs and Regional Offices. The large majority of FAORs reported that both communication infrastructure and computer availability in their offices were either adequate or good. Access to financial information was found to have improved since decentralization by nearly half the FAORs, including in Africa. FAO communication infrastructure appears poor in contrast with that of the UN funds and programmes but not the other specialised agencies. This is a function of the greater investment the funds and programmes are in a position to afford and in the case of several of the agencies has a similar overhead cost per staff member to that of FAO. The evaluation found that emphasis on improving communications and IT needs to continue, and a major problem has been the lack of adequate accompanying training for staff.
277. Until a satellite link was installed in 2002, the connectivity between Accra and Rome was poor. While this issue has now been addressed, voice telephone contact between Accra and most African countries remains a real problem. The evaluation therefore proposes an early study of the possibilities to offer FAORs in African countries, either the possibility to connect for voice telephone to Accra through FAO headquarters or by a calling card system through London and Paris (to which they have particularly good links).
278. Each of the Regional Offices has an information technology (IT) officer. OCD also has one officer and assistant for IT. The evaluation found that, with the exception of Africa, the FAORs were referring to, and being given support by, the regional IT officers who were in the same time-zone, to some extent familiar with individual country conditions, and also in Latin America and the Near East spoke their language. IT support to FAORs should be transferred from OCD to the Regional Offices with the addition of a national staff member in each case. For Africa, this service may continue to be provided centrally from Rome, preferably from AFI.
279. The evaluation was not able to examine in depth the scope for cost-savings by moving headquarters administrative support functions to another location where costs are less (particularly of General Service staff). Under this concept, the functions and lines of command remain unchanged but costs are reduced. The Information Systems and Technology Division (AFI) is actively examining this possibility for some support functions. An illustration was suggested to the evaluation team of the volume of savings which could be made, using the example of the Procurement Service: if all its current functions in purchasing and contracting were to be moved to Bangkok with no change in structure or functions, the saving would be US$ 2.9 million per biennium due largely to lower General Service costs.
280. The extent, detail and rate of implementation and follow-up to this evaluation’s recommendations will be a matter for management and Governing Body decision. Calculation of alternative implementation scenarios would have required many pre-judgements on the part of the evaluation team and would probably also not be a productive use of resources. Detailed calculation of incremental cost can most productively be made as part of the internal planning process, following fundamental choices by management and the Governing Bodies. Some areas of cost are not fixed as the ideal level of investment may simply not be an option for an Organization with such resource constraints. Instead, management may choose to allocate amounts depending upon the extent of benefits that may be possible (eg. communication and information technology infrastructure and capacity-building). Others such as the establishment of technical groups located at key communication hubs would be influenced by the extent to which national governments assist in providing accommodation and other in-kind contributions. The summary provided in Figure 3 does, however, illustrate that a significant degree of change is likely to be possible within existing resources over the next two biennia, with tentative estimates of potential savings of the order of US$ 15 million per biennium be made available for possible redistribution to strengthen decentralization.
Figure 3: Balancing the Costs and Areas of Saving
Areas of increased cost
Areas of Saving
Strengthening selected FAORs especially for multiple accreditation and reduction in vacancies;
Improved technical services to countries especially: establishment and operation of technical groups on hubs, regional specialists on call, increased country travel;
Strengthening integration and staff competencies and performance especially: meetings and face-to-face interaction, staff training, and staff rotation;
Strengthening administrative support including: improvement of communication infrastructure, improvements in the field accounting system, and production of internal information materials.
Increased multiple accreditation with strengthened national arrangements (elimination of five international FAOR posts US$ 1.6 million); eliminating the majority (10) of the 16 FAOR international administrative officer posts and replacement with senior nationals (US$ 1.4 million); decrease in the total number of technical staff in the regions by 15-20% (US$ 6.4 million28); cost sharing on extra-budgetary for the 4-6 posts of FAOR/emergency coordinator (US$ 0.8 million); transfer of FAOR administrative support to the regional MSUs and other efficiency savings in the administrative servicing costs and servicing of TCP approval from headquarters; (savings of US$ 4-5 million per biennium); other minor savings from actions such as the saving of at least one D post in the European Regional Office. Total in the order of US$ 15 million per biennium.
281. The Director-General has acted as the champion for the decentralization, so essential in understanding and responding to the problems faced by member countries, driving the process in the face of internal resistance within headquarters. The evaluation found that developing country members of FAO wished to balance the internal institutional relationships within FAO to ensure country and region specific issues are given equal weight with the very important global normative work spearheaded by the central technical departments. The international development community as a whole (UN and donors) and developing country governments feel a need for decentralised decision making within unitary vision, policy and strategy objectives. The objectives for the decentralization were found by the evaluation team to have been only partially achieved, due in large part to an imbalance in the weight given in FAO’s institutional structure between the needs of countries and regions on the one hand, and the technical programmes and administrative structures of the Organization on the other.
282. At the same time, the evaluation found a headquarters’ culture which assumes that administrative and technical decisions can be better taken in Rome than in the regions and countries concerned. It is also noteworthy that many of the senior administrative staff in headquarters have had little or no direct contact with FAORs and Regional Offices, not having served in the developing countries or undertaken extensive missions to them. Budgets and programmes are managed on disciplinary lines by central technical departments. Another essential element in this culture is the execution of control through overly duplicative checking of budgetary, expenditure and input decisions, prior to their implementation. Apart from considerations of efficiency, this is not effective as it dilutes responsibility and leads to mechanistic decision making. It also disempowers managers in the decentralized structures. The balance in control thus needs to become more ex-post, based on risk analysis and hold individuals clearly accountable.
283. It was concluded that FAO cannot have the same approach in all regions and all developing countries. The Organization needs to adjust its institutional structures, expertise and priorities to the specific local contexts. A weakness in the Organization’s development effectiveness to date is that it has not adequately adapted to diverse situations. The Organization also needs to strive towards much greater flexibility to adjust to the fast evolving needs of the world. Within the limited resources available there needs to be a recommitment and further major changes to:
284. Greater flexibility by FAO in its decentralized response will require capacity to adjust staffing profiles and competencies. These changes will require changes in FAO staff rules, as well as action by FAO at common system level, together with like-minded Organizations.
285. Regional Representatives need to become the focus of the Organization’s work in their regions, in the framework of agreed strategies for the region, with regional programme entities and major outputs in the Medium Term Plan approved by the Council and Conference. Work at country level should be based on the country priority frameworks agreed by the internal FAO Field Programme Committee, and these should provide strong underpinning in developing the regional strategy. Regional Representatives need to travel widely in the region, to listen to the member countries of the region, follow-up at high level on the development processes initiated by the Director-General and to support FAORs and technical teams on critical issues.
286. The Regional Representatives should be included as full members of the Senior Management Meeting (SMM) and attend major governing body meetings29. This will enable them to become the representatives within the management structure of the Organization’s work in the regions, with responsibility, within the regions which they cover, for ensuring that the Organization’s global priorities and strategies are translated into action. It will also reinforce their integration into the Organization, deepening unity and coherence.
287. In order to better reinforce FAORs in their work, Regional Representatives should become the line of reporting for FAORs and regional technical officers on programme matters at country level and for the regional work30. This will require greatly increased dialogue with FAORs to reinforce their role in strategy development, organizational change and programming. FAORs should continue to report to the Director-General with respect to major policy and political matters and on the overall direction for FAO in the countries under their responsibility.
288. At the same time, care needs to be taken that this does not introduce a layer of bureaucracy for normal communication. This should remain as it is now, i.e. between the parties most concerned, with FAORs and technical officers dealing directly with technical departments and the relevant administrative and technical cooperation divisions in headquarters and the regions, as needed. Similarly, close formal and informal contacts need to be reinforced between technical officers in the regions and the relevant headquarters units, with a number of measures including individual focal points, monitoring systems and more face-to-face interchange put in place.
289. The Subregional Representatives in the Pacific and Caribbean should continue to have a direct reporting line to headquarters and the Director-General as the small island sub-regions are unique in their requirements. Other remaining Subregional Offices should report to the Regional Representative, ensuring unified management across the region31. All the Liaison Offices should report to the Office of the Director-General, as is largely the current de-facto situation. For strictly European issues, LOBR should deal directly with REU.
290. The policy and overall management of appointment and posting of FAORs should continue to be managed through a unit in the Office of the Director-General. All country office servicing should be carried out by the regional MSUs, rather than the present situation where the extra-budgetary resources are handled by the regional MSUs and the Regular Programme by OCD.
291. Concomitant with these changes, a firm drive is required to upgrade quality of staffing as necessary at all levels in all regions to address the greater challenges and potentials of the enhanced structures and responsibilities. Also the Organization needs to become more networked with greater face-to-face contact wherever possible. A cost in the success of the decentralization will be an increase in meetings and inter-change within regions and also across regions. All other specialised agencies of the UN system devote a considerably greater proportion of their resources to this than does FAO.
292. If these institutional changes are to achieve their objectives of greater unity, greater relevance and greater impact, the re-balancing of the internal responsibilities requires a considerable amount of time and attention at the top of the Organization to the issues of regions and countries. Without this, even with modern communications and fuller participation of Regional Representatives in the SMM and other meetings of FAO, the Regional Representatives will remain in a weak position vis-à-vis headquarters ADGs and there is also a danger of the regional representatives receiving inadequate supervision and direction. It is difficult for the Director-General who is responsible for the totality of FAO’s work to handle these issues on a day-to-day basis but it is essential that they receive continuing attention at a very high level within the Organization.
293. It is therefore proposed that, without in any way diluting the direct reporting lines between the regional representatives and the Director-General, the Director-General nominate the Deputy Director-General to handle on his behalf more detailed regional and country questions. The Deputy Director-General would be delegated the responsibility for ensuring collaborative working relationships between headquarters departments and the decentralized offices. He/she would also have higher level responsibility for ensuring regional, sub-regional and country level activities were fully in accord with FAO’s policy, strategy and plans.
294. In short, these proposals would strengthen and deepen the decentralization within a more unified Organization:
295. The evaluation team has made an in-depth analysis and identified significant problems. These substantially reduce the cost-effectiveness of FAO’s regional and country staffing in terms of benefits to members. They also detract from the unity of the Organization. In line with its terms of reference, the evaluation team has made recommendations to render these services more effective. The evaluation team hopes this report will contribute to recognition of the problems and a constructive debate on how they can be best addressed. In the absence of changes which, at a minimum, raise staff competencies, where necessary; devolve more decision making authority; adjust resources so that staff can travel and work more in countries; and put in place meaningful priority processes at country level, - the further potential of the existing decentralization is undermined.
296. Finally, although the evaluation set itself the task of making proposals which could be implemented within existing resources; and although there are weaknesses to be overcome, the team became convinced that with the changes recommended in this evaluation, the decentralized action of FAO in direct service of member countries would be worthy of an absolute budget increase without any reduction in the resources for normative work.
In view of the ongoing policy and political issues which may arise in further strengthening decentralization, including those issues related to the establishment of technical groups; the extension of multiple accreditation; and other changes in arrangements for country presence and technical support: - the Governing Bodies may wish to consider establishing a small ad-hoc task force to interface with the Director-General’s representatives on policy questions which arise in determining an implementation plan, deciding, as appropriate, on reference of any major issues to the Governing Bodies.
23 Including policy assistance, there are currently 40 technical and policy professional posts in the Regional and Subregional Offices in Africa, excluding fisheries and forestry. Some 24 posts could thus be distributed between the four suggested technical groups based on the hubs giving an average of six staff in each technical group.
24 In its 2002 report, the JIU stated “The Director-General should develop a standard description of the competencies, skills and experience required of FAO Representatives.”
25 The evaluation team was informed that in UNDP two staff had appealed to the UN Administrative Tribunal but this was a price that they were prepared to pay.
26 This currently stands at about US$ 1.5 million per biennium. The former FAOR facility for small consultancies is being discontinued.
27 There have been exceptions to this for emergencies where FAORs have been permitted to receive funds in the range of US$ 50,000 directly.
28 Based on a 15% cut.
29 See also JIU 2002, ibid.
30 See also Audited Accounts 1998-1999, para 172, C 2001/5, November 2001
31 The evaluation team was informed that a new reporting system was being developed under which Subregional Representatives would in future all report to the Regional Representatives.