PC 93/7 - FC 109/26


Programme Committee

Ninety-third Session

Rome, 9 - 13 May 2005

Follow-up to the Independent Evaluation of FAO’s Decentralization

Table of Contents


Demand and Priorities (6 recommendations – see Annex I)
Supply including Geographical Coverage (9 recommendations – see Annex I)
Authority and Delegations (14 recommendations – see Annex I)
Human Resource (HR) and Staff Management (9 recommendations – see Annex I)
Budgetary Issues (8 recommendations – see Annex I)
Procedures, Streamlining and Efficiency (6 recommendations – see Annex I)
Partnerships (1 recommendation – see Annex I)
Effectiveness and Esprit de Corps of Decentralized Staff (mentioned in many parts of the report)

ANNEX I


Introduction

1. The Independent Evaluation of FAO’s Decentralization1 was given initial consideration by the Programme and Finance Committees at their most recent sessions in September/October 2004. The Committees also had before them the Preliminary Management Response2 which commended the report and generally supported the recommendations, to the extent that firm responses could be given in the limited time that had been available.

2. Following an initial discussion, it was agreed that a further response by management would be made available to the next sessions of the Committees in May 2005. The Programme Committee:

“... welcomed FAO management’s proposal to develop for consideration by the Ninety-third session of the Committee a comprehensive response to the evaluation and action plan for strengthening the effectiveness of the Organization through decentralization. This response would address the objectives of the decentralization and include:

3. As can be seen from the Committee’s report, it had been envisaged that Management’s full response would include “a costed and time-bound implementation plan”. However, it has not been possible to make sufficient progress to allow the plan to be fully costed, in part because of the far-reaching nature of some of the recommendations (e.g. Recommendation 12 which proposed the establishment of technical groups at six or seven airline hubs through re-definition and relocation of existing regional posts) but also because the review of FAO’s contribution to the Millennium Development Coals (MDGs) is likely to raise a number of closely related strategic issues. The fact that the MDG targets essentially imply concerted UN system action at the country level raises the question whether FAO’s capacity at the country level is sufficient to meet the demand from Member Nations.

4. It follows that a report with so many fundamental recommendations needs careful, in-depth consideration of the overall implications before decisions can be definitively reached.

Approach to Organization of Recommendations

5. While the report of the Evaluation of FAO’s Decentralization is excellent in its depth of detail and coverage, it produces some 50-plus recommendations which, even in the Executive Summary, tend to cause the reader to get lost in detail and hence obscure the overall picture. Thus, a recommendation by recommendation approach to the report, while being both essential and appropriate in terms of accountability, needs to be enhanced through a more coherent grouping of the recommendations, with appropriate consideration of each group.

6. The requirement for such an approach is made even more important by the need, as already mentioned above, to also address the MDGs and UN country level reform, the combined effect of which is to cause some reconsideration of FAO’s future role and presence at country level.

7. Conversely, we are faced with the constraints of resources, particularly from the Regular Programme, where it is becoming increasingly evident that the decentralized network is financially stretched to the limit, especially at the country level.

8. As a result, all of the recommendations have been classified under eight main headings as follows:

Demand and Priorities (6 recommendations – see Annex I)

Scope

9. Six recommendations relate to national policy frameworks, regional priorities and demands for technical support. The demand for FAO services at country level can be envisaged in a matrix where one axis represents FAO’s sectoral and sub-sectoral disciplines (or sometimes inter-disciplinary services) and the other reflects the type of service required. These include policy and strategic advice, technical advisory services and operational support (i.e. input acquisition and delivery). According to the evaluation report, there is currently a problem in that we are not meeting countries’ needs, in particular in the area of policy and strategic advice.

Summary Analysis

10. The challenge for FAO has been to find an appropriate balance between its global, inter-regional and trans-boundary work and its direct support to individual countries. While the majority of low- and middle-income countries would tend to seek greater emphasis for country level support, certain donors have historically tended to favour normative work at the global level. However, there is increasing recognition by all parties that coordinated, harmonized assistance at the country level is a pre-requisite for success, particularly in the achievement of the goals established as a result of the consensus of the international community in the adoption of the Millennium Declaration. The thrust of the evaluation report is to better utilize existing decentralized resources by more accurately identifying what services are required by countries, and by ensuring that FAORs have access to the necessary policy, technical and/or operational assistance to support them in country driven processes such as the development and implementation of their poverty reduction strategies (PRS).

Key Deliverable(s)

11. An inventory of the skill requirements for each of regional and sub-regional group will be produced.

Budgetary Implications

12. It is difficult to anticipate the level of the demand for technical, policy and/or operational support. However, from the perspective of the implementation of the recommendations of the evaluation report, it is assumed that demand will only be satisfied to the extent possible within existing resources. Demand beyond that level will need to be considered in the context of the Organization’s response to the MDGs, which could include options for: 1) rebalancing Regular Programme resources among global programmes and country specific programmes, 2) changes in cost recovery (as is the case for operational services) or 3) new initiatives to obtain extra-budgetary support.

13. The development of rolling FAO national medium-term priority frameworks has been estimated to cost US$ 150,000 for each pilot country, in part a reflection of the underlying need to strengthen country offices. The replication of this approach to other offices will need to be based on sound analysis of the benefits versus the significant cost.

Supply including Geographical Coverage (9 recommendations – see Annex I)

Scope

14. This category covers FAO’s geographical coverage of its decentralized resources in terms of skills and overall capacity at country, sub-regional and regional levels. In effect it is the Organization’s response to the demand identified above.

15. The evaluation report makes several suggestions about the means for providing coverage to the maximum number of countries. It also addresses the issue of how to best supply FAO’s services at country level including a major proposal to decentralize staff from the Regional and Sub-regional Offices to six or seven airline hubs.

Summary Analysis

16. In general, the Director-General supports the proposal for further decentralization to the sub-regional level, although he believes that it would be preferable to assign staff to places where they could better serve countries belonging to the same regional or sub-regional economic groups rather than to airline hubs. This approach would seem to be in close accord with the recommendation that we build appropriate partnerships and alliances. However, before making a specific decision, the Director-General has asked that all of the implications be examined, taking into account:

Key Deliverable(s)

17. A costed model of the decentralized structures as they are now and as proposed will be developed – possibly with various options.

Budgetary Implications

18. Clearly, the Organization’s capacity to supply services will be exceeded by demand but, as indicated above, it will be assumed that the staffing structure should firstly be developed on a no-loss/no-gain basis. However, it is unlikely that the net cost of a more decentralized structure will result in lower cost overall without significant support from the host governments concerned. In this regard, the Secretariat will be examining all possibilities for effective low cost coverage at country level in an effort to reach a balance.

Authority and Delegations (14 recommendations – see Annex I)

Scope

19. This category of 14 recommendations covers the authority of HQ ADGs versus Regional Representatives, the extent of authority delegated to decentralized offices and the special case of emergencies.

Summary Analysis

20. Regarding the authority of HQ ADGs over technical staff located in Regional Offices, it is recognized that:

Thus neither arrangement (i.e. where either HQ ADGs or Regional Representatives have complete control) results in a perfect solution, and it is, therefore, worth investing more time in trying to identify improvements.

21. The premise of the report concerning approval authorities is that FAORs are severely restricted in their capacity to operate because of the very limited delegations made to them. While referrals to HQ can slow responsiveness and increase costs, the risk of loss of control is also reduced. Therefore, further delegation is generally to be encouraged but subject to a risk assessment being carried out and measures taken to mitigate that risk.

Key Deliverable(s)

22. These would include:

  1. an improved concept of roles and responsibilities for decentralized offices including a revised circular;
  2. following appropriate risk assessment, a revised set of delegations to FAORs;
  3. revised policies and procedures for the handling of emergencies.

Budgetary Implications

23. It is not expected that changes in the line of command will have material, quantifiable budgetary implications. The delegation of further authority to the FAORs should, however, result in improved efficiency, although the savings will be hard to realize in the form of budgetary reductions.

Human Resource (HR) and Staff Management
(9 recommendations – see Annex I)

Scope

24. The report identifies a number of areas where human resource management structures and practice could be improved and, thus, reinforce FAO’s capacity to respond to demand. These include: 1) the contractual constraints to our flexibility to change the mix of skills in a given location to respond to demand, 2) poor or non-existent performance appraisal, 3) recruitment practices, 4) the absence of policies on staff rotation and 5) the need for increased staff development.

Summary Analysis

25. It is accepted that there is room for improvement in the area of human resources management and that the recommendations are generally consistent with the direction being taken by the Organization in its implementation of the Human Resources Action Plan.3

Key Deliverable(s)

26. An updated version of the Human Resources Action Plan taking into account the recommendations of the evaluation and including:

  1. the universal application of competency requirements for all posts; and
  2. the implementation of the Oracle Human Resources Management System including a staff performance appraisal system fully linked to the corporate planning system.

Budgetary Implications

27. Initial investments will be needed in the Oracle Human Resources Management system and in training for performance appraisal, some of which is not currently budgeted. In addition, the introduction of a competency approach implies additional staff development costs. On the other hand, these costs should be justified by improved effectiveness throughout the Organization.

Budgetary Issues (8 recommendations – see Annex I)

Scope

28. The report contains a number of issues with direct budgetary implications, such as the ratio of non-staff resources per professional, under-budgeting for country offices and various suggestions for reducing costs or otherwise ameliorating the budgetary constraints imposed on the Organization. However, there are also many other recommendations which appear under other headings that have budgetary implications.

Summary Analysis

29. The report on the evaluation of decentralization recognizes that “successive budget cuts have seriously constrained the effective implementation of decentralization”4. In fact, the closing paragraph of the report states:

“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 services of member countries would be worth of an absolute budget increase without any reduction in the resources for normative work”.

30. Budgetary implications, therefore, need to be developed on an assumption of existing resource levels but also with a scenario for improved decentralized capacity facilitated by an absolute increase in resources. The Director-General requires the ongoing involvement of the Office of Programme, Budget and Evaluation in the entire process, including active involvement in identifying least cost solutions and a financially viable decentralized structure.

Key Deliverable(s)

31. Costed implementation plans (a) on an assumption of existing resource levels; and (b) with an increase in resources followed by progressive incorporation of budgetary implications in future budgets.

Budgetary Implications

32. The outcome will be reflected in the relevant budget proposals.

Procedures, Streamlining and Efficiency (6 recommendations – see Annex I)

Scope

33. The report makes several recommendations aimed at streamlining and cost savings. These primarily involve transferring several administrative functions from HQ to other offices (usually Regional Offices).

Summary Analysis

34. This is essentially a technical issue to determine the lowest cost effective means of delivering certain administrative services at the country level. The current highly centralized approach has the advantage of very high levels of control as well as the consistent application of policy. On the other hand, it relies mostly on experienced staff in Rome who are remunerated at European rates. There may be an opportunity to find lower cost solutions, bearing in mind that the solution should result in adequate control and sufficient ex ante monitoring and oversight of decisions made by decentralized staff so as to quickly identify control problems or major divergences in approach.

Key Deliverable(s)

35. These would include:

  1. a clear flow chart for each type of transaction showing any proposal for reassignment of responsibility;
  2. proposed provisions for monitoring and oversight;
  3. identification of the budgetary impact at all affected locations.

Budgetary Implications

36. If the report is correct, there are significant cost savings to be made. However, these will only become apparent after each transfer of function has been carefully evaluated, risks assessed and a judgement made.

Partnerships (1 recommendation – see Annex I)

Scope

37. The report recommends that the organization strengthen partnerships at the country and regional levels, especially with WFP, IFAD and IICA.

Summary Analysis

38. As already mentioned above, the essence of the UN Reform proposal is to strengthen collaboration and even engage in joint activities at the country level, particularly in support of government efforts to achieve the MDGs. Consequently, this is likely to become a major issue and, from FAO’s perspective, may lead to the identification of the need for new or enhanced strategic alliances.

Key Deliverable(s)

39. None in this context but to be further addressed in principle when considering FAO’s response to MDGs.

Budgetary Implications

40. While it is recommended that this issue be addressed in the context of the MDGs and UN Reform and not under “Decentralization” per se, it should be noted that effective partnerships and alliances often require additional monetary contributions. However, such contributions can often be justified by the benefits leveraged by the alliance.

Effectiveness and Esprit de Corps of Decentralized Staff
(mentioned in many parts of the report)

Scope

41. This is an issue on which no discrete recommendation is made but on which several references are quoted (e.g. aspects such as competence, effective communications, morale and the “One FAO concept”).

Summary Analysis

42. An analysis of the evidence in the report suggests that one causal factor may be deterioration in effective communication between the staff in decentralized offices and HQ, between the Regional and Sub regional Offices, and between them and the country offices. The Organization has moved radically to embrace “computer mediated communications” (CMC) including email, voice mail, telephone, video and audio conferencing. However, there is considerable research evidence being published which suggests that total reliance on CMC to the exclusion of face-to-face communication may result in a serious loss in the effectiveness of communication.

Key Deliverable(s)

43. A review of the evidence to date and its possible application to FAO will be produced as input to an eventual decision on this issue.

Budgetary Implications

44. Should it prove necessary to increase the proportion of face-to-face communication, it would be necessary to allocate more resources to staff travel.

Conclusion

45. Given the complexity and far reaching nature of many of the recommendations, the Director-General is insisting on the need for a full analysis of the implications before drawing final conclusions. Once sufficient information is available to make sound decisions, the Director-General will either make proposals to the Governing Bodies or, where it is within his prerogative, decide accordingly. Implementation of recommendations will proceed progressively as soon as decisions have been made.

46. Regular reporting in the form of Annex I will be made to the Programme and Finance Committees throughout the process.

47. As already mentioned above, the budgetary implications will be progressively incorporated into future budgets.

48. The Committees are invited to comment on any of the above analyses or on the time-bound implementation plan as provided in Annex I.

 

ANNEX I

Independent Evaluation of FAO’s Decentralization: Time-bound Implementation Plan

Cat Recommendation/Other Suggestions Management Response Action Date completed or planned Suggested Unit Responsible
1. Demand and Priorities       Mr Carsalade
1 1. Develop 4-year rolling FAO national priority frameworks for the countries where we are active. It is agreed to develop national medium-term priority frameworks initially on a pilot basis in selected countries, with the understanding that the frameworks would describe how FAO would seek to respond to country priorities, taking into account the PRSPs, CCA, UNDAF and the national and sub-regional strategies we already developed with countries. a) Identify pilot countries and provide guidance to the respective FAORs on how the frameworks should be developed. This should include relevance to MDGs and the outcome of the questionnaire to Member Nations (MNs) [see 10b) below]. Done already TCA (in close collaboration with OCD)
      b) The framework and approach will be available for the Programme Committee when it meets in May 2005 9 May  

1

10a). Rolling work programmes of technical support should be demand-driven and drawn up for technical staff based on requests from FAORs and should be discussed and agreed with the FAORs in meetings convened by the Regional Representatives.

This recommendation is welcomed with the proviso that regional meetings with FAORs be conducted, to the extent possible, by email or video conference. The starting point for this will be the rolling national priority frameworks (see Recommendation 1) supplemented by knowledge of the requests for services from FAORs. In the future, these work programmes for technical support will be prepared at the level of SROs as appropriate.

a) Rather than implement a separate data collection exercise to identify a snap shot of country level demand for FAO’s services, this data will be obtained through the questionnaire envisaged under 10 b) immediately below. System support to rolling work plans will be considered under 10b), action b).

N/A

 
     

b) To be supplemented by the rolling national priority frameworks once they become available. The ROs/SROs would then develop these into work programmes for RO/SRO technical staff, in consultation with HQ units. The overall consolidated programme should be discussed by the RR/SRR via email and video conferences with the FAORs.

31 July and on-going

OCD and RRs in consultation with HQ and FAORs

1

10b). Requests by FAORs for person-days of input by technical/policy discipline and by professional officer should be monitored as input to determining the skills mix in the RO.

A formal monitoring system might not be the most cost-effective way to determine skills mix in ROs. However, a review of the potential requirements for systems support to a rolling workplan with monitoring facilities needs to be undertaken.

a) Review alternative systematic ways to identify and monitor technical support requirements through rolling workplans in ROs/SROs.

31 May

OCD with AFH, AFI and RRs

      b) The questionnaires to be sent to member countries on the MDGs and the Strategic Framework should also address this need. 22 April SAD

1

3a). Regional Representatives should propose normative work for the region and groups of countries, and a proportion of technical programme resources should be pooled for regional programme entities.

Input from Regional Offices on normative work is already sought in preparing the PWB, but communication on this could be improved. The proposal to pool technical resources is not supported as it would be excessively cumbersome to administer.

a) Request RO input to the PWB and, in particular, identify potential programme entities of a regional nature.

30 April

PBE

      b) Make greater efforts to dialogue with ROs in order to better understand Regional needs and priorities. 31 May and on-going HQ Technical Depts.

1

3b). Regional priorities should be defined based on the country priority frameworks, discussion between HQ and ROs, analysis of global normative work, results of Regional Conferences, and full involvement of ROs in discussions of the MTP and PWB.

All of this, except the country priority frameworks, is already being done, but greater emphasis could be given to its importance.

a) Following development of the country priority frameworks, ROs should use them when identifying regional priorities;

on-going

ROs

      b) Encourage greater use of the results of Regional Conferences; and foster improved communication between HQs and ROs. 15 April and on-going PBE

1

4. Regional Conferences should be flexibly designed in format and content and their voices should be institutionalized in FAO’s programming, planning and budgeting.

There is no barrier to flexibility in the design and format of Regional Conferences, but a review of their organization, structure and format may be useful and is already ongoing.

a) Complete the review of the design and format of the Regional Conferences and submit report to the Director-General.

completed 18 January

OCD

      b) As agreed in 3b), HQ and ROs could be encouraged to make greater use of the results of Regional Conferences when preparing the MTP and PWB 15 April and on-going PBE

1

n/a

An overall outcome will be the production of an analysis for each regional and sub-regional office (i.e. existing or proposed) identifying the skills and experience which would ideally be required.

Prepare skills needs inventory by office, consulting as necessary.

15 June

Working Group

2.

Supply including Geographical Coverage

   

Mr Ali

2

5a). Expand use of multiple accreditation, including countries currently covered by a full FAOR.

Multiple accreditations are already an accepted practice. We can agree to consider expanding it to countries not currently covered, but it will be politically difficult to withdraw full FAORs where they now exist and replace them with multiply-accredited FAORs.

Given the very serious budgetary constraints now faced by the FAOR network, seek creative low-cost solutions for meeting such demand as input to the implementation plan.

30 June

OCD

2

5d). To the maximum extent possible, national correspondents should be supported through multiple accreditation.

This is a good suggestion.

Identify opportunities to support national correspondents through multiply-accredited FAORs.

30 June

OCD

2

6. The OTO/FAOR scheme should be discontinued in its present form.

As indicated in the Preliminary Management Response, it is premature to make a decision that the OTO/FAOR scheme should be discontinued in its present form. While it is recognised that most of the OTO/FAORs have not been able to undertake much technical work, and that the scheme is, in part, a subsidy by the technical programmes to the FAOR network, it represents a low cost solution to the budgetary constraints faced by the FAO Network as mentioned under 5a above

In examining low cost solutions to the demand for FAO representation at country level, consider how and when OTOs represent the optimum solution. In doing so, take account of the account the detailed findings of the Evaluation, of the strengths and weaknesses of the current arrangements and make proposals which build on the former and address the latter.

30 June

OCD

2

6a). If the scheme is continued, it should not be for new FAOR countries. Rather, the technical/policy needs of existing FAOR countries should be identified and met by appropriately qualified OTO/FAORs, with the savings from the FAOR country budget used elsewhere in the FAOR system.

This proposal is not workable because it would be contrary to the Council decision creating the OTO/FAOR scheme, the purpose of which was to extend FAO presence to countries not having FAORs.

As part of the same exercise (under 5a above), ensure that due attention is given to the particular policy/technical needs of countries when recruiting FAORs.

30 June

OCD

2

12. Establish 6-7 technical groups at airline hubs through re-definition of existing regional posts in order to make more policy/strategy and general expertise readily available to FAORs.

The idea of having more policy/strategy specialists and others with broader technical skills more available in the regions is a good one but it would be preferable to assign them to regional sub-regional economic groups than to cities where there are major airline hubs. Many administrative issues, such as lines of reporting, the effect on and relationship to existing ROs and SROs would need to be considered. Before a decision on this can finally be made, a review of the current skills mix in the ROs and SROs would need to be undertaken, matched to the needs at sub-regional level, administrative and personnel issues identified and resolved, and costs estimated so as to endure budgetary feasibility.

a) Taking into account the demand determined by group 1 above and such other information as may be available, prepare preliminary multi-disciplinary staffing structures (i.e. new and revised) on a no loss/no gain basis.

31 August

OCD in consultation

      b) Develop a budgetary and staffing model with a view to identifying the programme, budgetary and staffing implications as well as an overall cost model. 30 Sept. PBE

2

14. Call-down (retainer) contracts should be negotiated with regional specialists who would be available on short notice and with minimum bureaucracy for a variety of technical assignments coordinated by the ROs.

This is an innovative suggestion that merits careful consideration.

a) Coordinate consideration of this recommendation;

30 June

OCD

      b) Identify the type of skills needed which could be met by this scheme; 30 April ROs/SROs
      c) Consider the budgetary feasibility; 31 May PBE
      d) Consider the administrative/ contractual issues; and 31 May AF
      e) Report results of review. 30 June OCD

2

15. Develop country-specific arrangements with new donors, especially from middle-income countries, to supply technical expertise.

Agreed – management will explore this proposal as an expansion of the previous recommendation,

Explore the possibility of developing flexible arrangements with new donors to supply technical expertise.

31 May

TCAP

2

16a-e. See recommendation 12 on technical hubs.

 

N/A

N/A

N/A

2

18d). Adjust the rules to permit national professional staff to work in other countries served from their offices.

See comments in Preliminary Management Response where it is noted that NPOs can travel in other countries on occasion and as appropriate.

N/A

N/A

N/A

3.

Authority and Delegations

     

Mr Ali

3

8. Transfer responsibility for most regional technical staff and their budgets and programmes from HQ Technical Departments to the ROs.

For the reasons given in our Preliminary Management Response, we did not agree with this recommendation. However, it is also recognized that the current structure has certain disadvantages which it may be possible to ameliorate by taking action beyond those proposed under recommendation 9.

Make suggestions in this regard, particularly in view of the possible impact of the restructuring of decentralized offices and the need for effective multi-disciplinary teams. Also, some of the problems that this recommendation aims to overcome, can be resolved by implementing most of the elements of Recommendation 9.

31 August

OCD/SAD in consultation

3

9a). HQ technical units should retain a significant role in the selection and technical performance assessment of regional technical staff.

Subject to the outcome of the suggestions to be made in response to recommendation 8, non acceptance of that recommendation would mean that HQ units would retain their lead role in selecting regional technical staff and monitoring their performance

No particular action needed except to re-emphasize the need for good communication and collaboration between HQ and ROs on recruitment and performance monitoring.

30 June

OCD

3

9b). HQ departments should continue to participate in the establishment of regional work programmes and in technical support to countries.

Agreed.

Continue to encourage this.

15 May

OCD and PBE

3

9c). The visit of technical officers to HQ should be the norm and should be annual.

Technical officers outside HQ should occasionally visit HQ for technical interchange with their counterparts. Similarly, HQ technical staff should occasionally visit the field. This is already being done. Such visits should, to the extent possible, be timed to other technical events and forums so as to make them most cost-effective, and no rigid schedule, such as annually, should be imposed

a) No specific action needed, as this matter should generally be left in the hands of the technical departments to manage according to the need and to the availability of budget.

N/A

HQ Technical Departments

      b) However, the effectiveness of face-to-face communications versus computer mediated communications is to be studied to determine whether some rebalancing between the two is required (see issue 8 below) 30 April SAD

3

9e). Each regional technical officer should have a focal officer in HQ (this assumes implementation of Recommendation 8).

Subject to the outcome of the suggestions to be made in response to recommendation 8, it is not intended to implement this recommendation. However, in practice most regional technical staff already have focal point officers in HQ.

N/A

N/A

N/A

3

9f). HQ units may, where appropriate, have the lead role of regional normative programme entities and or major outputs, and this should always be a joint endeavour (with the ROs).

This is already the case.

N/A

N/A

N/A

3

9g). Regional Representatives should report on the adherence of the office and its staff to organizational priorities (this assumes implementation of Recommendation 8).

 

N/A

N/A

N/A

3

11. Technical lead responsibility for projects should be assigned to ROs or SROs whenever they have the appropriate technical expertise, and in all cases networked cooperation on technical support between HQ and regional specialists should be the norm.

Technical lead responsibility for projects must be decided on a case-by-case basis depending on where the appropriate technical expertise lies. It is recognised, however, that preference seems to have been given to HQ units at the expense of ROs and SROs.

Ensure that when assigning the lead technical responsibility for projects, expertise available at the SROs is considered first, then at the ROs and only ultimately at HQ.

on-going

TCOM with TCAP and HQ technical departments

3

19. Give countries an indicative TCP funding figure and authorize FAORs to approve projects up to a maximum amount (e.g. $100,000) and up to a maximum proportion (e.g. ˝) of the indicative figure.

The proposal to provide countries with indicative TCP funding figures was considered in the past but not retained as too divisive. However, providing some direct access by the FAOR to TCP resources should help to improve responsiveness, as well as the standing of FAORs with the government and international community. The level of funding approval authority, however, will need to be studied and procedures developed to ensure appropriate technical consultation. Monitoring also will be important

Rather than aim for the delegation of project approval, TC should examine the possibility of making TCP resources available to the FAOR, for example, through an extension of the TCP Facility. Advise on the need for a monitoring system.

20 April

TCOT

3

20a). For projects clearly within the agreed national priority framework or those addressing an agreed emergency, authorize FAORs to approve the receipt of project funds from donors up to a maximum amount (e.g. $100,000).

It is agreed in principle that FAORs should be authorized to receive funds.

Establish clear rules and procedures for the acceptance of funds supported by systems of control whereby HQ is kept fully informed of such contributions. Their use should be subject to the usual oversight framework (monitoring, evaluation and audit).

31 May

TCOM with TCAP in consultation with AF and other Working Group members as necessary

3

21. The capacity of FAORs and their staffs, and related infrastructure, should be assessed against the size of existing programmes in the country or the capacity for growth, and spending authorities increased on a case-by-case basis where there is both need and capacity. Where capacity or infrastructures are wanting, training or other improvement should be made.

This is a good suggestion.

Undertake the needed reviews of FAOR capacities and infrastructures, giving priority to countries with large programmes or capacity for growth, and propose appropriate increases in FAOR spending authorities on a case-by-case basis. Take remedial measures where capacities or infrastructures are wanting.

30 June

OCD

3

22a). Increase authorities granted to FAORs for: i) letters of agreement, ii) purchasing and iii) recruitment and extension of national staff (professional and GS).

This recommendation is closely related to several others aimed at increasing the authorities of FAORs, with which we have agreed in principle. Increased delegation of authorities to FAORs would be consistent with their grades (D-1 and P-5) and would result in considerable streamlining of several bureaucratic procedures.

a) Propose increases in authorities for FAORs for letters of agreement, spending and recruitment and extension of national staff.

30 June

OCD in consultation with AF

      b) Carry out a risk assessment of each proposal and propose lowest cost approaches to risk mitigation. 31 July AUD

3

7a). For major complex emergencies, develop a cadre of FAOR/Senior Emergency Coordinators to replace existing FAORs.

While some caution about this was expressed in the Preliminary Management Response, it is now agreed to accept this recommendation in principle with the understanding that implementation would by necessity be on a case-by-case.

Review the recent tsunami, desert locust and Sudan emergencies and to suggest to the Field Programme Committee under what conditions this recommendation could be implemented.

30 June

OCD and TCER

3

7b). For other emergencies, criteria should be developed to guide decisions on when the budget holder responsibility should rest with the FAOR and when it should be retained by TCE.

If flexible and not excessively bureaucratic, such criteria could be helpful

Develop criteria based upon the experience with recent emergencies for consideration and endorsement by the Field Programme Committee

30 April

OCD and TCER

      Review financial impact of any change in policy 31 May PBE
      Integrate improvements introduced during the desert locust crisis into the financial rules and procedures and systems of control to ensure HQ is kept fully informed and that such contributions are subject to monitoring, evaluation and audit. 30 June OCD with TCER and AF

4.

Human Resource and Staff Management

   

Mr Mehboob

4

18f). Review staff rules and efforts in the Common System to allow more flexibility in adjusting the mix of technical staff in the ROs and SROs, including the need to transfer or terminate staff when appropriate.

Agreed

Conduct the recommended review and, meanwhile, encourage technical departments to make maximum use of short-term appointment possibilities when meeting some regional technical needs.

30 Sept.

AF

4

17c). Put in place a staff performance appraisal system which would include FAORs and technical officers.

This issue is currently being addressed as part of the Oracle HRMS project. In the meantime, an improved performance appraisal system is being developed for FAORs.

a) Expedite the efforts under way through the Oracle HRMS project (i.e. as regards performance management).

31 Decem. 2006

AF

      b) Complete the development of an improved mechanism of performance appraisal for FAORs (implement on an interim basis pending completion of a) above). 30 April OCD & AF

4

18b). Regional experience should be positively taken into account in selecting for more senior HQ posts.

The intent of this recommendation is agreed but it is also noted that this is already addressed in the recruitment/selection process, as the breadth of international experience, especially in developing countries, is already among the selection criteria.

None, except to continue the current practice.

n/a

n/a

4

17a) Extend the ongoing project to develop competency requirements to all decentralized posts, including FAORs, and make the requirements specific to each post.

Agreed and the work has already started for FAORs. However, it will take time to extend it to all posts.

Complete work on development of competencies starting with FAORs.

30 June

AF in consultation with OCD, the ROs and the technical departments.

4

17b). Put in place open and competitive procedures for selection to all regional and FAOR posts, including open advertisement, competency assessment and balanced selection panels.

It is agreed that more action is needed including, for example, through the issuance of vacancy announcements on the Internet, especially for FAORs, where the problem of having too small a pool of qualified candidates remains. Similarly, the interview panel for FAORs should be expanded to include the ADG-TC and the ADG-AF.

a) Regularly issue unspecified vacancy announcements for FAORs on a regional/language basis in an attempt to increase the pool of qualified FAOR applicants.

15 April

OCD

      b) Take appropriate measures, including where needed through a process of interviews, to screen applicants for their inclusion in the roster of suitable candidates from which a short list of at least three well-qualified candidates in order of preference can be drawn for each FAOR vacancy. Completed 31 March OCD
      c) The candidate of preference will continue to be interviewed by the existing senior panel supplemented with the ADG-AF and the ADG-TC to bring more field knowledge to it. Completed 31 March OCD

4

18e). Give greater attention to gender balance when recruiting for decentralized offices.

It is agreed that this is important. Although efforts are underway in this regard, there remains room for improvement

Remind the ROs and HQ departments of the importance of gender balance in the recruitment process, especially in attracting candidates, but also to adhere to the staff rules on selection.

15 April

AF

4

18c). Training for decentralized staff should be given close attention.

Budgetary constraints have impinged on staff training, with the most detrimental effect on staff at ROs, SROs and FAORs. The problem is most acute in the FAORs, where staff numbers are small, and especially when the FAOR is new to FAO. While information available on the internet and on CD Rom or other media is of great help, efforts need to be expanded to allow participation in formal seminars, workshops and training courses and to permit more travel to HQ for training, especially since they are being asked to accept more responsibilities as budget holders and for personnel matters and project development/ management.

a) Review the use of staff development allocations in decentralized offices to ensure that they are fully utilized and that staff make use of the information packages, videos, multi-media packages, etc. already available.

31 May

OCD with AF support

      b) Consider feasibility and effectiveness of supplementing existing materials with the CD ROMs. The proposal should be reviewed by OCD, GII, TC and AF, and, if appropriate, an implementation plan should be prepared. 31 May AF
      c) Make proposals to target FAO country office staff for more training on FAO rules and procedures. Specific training events should be organized for those most in need, even if travel is required. Similarly, FAORs new to FAO should be targeted for special training. Three weeks in Rome immediately after appointment is not sufficient. At a minimum, they should be invited back to Rome for additional briefing and refresher training routinely after one year of service in country. 31 May AF

4

18a). Develop a staff rotation policy.

This issue was dealt with in the response to Recommendation 9d).

n/a

n/a

n/a

4

9d). A rotation policy should be instituted between HQ and the regions.

For the reasons given in the Preliminary Management Response, it is not considered appropriate to implement a rigid rotation policy in FAO. However, the value of having staff with both HQ and field experience is recognized and appreciated.

Develop a DGB setting out the Organization’s policy on staff rotation, highlighting the value of both HQ and field experience and encouraging managers to take this into account in recruitment. In addition, managers could be encouraged to laterally transfer staff between HQ and the field whenever appropriate.

31 May

AF

5.

Budgetary Issues

     

Mr Juneja

5

13. Reduce the number of regional and sub-regional technical posts by 15-20% in order to free resources for staff travel, improved consultation between FAORs and HQ and greater use of regional expertise.

It is difficult to understand how reducing the number of technical posts by 15-20% is going to result in an increase of technical services to FAORs, as was mentioned in the Preliminary Management Response. However, there might be some flexibility to abolish vacant and redundant posts in the PWB in order to increase non-staff resources. This would need to be done on a case-by-case basis, as the resources so freed might also be better devoted to creating more senior policy/strategy posts

Consider ways of increasing the ratio of non-staff resources per professional in the decentralized office when preparing the upcoming PWBs.

31 May

PBE in consultation with technical departments and ROs

5

5b). For countries with an FAOR, reduce the number of vacancies and seek the continuous presence of an FAOR and the overlapping of outgoing and incoming FAORs.

This is a good suggestion, which can be implemented to the extent that the budget allows.

a) Accelerate FAOR recruitment actions so that posts remain vacant the minimum time possible subject to budgetary limitations. Advise PBE of extent of budgetary constraints.

on-going

OCD

      b) Review and report on the likely budgetary implications. 30 April PBE

5

5c). Replace the majority of internationally recruited administrative officers in FAO country offices with suitably qualified and graded nationals.

For the reasons given in the Preliminary Management Response, we did not concur with this recommendation. On the other hand, the risks that have been identified by AUD need to be examined from the perspective of finding the lowest cost solution which attends to such a risk. For example, it may be feasible to rely on an NPO administrative officer in conjunction with increased controls of another type (e.g. enhanced local audit).

a) Examine the possible solutions and present options which reduce costs and which are acceptable from the risk perspective.

15 May

OCD in consultation with AF

      b) Assess risk of various options and assist in identifying lowest cost solution which has an acceptable level of risk. 31 May AUD

5

5e). Insist more on the provision of national inputs into FAOR offices

Clearly, national support to some FAOR offices falls short of agreed levels. Dramatic improvements to this will be difficult, but some additional national inputs may be possible on a case-by-case basis.

Identify those countries where the problem is greatest and suggest some targeted measures to resolve it.

30 June

OCD

5

5f). Use volunteers, secondments and national expertise

There is already considerable use of national expertise and retirees, as well as some use of volunteers and secondments.

Consider ways to make still greater use of such human resources.

30 June

OCD

5

5g). Use flexible measures to mobilize additional resources, including extra-budgetary resources

Obviously, we agree to this.

Make innovative proposals to increase extra-budgetary contributions to FAO.

30 June

TCAP

5

6b). If the scheme (OTO/FAORs) is continued, cease relying entirely on national contributions to fund the office

While the limitations to the current funding formula are recognized, implementing this recommendation would be contrary to the Conference Resolutions on the OTO/FAOR scheme and on the Organization’s budget.

Continue to insist that countries meet their obligations.

on-going

OCD

5

7c). TCE should receive increased Regular Programme funding through adjustments within Chapter 3.

It has been agreed to propose an increase in Regular Programme funding for some TCE central functions, but significant increases will be difficult as long as the Organization’s overall budget continues to decline in real terms

Make proposal to PBE consistent with the normal process for preparing the PWB.

15 April

TCER

6.

Procedures, Streamlining and Efficiency

   

Mr Ali

6

20b). For the above projects (where the FAOR is authorized to receive funds), develop streamlined procedures for technical consultations and approval, if necessary.

This too is a good suggestion. For small, straightforward projects, the FAOR could be authorized to accept funding with only working level technical consultation. For larger or more complex projects, a procedure for obtaining accelerated technical clearance is needed

Make proposals for streamlined technical consultation/approval in conjunction with Recommendation 20a).

31 May

TCOM with TCAP

6

22b). Transfer personnel servicing of FAOR staff (except appointment and transfer of FAORs) from OCD to the MSUs in the ROs.




Recommendations 22b) – 22f) refer to the transfer of several administrative functions from HQ to the ROs. These are important and potentially useful suggestions that warrant very careful analysis.




Establish a working group involving OCD, AF, AUD, PBE and a Regional Office representative to consider the cost-effectiveness of these suggestions as well as the need for monitoring, oversight and control, and to make proposals accordingly. The recent pilot exercise at RAP would be helpful in this regard.




30 June




OCD

6

22c). Transfer travel functions from OCD ROs and FAORs.

6

22d). Transfer imprest account validation and support functions from HQ to ROs.

6

22e). Have Regional Auditors supervise FAOR audits

6

22f). Transfer regional inventory management to ROs.

7.

Partnerships

       

7

2. Strengthen partnerships at the country and regional levels, especially with WFP, IFAD and IICA.

Good partnerships are already in place with WFP and IFAD, and special, new initiatives are probably not needed. Cooperation with IICA could be further strengthened.

Continue to monitor progress with WFP and IFAD and to look for additional opportunities to collaborate that may arise.

on-going

DDG

      Invite ADG-RLC to make proposals regarding IICA. 15 April OCD/RLC
      Take up overall partnership issue in the context of the MDG paper 5 April SAD

8.

Effective Communication and Esprit de corps of Decentralized Staff

 

Mr Wade

 
 

A significant outcome of the evaluation is the purported failure in communications and the consequent low esprit de corps, gaps in competencies and lack of staff development. Overall this may have resulted in a failure to create “one FAO” as had been hoped for – instead the many decentralized staff are seen and see themselves as second class citizens, unappreciated by their counterparts at HQ.

With thirty percent of our professional capacity deployed in decentralized offices, it is critical that widespread below-normal morale and hence performance be attended to.

There may be many reasons for this state of affairs but one that is coming to light is that effective communications has suffered through the absence of face-to-face contact.

The decision to minimize travel between offices was founded on the need to reduce costs in order to accommodate the major reductions in our budget over the last ten years. It was considered a feasible and legitimate approach given the increasing availability in “computer mediated communications” (CMC) such as phone, email, electronic conferencing, video conferencing, etc. However, this may have had unforeseen consequences as there is authoritative evidence that over-reliance on CMC can result in less effective communication.

Arrange for an analysis to be prepared summarizing the results of authoritative research on CMC and face-to-face communications and their comparative advantages and disadvantages. If feasible, apply the lessons learned to the FAO decentralized environment and recommend variations to current practice bearing in mind the need to minimize costs wherever possible without damaging overall effectiveness.

30 April

SAD

_____________________

1 PC 92/6 a) or FC 108/18 http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/008/j2937e/j2937e00.htm

2 PC 92/6 a) or FC 108/18 Sup. 1 http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/008/J2937e/j2937e05.htm

3 FC 99/10 Progress Report on Human Resources Management Issues updated progressively – see FC 104/15

4 PC 92/6 a), paragraph 72