JM 01.2/INF/3


Joint Meeting of the
Eighty-sixth Session of the Programme Committee
and the
Ninety-seventh Session of the Finance Committee

Rome, 19 September 2001

Decentralization of Operational Responsibilities to the Country Level and to Technical Divisions

Table of Contents


1. The Programme and Finance Committees at their Joint Meeting in September 2000 welcomed the progress achieved on the further decentralization of operational responsibilities and, in particular, the "gradual and phased approach" that had been adopted for the implementation of the transfers of responsibilities from the Regional Offices to the FAO country offices (CL 119/9, paragraph 28).

2. The present report covers the actions taken since September 2000 to complete the transfer of operational responsibilities to the FAO Representatives (FAORs) as well as to Headquarters technical divisions and Regional Technical Groups under the leadership of the Change Management Team (CMT). Although the process of restructuring cannot be considered as finalized until the new arrangements have been tried out for a certain period, results assessed and the necessary modifications introduced, this document completes the reporting cycle insofar as the actual transfers are concerned.

Brief Summary of New Arrangements for the Field Programme

3. It will be recalled that the previous report (JM 2000/INF/3) summarized the rationale for the new arrangements, the objectives of the restructuring exercise in terms of savings and efficiencies and the volume of transfers during the first phase to a first group of countries (Group A) accompanied by training of the new budget holders. Transfers within Headquarters were also reported.

4. The new configuration of operational responsibilities would be as follows:

5. For the purposes of distribution of operational responsibilities, countries under double accreditation were considered countries without FAOR and therefore the responsibilities for projects in those countries were retained by the ROBs. This situation will require review in the light of the assignment of senior technical officers to country offices presently under double accreditation.

6. The situation of transfers as of August 2001 is recapitulated in Annex 1.

Transfers of Operational Responsibilities: Handing-over and training

Country offices

7. The Change Management Team undertook a review of all FAOR offices to assess their ability to assume operating responsibility and to determine the most appropriate timing for transferring operating responsibility to that office. Based on this review, they were grouped into three categories:

8. The Change Management Team, in consultation with concerned divisions and the Regional Offices, designed a Training Course to provide the necessary background for the new functions being given to the FAORs and their staff. Guidelines for the Operation of Projects at the Country Level were prepared in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic for use as a basic training tool in the courses.

9. In total, 14 courses were held for Groups A and B countries in English, French and Spanish, with additional provisions made for Arabic; the training schedule is shown Table 1. All courses were followed by a one-week follow-up visit of the relevant CPO to each country to consolidate the knowledge gained and assist the FAOR and staff in applying it to the particular situation of that office. In addition, prior to the formal transfer of operational responsibilities, all FAO representations were trained in the new accounting systems.

Table 1 - CMT Training Schedule


Group A

4 - 8 September 2000 RLC, Santiago Spanish
10 - 14 September 2000 RNE, Cairo English
18 - 22 September 2000 RAP, Bangkok English
25 - 29 September 2000 RAF, Accra English

Group B

4 - 8 February 2001 RNE, Cairo English; additional Arabic sessions as required
19 - 23 February 2001 RAF, Accra English
26 February - 2 March 2001 RAF, Accra French
8 - 14 March 2001 RAF, Accra French
19 - 23 March 2001 RAP, Bangkok English
26 - 30 March 2001 RAP, Bangkok English
16 - 20 April 2001 RLC, Santiago English
23 - 27 April 2001 RLC, Santiago Spanish
7 - 11 May 2001 RAF, Accra English
14 -18 May 2001 RAF, Accra French

10. Group A: 44 FAORs and NPOs from 20 countries1 (see Annex 1), were trained in one round of four courses, one in each Regional Office, that were held between September and October 2000. Prior to the courses, 22 offices were equipped with an additional PC for accounts processing, and two offices were equipped with a LAN. A total of 73 national projects were transferred to this group of countries.

11. The initial performance assessment concerning Group A countries has been on the whole positive in terms of efficiency and delivery rates, although the backstopping requirements by ROBs were greater than originally foreseen.

12. Group B: Ten courses were held between February and May 2001 for 106 FAORs and NPOs (or other programme staff) of 54 countries, and operational responsibility for a total of 182 projects was transferred to the respective FAOR Offices. The training courses were phased in over a period of several months in order to allow for the gradual upgrading of IT infrastructure and FAS training. The CMT courses began in February, immediately after the basic FAS training was completed.

13. There are additional 23 projects to be transferred, pending either the approval of budget revisions/projects extensions or, in the cases of Bangladesh, Rwanda and Namibia, the appointment/arrival of a new FAO Representative.

14. Group C: Training arrangements for the countries in this group will be made on an ad hoc basis, most likely as a combination between training at the relevant Regional Office and onsite training provided at the Representation, as required and feasible. At present, there are a total of 11 projects in those four countries that would be eligible for transfer, bearing in mind that emergency activities such as the Oil-for-Food programme in Iraq will continue to be operated by TCOR.

15. Projects in Europe: 23 country projects (19 TCP, 2 GCP, 1 UNDP, and 1 SPFP) in 16 European countries with no FAO Representative were transferred in February 2001 from their original operating unit (TCO) to the Regional Office for Europe (REU). In addition, four projects in Turkey were transferred to REU pending the appointment of a new FAO Representative.

16. Regional Projects: The transfer of regional projects from the Regional Operations Branches to Regional Technical Groups has been phased in over the past ten months, with 16 transferred thus far and the transfer of at least one additional project pending. In order to prepare for their new responsibilities, the Regional Technical Officers participated in one of the CMT Training Courses organized in their region prior to the transfer.

17. Interregional and Global Projects transferred to Technical Divisions: Ten projects have been transferred from TCO to technical divisions at Headquarters, in the AG, ES, FI, and FO Departments as well as one to TCA.

Summary of All Project Transfers

18. Operational responsibilities have been transferred to FAOR offices in:

19. In total 308 projects which satisfied the criteria established by the CMT concerning budget levels and NTE dates, had been transferred by July 2001 to new budget holders. Transfers of another 24 projects belonging to Group B and 11 to Group C countries are pending. National projects not meeting these criteria were not included in this exercise mainly as these projects were essentially concluded and transfer at this stage would have had a delaying effect on the remaining implementation.

20. Once an FAO Representation has been designated as an operating unit, all subsequent designations of operating responsibility for new national projects are entrusted to that FAOR. Thus, the number of projects actually operated by the FAORs in Groups A and B has gradually increased.

21. As a result of these transfers, about 60% or US$82m of the field programme delivery will most likely be handled by the FAORs in 2001.

Impact of New Arrangements on Staffing in Regional Offices

22. The Charts below reflect the gradual reduction of Operations Professional and GS posts in Regional Offices since January 2000. A total of 23 Professional and 22 GS posts were abolished during this period. However, as some posts were vacant, the total of Professional and GS staff to be redeployed amounted to 34 (17 for each category).

Undisplayed Graphic

23. Professional staff were placed in technical positions for which they were qualified in the Regional Office where they were serving in or transferred to vacant posts in HQ, FAORs or Sub-Regional Offices.

24. GS staff were redeployed locally within the Regional Offices taking advantage of normal staff turnover and separations on agreed terms (voluntary separations).

25. Redeployment of Professional and GS staff has thus been successfully completed, without recourse to any administrative measures and with minimum disruption of staff. Each case was treated individually, all staff were consulted and, to the extent possible, their preferences for redeployment choices were respected.

26. The reductions are summarized in the following table:

Table - Staffing 2000-2001 (ROBs)


PWB 2000-01 Establishment


PWB 2002-03 Establishment

  Prof GS Total Prof GS Total Prof GS Total
RAF 13 14 27 (8) (8) (16) 5 6 11
RAP 12 12 24 (8) (7) (15) 4 5 9
RLC 7 8 15 (4) (4) (8) 3 4 7
RNE 6 7 13 (3) (3) (6) 3 4 7
Total 38 41 79 (23) (22) (45) 15 19 34

Summary of Savings

27. Changes in the Regional Operations Branches establishment were implemented progressively during 2000-01 and will produce savings of approximately US$ 3.2 million in the current biennium (equivalent of US$6.8 million in a full biennium). The process of identifying further areas for savings and efficiencies will continue in the next biennium. Further savings are hoped for in 2002-03 but have not yet been specifically identified.

28. In the Technical Coooperation Department, only changes related to the transfer of projects from TCO fall within the CMT mandate. Following the transfer of European and inter-regional projects from TCO to technical officers at Headquarters, REU and FAOR-Turkey, five professional posts (1 in TCD and 4 in TCO) and ten general service posts (4 in TCD and 6 in TCO) were abolished in 2001, generating biennialized savings of about US$ 2.2 million. Headquarters technical departments and REU have, however, been provided with additional resources to undertake these new responsibilities.

29. Considerable savings, primarily in staff costs, have therefore been achieved from the implementation of new arrangements for the Field Programme, specifically the further decentralization of responsibility for operations to FAOR country offices and the restructuring of the TC Department. However, these changes coincided with a significant decline in the level of non-emergency field programme delivery and a change in the nature of extra-budgetary projects operated by the Organization. It is therefore difficult to attribute a specific proportion of the above cost reductions to "efficiency savings".

Evolution of functions of the ROBs

30. The first decentralization of operations from Headquarters to the field in 1996 entailed a decrease in the operational work of TCO as well as revised terms of reference. This process has culminated in the transfer of all its non-emergency operational functions to other units and the assumption of a central role for field programme monitoring, policy formulation, coordination and procedures.

31. A similar transfer of old responsibilities and assumption of new ones is now taking place in the ROBs. Their role in direct project execution (i.e. for countries without FAORs and regional projects) can be expected to further diminish with the expanded coverage of country offices through the outposting of senior technical staff and the continuing decline of resources for regional projects.

32. The new functions of the ROBs, in addition to the operation of projects are basically of four types, all crucial to field programme management under the present arrangements.

33. The abolition of 45 posts in the ROBs in a relatively short period of time, has had a significant impact on their ability to carry out these tasks in addition to the operation of projects in non-FAOR countries and regional activities. This situation is being closely monitored, with a view to ensure continuing improvement in their functioning.

Information Technology (IT) and Field Accounting Systems (FAS)

34. In summary, a total of 75 FAO Representation Offices were provided with dedicated computers equipped with modems for DataWarehouse (DWH) operations. In addition, Local Area Networks (LANs) were deployed in 26 Offices to further facilitate general information sharing and DataWarehouse access.

35. It should be recognized that communications facilities in certain countries (e.g. slowness, unreliability, etc.) remain a problem. Fifty-eight offices have reported that they have successfully accessed the DataWarehouse system, albeit with variable levels of performance and reliability due to the in-country telecommunication conditions. Nevertheless, 53 of these 58 countries report DataWarehouse access to be reliable. The new Wide Area Network development is expected to gradually resolve these problems.

36. In terms of FAS capabilities, there are a few areas requiring additional refinements, as follows:

37. This has also to be seen in the context of ongoing efforts to overcome problems experienced in providing accurate project financial statements to donors.

Procedures and Management Information Systems

38. The need for updated procedures, guidelines and the FAO Operations Manual has been recognized from the outset of the CMT process and restructuring of the TC Department. However, it had similarly been recognized that it would be more prudent to wait until the basic structures were more clearly defined before proceeding. As explained in document JM 01.2/3, a Standing Working Group on Administrative and Operational Procedures has been established within the framework of the Field Programme Committee for this purpose. Most of the procedures relevant for project development and operations need to be revised or updated to take account of the successive organizational changes as well as the technology changes (IT, Oracle/DWH) introduced during the past years.

39. For the purposes of the CMT process provisional Guidelines for the Operation of Projects at the Country Level were developed to be used primarily for the training courses, but also as a resource pending the updating of the full Operations Manual that will be made available to users through the web-based Field Programme Management Information Systems (FPMIS). TCOM is now proceeding with this task and reviewing various options for the structure of this manual based on the experience of other UN agencies in this matter.

40. Parallel to the CMT process, TCOM has been developing the FPMIS as one of the key elements of the management structure for a decentralized field programme. It is conceived to provide managers in all locations with easy access to field programme and project performance information through a web-based application. The first phase of the FPMIS is completed and basic project data including budget and delivery information are now available for all projects approved since 1992. The second phase has already been initiated and will cover in particular the development of a Pipeline Module that will permit more reliable forecasting of delivery and management of the project pipeline (i.e. project proposals awaiting approval).

Assessment of New Arrangements to Date

41. The outlook is positive overall. The FAO Representatives participating in the CMT Training Courses welcomed the greater responsibility and control over the programmes in their countries of assignment. However, concern was expressed regarding several issues, in particular: staffing and equipment of their offices are seen as inappropriate to meet new and additional workload; reliability of communications facilities in certain countries; and access to financial reporting systems and training both at clerical and professional levels.

42. The institution of an improved system of support cost reimbursement following the principle "money follows work" will significantly alleviate present concerns of the new budget holders as it would provide the funds to contract temporary staff to assist in project operations or the purchase of other non-staff items. This is an issue that concerns both the country offices and the technical officers at Headquarters and in the Regional Technical Groups. The new system is expected to be ready for implementation this year.

43. Follow-up missions by the Country Project Officers have concluded that the IT infrastructure is generally adequate although in some instances slow communications are a constraint. Most of them noted the need for additional training in financial administration and budget management for the concerned Representation staff. The visits proved useful also in providing advice to the offices on the best means of organizing and distributing the new responsibilities among the existing staff.


44. It would be unrealistic to expect that the objectives of a complex reorganization could be fully achieved at the moment when the new arrangements are formally in place even if they seem to be working well. To quote a sister organization involved in a similar undertaking (the UNDP 2001 process) "Experience dictates that successful organizational change comes about through a total and continuous commitment with adequate resources to sustain the effort. The challenge for the organization is how to stay ahead in an ever-changing external environment"2.

45. Therefore, while the initial process of restructuring has been successfully implemented, there will be a continuing need to review the impact of the reorganization and to adjust and correct what has been done on the basis of lessons learned.

Annex 1 - Schedule of Transfers to Country Offices


Africa - RAF Asia - RAP Europe - REU Latin America
and Caribbean - RLC
Near East - RNE
Ghana China Turkey3 Barbados4 Egypt
Eritrea India   Chile Lebanon
Tanzania Philippines   Cuba  
South Africa Thailand   El Salvador  
Zimbabwe Vietnam   Mexico  


Ethiopia Cambodia   Haiti Mauritania
Gambia Indonesia   Jamaica Morocco
Kenya Laos   Trinidad/Tobago Sudan
Nigeria5 Myanmar   Bolivia Syria
Uganda Samoa   Brazil Tunisia6
Zambia Bangladesh7   Colombia Yemen
Côte d'Ivoire Nepal   Costa Rica  
Benin Pakistan   Dominican Rep.  
Guinea-Bissau Sri Lanka   Ecuador  
Cameroon     Honduras  
Madagascar     Uruguay  
Togo     Venezuela  
Burkina Faso        
Cape Verde        
Central African Republic        
Congo, Dem.Rep.        
Congo, Rep. of9        


Liberia       Iran
Sierra Leone       Iraq


1 Although the original number included 22 countries, transfers to Nigeria and Tunisia were postponed to Group B due to the lack of appropriate infrastructure and communications facilities. However, the respective FAORs and NPOs participated in the Group A training course.

2 "Comprehensive Assessment of the UNDP 2001 Change Process" (DP/2000/3)

3 Projects transferred to REU pending the appointment of a new FAO Representative.

4 Included the transfer of national projects in the SLAC sub-region: Antigua, Grenada and St. Lucia.

5 Originally Group A.

6 Originally Group A.

7 Transfers have been postponed to 1 October 2001 due to the appointment of a new FAO Representative.

8 Transfer pending appointment of a new FAOR.

9 Transfer pending confirmation of upgrading of IT infrastructure (hardware and connectivity).

10 Transfer pending appointment of a new FAOR.

11 Transfers will be made on an individual basis, pending regularization of the situation in each of the countries.