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Napodano

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Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« on: March 07, 2011, 08:30:53 GMT »
For our second conversation on the Board, it is a big pleasure for me personally to have Gord Evans, a colleague and a friend whom I met in Albania. He is a free-lance with extensive experience in public administration reform, in particular on strategy planning.

His experience is especially important for us PFM Boarders, when discussing the fundamental links to policy of medium term expenditure frameworks (MTEF's). This aspect of the budget reform is often referred to as Integrated Planning System.

If you are a registered member of the Board, you have the possibility to pose a question to Gord by making a post (REPLY button) to this topic. The time allotted for questions is  Monday 7th to Wednesday 16th March 2011. After this period the interview will be closed and remain in the archive for future reference.


Gord, welcome on the Board. Let me kick off the conversation by asking

Question 1 how would you define "integrated planning”, when did it take hold as a concept, and what is its relevance as a development strategy?

Question 2 can you contextualize the integrated planning system within a couple of countries where you have provided your advisory services?
« Last Edit: March 07, 2011, 09:51:42 GMT by Napodano »

Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2011, 09:21:50 GMT »
Dear Gord,

Question 3: I would be very interested in getting your views on possible / reliable links between integrated planning system and MTEF (as budget tool). Mainly regarding the timeframe on outter years (from 3 to 5?)

Guillaume Barraut
« Last Edit: March 07, 2011, 09:27:41 GMT by Napodano »

Gord Evans

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2011, 17:06:22 GMT »
Greetings PFM nation.  First to Mauro's lead questions. 

Answer to question 1 - Broadly, the concept of integrated planning emerged in the late 1960s with the introduction of PPBS in the United States.  Although PPBS was ultimately found to be overly complex, it did set in motion an acceptance that political and/or policy (same word in most languages) decisions needed to be directly linked to fiscal decisions and vice versa.  Basically, integrated planning is the attempt by governments to do just that.  Of course, what sounds eminently logical and practical in theory has proven enormously complex to implement in practice.  Over the succeeding decades, numerous variants of PPBS have tried to bridge this gap, some with more success than others.  A good summation of the dilemma can be found in Allen Schick's 2004 presentation title: "Why efforts to integrate planning and budgeting usually fail...and why it is important that they succeed."

The most common problem is that, too often, the institutional worlds of policy/politics (i.e., the government led by a president or prime minister) and finances (led by the Minister of Finance) operate more like parallel universes than two parts of a whole.  For instance, an MTEF can very adroitly set out the sector priorities and fiscal envelopes within an aggregate expenditure envelope, receive favourable comments from the IMF and World Bank, and even pass through the Government with barely a word changed.  However, this does not mean that the MTEF will actually be implemented.  For one thing, it is typically a very long document that few Prime Ministers or Ministers will have read; second, the way in which the weekly business of government/cabinet meetings is structured (most of their time is spent reviewing individual draft laws or policy proposals) does not seem to connect to the MTEF in any tangible way.  We can explore this disconnect further another time, but it is at the root of non-integrated planning.

Answer to question 2 - Integrated planning has increasingly been looked to as a development strategy in response to frustrations with unimplemented national development plans/strategies, unfunded mandates for numreous approved laws, and ever-increasing fiscal pressures from cabinet decisions that were not  properly vetted for fiscal impact. 

Two examples of countries that have implemented integrated planning include Lithuania, which implemented a strategic planning system in 2000 that was tied directly to budget planning and Albania, which implemented a similar approach in 2005.  Neither system is perfect, but those who work at the centre of government would agree that this approach did significantly improve the capacity of the government to plan and spend more realistically.  In Lithuania's case, a 2006 World Bank Report (Administrative Capacity in New Member States: The Limits of Innovation) observed that this reform had been a key reason why Lithuania was able to avoid the decline of administrative capacity that had occurred in other new member states.  So let's leave this here for now.  It would be interesting to hear from other countries how their governments link (or not) policy/political decision-making with macro/fiscal decision-making and whether any of this actually affects policy or program implementation.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 13:56:55 GMT by Napodano »

Gord Evans

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2011, 20:04:48 GMT »
Answer to Question 3

We have dealt a little with MTEFs already, but this question raises the interesting point about the link between policy/political decisions and the outer (3-5) years of the MTEF.  Most significant policy decisions do not have an immediate (i.e., within the current budget year) fiscal impact since they typically set out a medium to longer-term path for changes to a particular sector or sector program.  To implement these changes may involve a multi-year process requiring the approval of a law, then implementing regulations, then start up activities (e.g., hiring staff); and finally implementation.  Major changes, for example to health care, education or legal systems, can be very costly although the fully annualized cost may not be realized for several years following the approval of the policy.  In poorly integrated systems, the fiscal consequences are addressed through the budget process when they become relevant to an upcoming budget year.  Basically, the ministry points out in their budget submission that they need the money to implement what is now a legal obligation.  The Ministry of Finance then responds as expected (sorry there is very little or no money for that) and an unfunded mandate begins.  Compound this across multiple sectors and dozens of laws and a serious credibility problem for the government begins to exist (they cannot keep their promises or adhere to the law).     

In a more integrated system, the potential multi-year fiscal impact is assessed at the time a policy is approved by government and revisited again as it progresses through the legal approval and implementation stages.  In this way, the Ministry of Finance can continually adjust their medium-term fiscal plan to accommodate future cost pressures.  To ensure the government is onside, there will be a regular mechanism where these impacts are discussed at the political level.  To give one example (from Ontario Canada), the Minister of Finance would present a quarterly fiscal update to a small committee of senior ministers chaired by the Premier that indicated the individual and cumulative fiscal effect of actual government policy decisions, potential government policy decisions (i.e., public political commitments) and other cost pressures looking several years forward.  In this way, the government would then decide how best to manage it; i.e., changes in revenue policies; adjustments to implementation time frames; imposition of savings targets in low priority areas; etc.  Although these deliberations did not appear in a public document (i.e., Canada's equivalent of the MTEF), they did serve as a continuous unofficial MTEF that looked up to 5 years ahead and anticipated and managed potential shocks that would otherwise have appeared in the public document (published semi-annually).   If there was one factor that made this work, it was that the Premier and the Minsiter of Finance, along with senior ministers, were in the same room, working with the same information, and agreeing on a path that was sustainable in both financial and political terms.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2011, 20:46:32 GMT by Napodano »

John Short

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2011, 21:12:06 GMT »
Question 4

Gord,

Greetings from Pristina

In a non IPS system do you think Spending Reviews which cover the next three years as in the UK would somehow act as a half (or three-quarter) way house?  They should review individual sectoral policies, plans and programmes in the context of some resource constraint and get thrown into the overall horse-trading at the MoF level without necessarily benefiting from the whole of the IPS process.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2011, 22:19:59 GMT by Napodano »

Eugene McQuaid

Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2011, 07:28:00 GMT »
Gord,

Good morning from Qatar,

Ref Q1: Your comment on the institutional realities and disconnect i.e. parallel universes than two parts of a whole hits a cord. We experienced this issue in MoF, Bangladesh during  the mid-2000's. In attempt to improve the appetite for readership and in an effort to address the institutional disconnect we considered the concept of an MTEF 'light' (naturally using the MTBF as the starting point - salient features etc).

Unfortunately, the concept note never made the light of day and thus,

Question 5 -  I would be most interested to hear if this approach has been adopted or even discussed in your experience?...personal experience has a way of repeating itself so I am most grateful for any relevant insight.

Many thanks, Eugene
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 08:09:57 GMT by Napodano »

Glen Wright

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2011, 13:06:59 GMT »
Question 6: Are there some assessments of IPS on a country basis that you can identify.  Much has been written about MTEFs, but I don't know of anything on IPS.  Are there not enough examples other than the ones you have identified, Lithuania and Albania, and more emphasis needs to be given to implementing IPS prior to implementing or in parallel with implementing MTEF.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 13:11:48 GMT by Napodano »

Gord Evans

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2011, 16:17:57 GMT »
Answer to Question 4

Greetings John, and thanks for raising the issue of what to do in non-IPS systems (which are in no danger of extinction).  The spending review, whether one-time or cyclical, represents a powerful tool that can be used to link policy and financial planning.  Broadly, such reviews assess whether existing expenditures have produced the desired results in a cost-effective manner and, by extension, whether future planned expenditures will achieve future desired results.  Since such discussions invariably raise both policy and financial considerations together, they definitely have potential to bridge, at least partially, the policy-financial universes.
But, as you say, this is a half-way approach. 

Commonly, obstacles may arise which limit the effectiveness of these exercises.  The first regards the quality of information; i.e., does anyone really know what outputs are being produced with what specific expenditures?  The second regards the ongoing government decision-making process which, operating in relative isolation from the financial processes, may inadvertently supersede the spending reviews by foisting new demands on a sector as new policies/regulations/laws are approved without a fiscal impact assessment and without reference to the spending review.

On balance, though, spending reviews do serve to raise these linkages and may even serve to initiate a dialogue on removing the above obstacles.  Half an answer is clearly superior to none.

Answer to Question 5

The issue of “MTEF light” revisits the issue of incomprehensible financial documents that are only ever read by budget analysts or IFI officials.  Certainly, there is a compelling case to produce these.  In a sense, the various “Citizens’ Guides to the Budget” respond to this need.

However, this is different than the type of document that would be produced for a cabinet or cabinet committee meeting.  Many countries have strict rules about the way information is presented to decision makers (several countries’ procedures guides are public, but these do not cover how budget-related material, which has special confidentiality provisions, should be presented).  In particular, lengthy documents without clear, explicit decision points (such as most MTEF documents) would never be permitted.  So how is such information presented?

Unfortunately, these documents are usually confidential so there are not many public examples.  Drawing on my own experience though, a series of presentations (averaging 10 pages) would be prepared (often jointly by the Prime Minister’s/Cabinet Office and Ministry of Finance) for the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and senior Ministers which set out the macro/fiscal framework and a series of options on major new policies and the related new spending; spending cuts; and revenue options.  These would be debated and instructions issued to return with different options or more analysis of impacts (policy as well as fiscal impacts would always be included).  Over three or four meetings, and sometimes a Cabinet retreat, the fiscal framework would be finalized along a broad agreement on policy priorities, major cuts, revenue decisions, and shifts in expenditure.  This then served as the input to the eventual budget speech and document (i.e., MTEF equivalent).  The key to a successful process was to present these options concisely and in a way that was meaningful to the decision makers.

Answer to Question 6

Here it is important to distinguish between the term “integrated planning system” and the principles (linking policy and financial planning) that are the basis of IPS systems.  In Albania or the US Homeland Security department, “IPS” is a brand name that describes a particular planning system.  However, numerous countries (mostly but not exclusively developed countries) have IPS systems; they simply call them something else.

I am unaware of any formal assessment of Albania’s IPS, although SIGMA did produce some related analyses on Albania’s policy-making and public expenditure management systems (generally, the assessment was mixed, concluding that IPS had successfully brought together policy and financial decisions and generated political commitment, but that it remained a complex system and that overall policy management and monitoring systems were still weak). 

A partial assessment of Lithuania’s system was conducted through a World Bank Trust Fund; an article on this appeared in a Canadian Journal (I will forward to Mauro for posting).  Also, the previously cited World Bank publication (Administrative Capacity in New Member States: The Limits of Innovation) did assess the current state of Lithuania’s reforms alongside several other new member countries.

Other assessments can be found that do not explicitly relate to integrated planning but touch on these issues.  The Office of the Auditor General (supreme audit institution) may produce reports on financial management systems that address these issues.  Publications such as the OECD Journal of Budgeting do country studies that may deal with such issues.  Governments themselves may request evaluations of their Cabinet Offices (e.g. UK capability reviews).

But this question, and the paucity of relevant assessments, does indicate a major gap.  Although public expenditure management is thoroughly and systematically reviewed through instruments such as PEFA, there is no equivalent on the policy planning side.  PEFA does acknowledge the link, but does not in any way assess how the policy planning and decision-making systems intersect with financial planning systems.  A companion tool is definitely required if both houses are to be put in order.   
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 16:55:11 GMT by Napodano »

Frans

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2011, 16:31:36 GMT »
Gord
Greetings from Washington DC.

Question #7
Effective IPS obviously depends on the ability to prepare realistic estimates of the fiscal impact of individual policy decisions. In your experience, what are the main challenges faced by finance and sector ministries in preparing credible estimates and keeping them updated?

Question #8
Countries at different stages of development operate under budget frameworks ranging from quarterly (if not monthly) cash budgets, through credible annual budgets, medium term (3-5 year) budget frameworks and - in a limited number of cases - long term (20-60 years) fiscal projections. Most governments - even in poor countries - continuously take decisions that have implications over at least a 10-year perspective and as you righly point out the implications of a decision often does not show its full impact until several years after it has been taken, e.g. most infrastructure investments have a life exceeding 10 years from project completion. So even an MTEF has limited value from that perspective. Yet long term projections are rare in low and middle income countries and as a global initiative has only been promoted for debt sustainability. What do you see as the main challenges and pre-conditions for successfully moving stepwise up the ladder of gradually longer perspectives in the IPS?

Thanks for this interesting discussion
Frans
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 16:36:46 GMT by Napodano »

Henry Higgins

Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2011, 18:45:37 GMT »
Talofa Gord, from Apia, Samoa (where it is much warmer than Ramallah)

Your example from Ontario, with the Premier and the Minister of Finance being in the same room is telling. A similar process might be the ERC from Australia - the common factor being a policy/planning process that is imposed on or drives the budget process.  A ruling party/government policy agenda is the cornerstone of the budget process.  In most developing countries i have worked in, the PRS or other form of national development plan comes out of the planning ministry department (with at best a sign off by Cabinet), i.e. it is a bureaucratic process, and no matter how sincere and extensive is the consultation process with communities and stakeholders, it will struggle to gain traction with the officials in the other parallel universe of the finance ministry/department, who jealously guard their turf, and whose dealings with Cabinet do not involve the PRS or national development plan. 

Question 9: So would you agree that whilst this parallel universe problem of planning and budgeting processes not meeting is a major problem, it could be overcome if there was sufficiently high level political ownership of both processes from both the premier/prime minister and the finance minister?
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 18:52:53 GMT by Napodano »

Albani

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2011, 19:51:11 GMT »
Gord
Greetings from Prishtina
 
Having seen the functioning of IPS in numerous visits in Albania, and the need for Kosovo to establish such system for better performance in some vital processes ahead, and assuming that you are familiar with current situation in Kosovo, I would like to ask as in following:
 
Question #10
Briefly, what needs to be done in order to replicate the Albania IPS in Kosovo under current circumstances?

Thanks for the very interesting discussions
Alban

Napodano

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2011, 20:17:18 GMT »

If I can append a question to that of Albani

Question 10bis
Under what conditions is an integrated planning approach likely to work, or not?  Is there a specific sequence to introduce an integrated planning system?

Gord Evans

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2011, 21:40:47 GMT »
Answer to questions 7 and 8.

Frans; greetings from your weather-challenged neighbour.  As you infer, the practice of estimating fiscal costs of policy/legal decisions is less than stellar in many countries.  A few critical success factors that come to mind (perhaps other readers can suggest additional points) include:

1.   The Ministry of Finance dedicates resources to not only reviewing, but tracking each fiscal commitment and the cumulative effect on the fiscal plan; i.e., they maintain a “living” fiscal plan (with scenarios) that looks at least three years forward (and more for significant long-term investments).  In some countries, I have noticed that multi-year fiscal assessments of future costs are made and validated by the Ministry of Finance for items going to Cabinet, but then disappear into the ether until they crop up again a year or two later in an annual budget request; i.e., no one keeps track of them as they do not affect the immediate budget year.

2.   There is an actual policy process in place which requires not only that policy proposals be accompanied by multi-year fiscal impact assessments, but an also by an explanation of the costing assumptions.  If decision-making simply involves the production of legal texts and an appended explanatory note with a 3-year chart of presumed costs, there is very little chance of accurate fiscal estimates.

3.   The costing assumptions are revisited at several steps along the way towards implementation.  Typically, the initial costing (affecting an outer year of the fiscal plan) will be more of a guestimate than a costing.  However, the costing assumptions should be significantly refined by the time a policy submission is prepared and even more refined after the related implementing regulations have been developed.  MoF’s “living” fiscal plan should continuously incorporate the most current costing information for significant commitments.

4.   The challenge function is alive and well.  This requires that the Ministry of Finance and line ministry are able to challenge each others’ assumptions and arguments.  To do this requires information.   This may come from an accessible archive of prior costing efforts or of comparative expenditure information from other countries or jurisdictions.  In developing countries, information may be available through donors (e.g., the World Bank may have information on average cost of different types of public investments).   

The importance of longer-term costing has become quite topical at the moment in countries with aging populations – note the current debate in the US on future health care and social security programs and costs.  Since it isn’t feasible or necessary to ask all programs to do long-term forecasts, the key is to distinguish between different types of expenditures.  Two types in particular require long-term costing and planning: major public investments and demographically-affected expenditures (e.g., pensions, elements of health care and education).  If only planned two or three-years forward, the proverbial problem of over-committing will usually occur with major public investments as numerous projects are initiated with mushrooming downstream costs.  In one country I was in recently, it can take decades to complete highways (a few kilometres on each are completed each year) as so many have been started and no one is willing to mothball the majority.  For demographically-driven expenditures, the issue of long-term sustainability is essential to put on the table many years in advance.  In a sense then, the Ministry of Finance needs to stretch out its “living” fiscal plan for these types of expenditures and policy options will need to be developed that look forward far beyond the MTEF time frame.

Answer to question 9

I would certainly agree that having the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance working from the same page is a major step towards bridging the disconnect between policy and financial planning (in some systems, there will be variations involving coalition leaders).  When it works well, it means that the dynamic is avoided where the PM becomes an appeal court for line ministers to circumvent the fiscal plan.  It is much more difficult for line Ministers to argue at Cabinet against a decision that already has the combined support from the two crucial players.

You bring up the all-too-common issue of un-implementable national plans.  Even more than MTEFs, these documents can be truly confounding for Ministers.  Although they of course go through and are approved by the government, it is rarely clear what is being approved and even more rarely certain what anything will cost.  While the principle of PM-Minister of Finance buy-in still applies, it is equally important that such plans be understood as statements of policy intent (not explicit budget commitments) and that some form of at least rudimentary sector costing has been completed.  Otherwise, implementation will either blow the fiscal plan out of the water or (more likely) few of the commitments will ever be acted on and the government and planning process will both lose credibility. 

Answer to questions 10a b

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in either Kosovo or Albania, but as a principle, Kosovo should only adopt those elements of IPS (or any other system) that will work well in Kosovo’s context.  But let’s look at what contributes to a more integrated planning system.

1.   We’ve discussed this above, but it is essential that some forum exists where the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance (perhaps with other ministers) can determine policy priorities within a sound fiscal context at the outset of the budget process.  Without this political buy-in (and in many countries this is not possible), the reality is that a plan B will be required.  Here, the processes will remain separate, but they are required to produce both policy and fiscal information (earlier we talked of how an expenditure review can do this; similarly, an annual government work plan may identify items likely to have fiscal implications).
 
2.   Line ministries understand that the Prime Minister’s/Cabinet Office and Ministry of Finance talk to and involve each other as required.  In some countries, meetings of Ministry permanent secretaries are used to convey a united front (between Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Finance) and to exchange information.

3.   The procedures reinforce the linking of processes.  For example, in Albania an integrated planning calendar is produced.

4.   Ministries buy-in to the process.  If the Minister, permanent secretary and senior managers do not lead the planning process and view it as something imposed from the centre that simply requires a pro forma response, it will fail.

The issue of sequencing reforms is interesting.  I don’t think there is a right sequence and success will likely depend on a more tactical response; i.e., opportunities must be taken when they arise.  Both Lithuania and Latvia were highly rated in the 2006 World Bank study on administrative capacity.  However, they took very different reform paths; Latvia focused initially on implementing a solid policy process and only later developed a strategic planning system, whereas Lithuania began with strategic planning.  In sum, whatever works.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2011, 21:53:21 GMT by Napodano »

Napodano

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2011, 16:19:43 GMT »
Gord,

I have two more questions:

Question 11 - Policy Impact Assessment (PIA), Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA), legislation plan... how to avoid red tape in the process while keeping the focus of Cabinet on the key issues. Bagehot on this-week Economist says: '... Mr. Osborne's idea has become a slab of red tape accompanied by 108 clauses of box-ticking explanatory notes'.
Is it right to assume that all the assessment works are not pushed through to the Cabinet but just summarized in a consolidated option paper?

Question 12 - specifically on legislation drafting: which are the steps to be undertaken before the intended policy is transformed into a legislation draft with all its legal jargon?

Thanks from Rome
« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 16:25:15 GMT by Napodano »

Frans

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Re: Conversation with Gord Evans on integrated planning system
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2011, 19:00:25 GMT »
Gord,
Yeah, here in Washington DC we are looking forward to Spring and the Cherry Blossom Festival at the end of the month. Hope you enjoy skiing.

Thanks for your elaborations on my questions 7 and 8.

In your anser to question 6, you end by saying: 'Although public expenditure management is thoroughly and systematically reviewed through instruments such as PEFA, there is no equivalent on the policy planning side.  PEFA does acknowledge the link, but does not in any way assess how the policy planning and decision-making systems intersect with financial planning systems.'

I totally agree that the coverage of this subject in the PEFA Framework is fairly limited and there is a need for a detailed (drill-down) assessment tool if one wants to get to the details (as with most other subjects in PEFA - it is the very nature of a broad, high level tool). However, it may be worth providing a little more detail on how PEFA covers the subject, which I will try to do here, seen from the PEFA Secretariat's point of view.

The main elements are found in indicator PI-12 on multi-year perspective in fiscal planning, expenditure policy and budgeting, but with the indicator (PI-5) on the budget classification system being a supporting element. PI-12 is based on an assessment of whether there is combination of on the one hand multi-year fiscal forecasts at the aggregate and sector/program level (in dimension (i)) i.e. an approach similar to an MTBF and/or MTEF; and on the other hand a Strategic Planning process at the sector level which includes full costing of both capital and recurrent expenditure and is kept within the aggregate allocations in the MTBF/MTEF (in dimension (iii)). These elements correspond to two of the three comtemporary approaches mentioned towards the end of Allen Schick's presentation from 2004, which you attached to the first part of the fireplace conversation. However, the PEFA indicator does not say anything about the detailed sequence of steps in preparing and updating the two parts of the IPS or the roles of particular actors in the process. This is left as too country specific for a general high-level tool to address. PI-12 then adds two dimensions on specific areas where medium/long term projections are particularly important at a global level, namely debt service/sustainability (dimension (ii)) and recurrent cost implications of major investments as well as their selection on the basis of the strategic plans (in dimension (iv)) ref. your example about road construction in your answer to my question 8.

Question 13 My additional question is then, whether your perception of IPS in the PEFA Framework (as a practitioner in the field) is the same as mine (as the custodian of the PEFA Framework).
« Last Edit: March 09, 2011, 19:16:31 GMT by Napodano »

 

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