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De Ole Dawg – Part 4: 2018 -Montserrat’s project governance challenge

De Ole Dawg – Part 4: 2018 -Montserrat’s project governance challenge

Why has DfID pointed to “gaps in GoM’s project management capacity”?

BRADES, Montserrat, Mar 1, 2018 – When DfID reviewed[1] the Montserrat Hospital and Health Care Improvement Project the first time, in January 2014 it indicated that it was nine months behind and held a “medium” risk rating. Where, eight months of that delay were due to how long it took for its DfID-prepared business case to be approved.  They also spoke of several failed tenders for equipment and rated goals to date as partially achieved.  In the same review, DfID was already challenging the construction concept: “A property appraisal, conducted in September 2011, found that many of the facilities are not fit for purpose and space standards are generally inadequate[2].”   By the second review in November 2014,  risk was rated as “high,”  the project was seen as “poorly performing . . . failing DFID’s value for money test” and there was an understandable shift in construction concept from upgrading on the present site to going to a site next door.  (This would have then opened the door to requiring an evaluation of alternative sites thus the eventual choice of Hill Top after a study of site-options.) 

It is no surprise, then, to see that it is in the November 2014 evaluation report that DfID spoke of “gaps in GoM’s project management capacity.”

But it is also quite clear that such a remark was doubtless informed by concerns over the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC) and  the pattern of delays with the building projects for Agriculture, for Customs & Revenue and for Radio Montserrat (ZJB). DfID would also have been aware of significant problems with the road improvement project.

Even more tellingly, by January 2014, questions were already being asked about how health care in Montserrat was to be financed going forward (which eventually led to the now infamous Mott-MacDonald study). 

The termination of the project was predictable. The task of doing a fresh business case for a new hospital project was put on the table. (Which, of course, would re-open all the underlying issues and points of debate.)

Now, too, many people in Montserrat are unaware that by 2012 DfID said that MDC “ha[d] not performed to date as expected,” speaking of “this failure.” In the business case to improve MDC’s performance, DfID requested over EC$ 5 millions and proposed:

“. . . to reconstruct MDC with improved governance arrangements, staffing, technical assistance and resources. It will have a direct project management function as well as a facilitation role. It is a semi-autonomous agency, reporting to a Board and in turn to the GoM. It will employ strong commercial skills and technical support   within   a   framework   of   strong   governance   and   accountability.   It   is   the   key   part   of   the institutional framework for economic development and without it the island lacks the leadership and project management capacity required to put the foundations in place for strategic and catalytic public investments.”

However, by 2014, we saw whistleblowers, audits, investigations and questions over procurement as well as management of money. In 2015, there was a scandal in the UK tabloid press.  A DfID-sponsored 2016 Business Environment Reform Facility consultancy study[3] then summed up: “the  MDC  was  terminated following  poor performance  and concerns over management of money, as evidenced by the findings and recommendations of a Task Force review of the MDC in March 2015.”

It is therefore fair comment to conclude that Montserrat has a significant, longstanding challenge with project governance (and with linked capacity and credibility).

The Programme Management Office (PMO) that was introduced last year was clearly an effort to address this challenge. It sought to do so in key part through consultancies and the introduction of PRINCE2 and other Axelos project, programme and portfolio management frameworks, training and certification.  However, our governance problem then exploded into crisis, through the firing of the first Head of the PMO by frog-marching him out of Government Headquarters. And that, on a “no cause clause” dismissal.  Since then, the PMO has obviously stalled, to the detriment of ready small and major projects.

How can we restore credibility, build capacity and reform project governance?

(For sure, that will be necessary to help us move forward with the key, “catalytic” infrastructure and related projects that will lay a foundation for self-sustaining growth.)

A good place to start is obviously the PMO and the Axelos system for project, programme and portfolio management.  A new head is needed and the dropped strands of work with Axelos and International Project Management bodies have to be picked up. Since the Axelos framework is designed to be tailored to circumstances, it needs to be explicitly integrated with EU-style Programme-based Project Cycle Management.

We will obviously need to develop a robust system for expediting – as opposed to delaying and obstructing – work on the key priority projects.

Procurement and financial management reforms need to be tailored to fit with the needed expediting also.

The question is, are we willing to expedite these changes? If we don’t, Montserrat will continue to pay a stiff price. END

[1]           See DfID’s Dev’t Tracker: https://devtracker.dfid.gov.uk/projects/GB-1-114508/documents

[2]               Glendon Hospital Montserrat Property Appraisal, Planning for Health Ltd, September 2011

[3]           See: http://www.businessenvironmentreform.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BERF-Montserrat-BE-Capacity-Building_FINAL_31Jan2017.pdf

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Why has DfID pointed to “gaps in GoM’s project management capacity”?

BRADES, Montserrat, Mar 1, 2018 – When DfID reviewed[1] the Montserrat Hospital and Health Care Improvement Project the first time, in January 2014 it indicated that it was nine months behind and held a “medium” risk rating. Where, eight months of that delay were due to how long it took for its DfID-prepared business case to be approved.  They also spoke of several failed tenders for equipment and rated goals to date as partially achieved.  In the same review, DfID was already challenging the construction concept: “A property appraisal, conducted in September 2011, found that many of the facilities are not fit for purpose and space standards are generally inadequate[2].”   By the second review in November 2014,  risk was rated as “high,”  the project was seen as “poorly performing . . . failing DFID’s value for money test” and there was an understandable shift in construction concept from upgrading on the present site to going to a site next door.  (This would have then opened the door to requiring an evaluation of alternative sites thus the eventual choice of Hill Top after a study of site-options.) 

It is no surprise, then, to see that it is in the November 2014 evaluation report that DfID spoke of “gaps in GoM’s project management capacity.”

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But it is also quite clear that such a remark was doubtless informed by concerns over the Montserrat Development Corporation (MDC) and  the pattern of delays with the building projects for Agriculture, for Customs & Revenue and for Radio Montserrat (ZJB). DfID would also have been aware of significant problems with the road improvement project.

Even more tellingly, by January 2014, questions were already being asked about how health care in Montserrat was to be financed going forward (which eventually led to the now infamous Mott-MacDonald study). 

The termination of the project was predictable. The task of doing a fresh business case for a new hospital project was put on the table. (Which, of course, would re-open all the underlying issues and points of debate.)

Now, too, many people in Montserrat are unaware that by 2012 DfID said that MDC “ha[d] not performed to date as expected,” speaking of “this failure.” In the business case to improve MDC’s performance, DfID requested over EC$ 5 millions and proposed:

“. . . to reconstruct MDC with improved governance arrangements, staffing, technical assistance and resources. It will have a direct project management function as well as a facilitation role. It is a semi-autonomous agency, reporting to a Board and in turn to the GoM. It will employ strong commercial skills and technical support   within   a   framework   of   strong   governance   and   accountability.   It   is   the   key   part   of   the institutional framework for economic development and without it the island lacks the leadership and project management capacity required to put the foundations in place for strategic and catalytic public investments.”

However, by 2014, we saw whistleblowers, audits, investigations and questions over procurement as well as management of money. In 2015, there was a scandal in the UK tabloid press.  A DfID-sponsored 2016 Business Environment Reform Facility consultancy study[3] then summed up: “the  MDC  was  terminated following  poor performance  and concerns over management of money, as evidenced by the findings and recommendations of a Task Force review of the MDC in March 2015.”

It is therefore fair comment to conclude that Montserrat has a significant, longstanding challenge with project governance (and with linked capacity and credibility).

The Programme Management Office (PMO) that was introduced last year was clearly an effort to address this challenge. It sought to do so in key part through consultancies and the introduction of PRINCE2 and other Axelos project, programme and portfolio management frameworks, training and certification.  However, our governance problem then exploded into crisis, through the firing of the first Head of the PMO by frog-marching him out of Government Headquarters. And that, on a “no cause clause” dismissal.  Since then, the PMO has obviously stalled, to the detriment of ready small and major projects.

How can we restore credibility, build capacity and reform project governance?

(For sure, that will be necessary to help us move forward with the key, “catalytic” infrastructure and related projects that will lay a foundation for self-sustaining growth.)

A good place to start is obviously the PMO and the Axelos system for project, programme and portfolio management.  A new head is needed and the dropped strands of work with Axelos and International Project Management bodies have to be picked up. Since the Axelos framework is designed to be tailored to circumstances, it needs to be explicitly integrated with EU-style Programme-based Project Cycle Management.

We will obviously need to develop a robust system for expediting – as opposed to delaying and obstructing – work on the key priority projects.

Procurement and financial management reforms need to be tailored to fit with the needed expediting also.

The question is, are we willing to expedite these changes? If we don’t, Montserrat will continue to pay a stiff price. END

[1]           See DfID’s Dev’t Tracker: https://devtracker.dfid.gov.uk/projects/GB-1-114508/documents

[2]               Glendon Hospital Montserrat Property Appraisal, Planning for Health Ltd, September 2011

[3]           See: http://www.businessenvironmentreform.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BERF-Montserrat-BE-Capacity-Building_FINAL_31Jan2017.pdf