The Presidential Delivery Unit: Removing Obstacles to Service Delivery

December 03, 2017 02:41:55 PM Published by: PERL

Following victory at the 2015 general elections, the APC-led Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) committed to focus on implementing a special Social Investment Programme (SIP) aimed at restoring livelihoods, economic opportunities and sustenance for the poor. The National Social Intervention Office (NSIO) was set up to coordinate this policy priority of government.

To ensure that set targets are achieved effectively, efficiently and in timely manner, the government set up a Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU), with a mandate to track delivery, remove blockages to attainment of set service delivery targets, and report to the Presidency through routines and an action oriented dashboard. The unit was expected to be non-bureaucratic and to work with pace and urgency. 

What did PERL do?With support from DFID, PERL prioritized the provision of technical support to the unit to design and develop a structure, improve processes and enhance capabilities to perform its role effectively and efficiently. Further to assessments carried out by the World Bank, DFID-PERL and the National School of Governance International (NSGI), recommendations were made to rapidly operationalise the unit with a clear-focused mandate to drive the achievement of the goals of the Social Investment Programmes and to begin building mixed special adviser/civil servant teams to ensure sustainability and retain institutional memory.

PERL facilitated the mapping of requisite skills and knowledge requirements of the teams, then developed a competency framework and set of job descriptions. Strategic recruitment of a full complement of personnel was completed and the process of tracking, unblocking and reporting on the Social Investment Programme interventions commenced.  The unit held an Inaugural Launch and Management Retreat in July 2017 aimed at induction, mission development, team building and strategic planning.  The retreat recognized the need to build synergy and improve focus, and a regular routine of reflection and planning sessions have been institutionalized to aid continuous improvement.  What are the Results?After one year of consistent technical support, some tangible results are beginning to emerge. So far, the unit is developing into an effective agency of the Presidency, focusing, driving and supporting the delivery of social investments.  There are both process improvements and service delivery results. Process ImprovementsA more targeted and focused remit and structure for the PDU to initially focus on the pro-poor Social Investment Programme has been put in place. With PERL support, there is now a clear direction, management structure and processes for the unit, leading to improved performance, reporting and relevance.  After a year of thinking about the best way to organize such a unit, it now has a full complement of technical advisers and core civil servants with an operational and institutional structure that delivers on its mandate.  The new structure is also sufficiently flexible to adapt to new priorities or short-term assignments. Processes and routines which drive the operations of the unit have been developed and implemented and, from a viewpoint of continuous improvement, are constantly being reviewed, modified and improved. A significant result is also the improvement in the format of reporting progress and challenges to the President/Vice President. The Vice President was elated to have a two-pager that effectively communicated progress on the SIPs for the first time in two years since the PDU was set up.

PDU is already providing value to the NSIO and other key government establishments. Relationships have improved and complementarity of roles are clear between the unit and the NSIO. Terms of engagement have been agreed and signed. The NSIO has started to appreciate the value added by the unit in tracking progress and identifying bottlenecks in delivering the SIPs, such as steps required to approve Conditional Cash Transfers, payment processes for the Home-Grown School Feeding programme and delays in issuing Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs). The unit also developed a manual on monitoring and evaluation for the SIPs. The Presidential Delivery Unit is therefore thought to have contributed significantly to the progress being made by through social investments.

Process of transferring technical skills from consultants to core civil servants is strengthening. Additional requests for core civil servants are being made by the unit because of the performance of the initial batch. Like most other units in the Presidency, the unit has traditionally been largely populated by embedded special advisers/assistants and short-term subject matter experts. Following an institutional appraisal, a central recommendation was “To build synergies with the civil service and the Office of the Vice President through building mixed special adviser/civil servant project teams”. PERL has been facilitating a nuanced but sustained strategy of gradually integrating core civil servants into the PDU. This experience provides a template for further replication across other units and programmes in the Presidency and similar agencies of government.

PDU is successfully managing stakeholders to better focus on results. A significant win of the unit is the success of its efforts to encourage implementing teams to focus on results rather than on activities or processes. This is being evidenced by the change in the format of the internal meetings of the SIPs as these meetings now focus on results rather than on activities carried out. The unit has carried out stakeholder mapping and developed a stakeholder engagement plan, and enacted these by strengthening relations with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning (MBNP), the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPRS).  The unit has developed strong relationships with the SIP implementation clusters within the Presidency, who in most cases recognize and appreciate the support and value that the unit provides. The unit also facilitated the establishment of the Tripartite Collaborative Group for Monitoring & Evaluation (TCGME), a collaborative group of the PDU, the M&E Department of the MBNP and the NBS to support and integrate national/service-wide M&E Framework with that of the SIP.

Government is recognizing the relevance and value added by PDU. Government committed to setting aside dedicated funding for the unit in the 2018 federal budget. The allocation is expected to be in the region of N600 million, and would be drawn from the N500 billion set as for the SIPs. This is the first time the government is formally budgeting for the unit (although its existence is not yet backed up by formal legislation by the legislature).

PDU has also constantly innovated.  PDU has delivered well-received initiatives such as a comprehensive monthly media analysis of programmes which include both traditional as well as social media. The unit has supported tracking readiness assessments of states and are developing and supporting beneficiary feedback platforms.Service Delivery ResultsService Delivery ResultsPDU is contributing to improved access to finance, enhanced financial inclusion and empowerment for over 189,000 market women, artisans, youth and farmers.  The unit is delivering better value for money in relation to economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and equity.  The Government Enterprise and Empowerment (GEEP) programme is a particularly good example. GEEP is a social intervention programme designed to stimulate growth through credit. It targets market men and women, traders, artisans, youths and farmers by providing interest-free loans ranging from N10,000 to N100,000, with a one-time administrative fee of 5 per cent. GEEP is a direct intervention program that is scalable and delivers timely impact. The GEEP programme’s target for 2017 is a disbursement of 1.1 million loans across all 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory. The first two quarters of the year saw disbursements grow to only 81,000 loans or 7.3% of the 2017 target, due to a range of critical issues around biometric BVN processing, funding and government bureaucratic challenges.  A concerted effort was made within the PDU to ensure the programme ramped up considerable volume in the third quarter. The volume of loans disbursed in the third-quarter, now stands at 189,008 loan disbursements. This is over 130% percent increase from the second quarter total disbursements of 81,000 loans. So far, over NGN 7.3 billion has been disbursed by the GEEP programme (through the Bank of Industry, BoI). is facilitating improved access to cash stipends for the poorest families. The unit is fully involved in problem identification and solving interventions within the SIPs. A clear example of an intervention that led to quantifiable improved results is the evidence-based analysis and problem-solving intervention, which identified that the reason for the poor performance of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme was the poor performance of the formal banking system. The CCT Programme is designed to transfer the sum of N5,000 (Five Thousand Naira) to carefully targeted and identified Poor and Vulnerable Households. A total of 750,000 (seven hundred and fifty thousand) households are expected to have benefited from the intervention by the end of 2017. The goal is to increase the purchasing power of households and their standard of living.  The unit researched previous cash transfer programmes, identified best practices such as the use of money market operators and money agents and convinced the team to try a pilot.  From January 2017 to March 2017, only 6,500 beneficiaries had been paid across the country. After intervention by the PDU, performance improved significantly. By September 2017, 124,000 beneficiaries were being paid NGN 5,000 per month and by the end of October, over 250,000 beneficiaries were receiving NGN 5,000 per month. This amounts to a total of NGN 1.25 billion paid out to the poorest of the poor families across the country.More children are being fed in public Schools, as speed of payment to cooks improves. The unit's intervention to unblock challenges with the Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programme identified that there were delays and other problems with the payments to cooks.  The unit recommended a complete review of the Financial Process, then supported the team to implement changes in all six geo-political zones of the country in order to overcome bottlenecks around timeliness, disbursement and transparency.

Follow up actions are now taking place to provide a better payments-process to enhance service delivery. A payment tracking system was developed to identify where and the reasons for delays in making payments to cooks. It is expected that this tracking system would stimulate faster payment. During state visits, several instances of ‘non-existent’ cooks, non-compliance to programme menu, food theft and inflated pupil numbers were identified. This buttressed the need to verify the data generated for payment purposes and ensure effective monitoring and evaluation, and Education Secretaries and Desk Officers were trained in verification.  Due to the low literacy levels of most cooks, cases of diversion of funds from cooks because of the collusion between Banks and State officials were identified and defaulters penalised. Recommendations were made to adjust the on-boarding process for cooks to include training on financial literacy and the use of banking tools. As of August 2017, the Presidency is said to have paid NGN 6.2 billion to 14 States during the school year ending that month for the feeding of 2.83 million pupils out of the three million targeted for this year (94 per cent performance).  Some 19,881 schools are participating in the HGSF programme, and 34,869 cooks have been employed.  Whilst this identifies specific evidence of a particular result, the Learning, Evidence and Advocacy Partnership of PERL is publishing an overall case study of interests and motivations behind the operation of the HGSF programme centrally and in one state.