The processes and controls for the implementation of of the 2012-2016 strategy are currently ineffective, the Office of the Inspector General says, although actions are being taken to improve them. This information is contained in a report on an audit conducted by the OIG. The report was released on 8 March.
In the audit, the OIG sought to answer three questions:
- Does The Global Fund have effective processes to plan and develop its 2017-2022 Strategy?
- Are the Global Fund processes to implement the 2012-2016 strategy effective?
- Are the Global Fund processes to monitor the progress and results of its 2012-2016 Strategy effective?
The balance of this article deals with the processes for implementing the 2012-2016 Strategy. See separate articles on the monitoring of the 2012-2016 Strategy (here), and the planning of the 2017-2022 Strategy (here).
Recent programmatic reviews suggest that The Global Fund is making good progress on key strategic priorities, the OIG said, citing the rollout of the new funding model as a prime example. Nevertheless, the audit found, ownership and accountability for strategy implementation are “generally ambiguous” and strategic priorities are not always supported by strong implementation plans at the operational level. There are multiple ad-hoc initiatives, the OIG found, that are not sufficiently linked to an overall strategy.
The OIG said that escalation mechanisms and accountability structures are at best implicit, and often undefined. For example, it said, the Management Executive Committee, the highest governance body within the Secretariat, does not have explicit terms of reference and, as a result, it is often unclear what level of oversight is required of it. The audit found that there is no formal tracking of decisions taken and action items discussed at the MEC, and that this has led to an inconsistent approach to how issues are escalated within the Fund.
As a result, the OIG said, significant issues of strategic importance to the organization may sometimes not be escalated at the right level on a timely basis. Examples include the challenges and delays in implementation of the Global Fund’s risk and assurance framework, the improvement of the Global Fund’s grant-making platform and the development of a differentiated approach to grant implementation, all important enablers of the current strategy implementation.
The OIG noted that since January 2016, the MEC has started tracking decisions and action items discussed at meetings.
The OIG said that The Global Fund has implemented its 2012-2016 strategy in an unplanned and inconsistent manner without adequate short-term implementation plans. Although the Secretariat made multiple efforts to develop implementation plans with annual objectives (in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015), none of these plans were adequate or successfully rolled out.
The absence of time-bound strategy implementation plans has led to the creation of multiple ad-hoc initiatives, the OIG said. This has negatively impacted the overall effectiveness of the organization – the total number of initiatives is uncertain; they tend to accumulate over time; and they often remain incomplete. A significant proportion of the initiatives are trailing behind schedule despite being labelled as corporate priorities, the OIG found. A number of them – including including Risk and Assurance; the Data and Analytics Platform; the Supply Chain Management Strategy; Country Data Systems; Enhancing Value for Money; and Financial Sustainability – were launched in 2013 and 2014 without clear time-bound deliverables.
The OIG found that single-department or single-division initiatives were generally well governed, and that problems tended to arise in the organization-wide and transformational initiatives – the one that required many departments to work together. The most common problems were as follows:
- Vision. There was a lack of clear understanding of what the initiative or project was trying to achieve.
- Accountability. Many of the initiatives lacked adequate executive sponsorship to provide clear project direction and set measurable targets. Many of the issues impacting key deliverables were left for operational-level staff to figure out. They were not appropriately escalated and corrective measures were not put in place.
- Project management: There was an absence of adequate project management actions, including a lack of detailed project plans setting out clear deliverables and timelines; clear communication to stakeholders; and regular and accurate reporting.
The OIG said that the Secretariat acknowledges the problems and is taking steps to address them. For example, it has created a project management office to ensure that the various initiatives are prioritized to support achievement of the Fund’s strategy; have clear and time-bound deliverables; and are managed appropriately to ensure successful delivery. The OIG said that there have been improvements in terms of both the frequency and quality of discussions on strategy implementation at the Board and committee level, but that there is nevertheless a need for a more structured follow-up on key implementation issues identified.
In response to the audit findings, the Secretariat has agreed that:
- short-term implementation plans will be developed to support the 2017-2022 strategy, which will include consideration of core business activities and change initiatives;
- short-term implementation plans will be cascaded throughout the Secretariat in individuals’ annual performance appraisals, using objectives which are specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic, and have clear targets for evaluating performance and holding people accountable for the delivery of the organization’s strategy; and
- oversight of project and initiatives will be put in place to ensure strategically important objectives are met as planned.