Review of the Implementation of the Action Plan for the Development Strategy of the Ministry of Interior of Serbia

01/12/2013 - 01/04/2014

Target country

Mandator

The Swedish National Police, financed by the Swedish International Development Programme Cooperation Agency (SIDA) has requested assistance from DCAF to undertake an ISSAT assessment of the current situation regarding the implementation of the Ministry of Interior in Serbia Development Strategy 2011-2016 and particularly the so called “Action Plan”, related to the Swedish Police Assistance Programme. 

The Swedish Police Assistance Programme is going to its end in December 2014. The purpose of this requested mid-term assessment is to study the progress of the implementation of the MoI Action Plan in relevant areas, and as well the current working-situation and the relevant process within the MoI. The study is intended to identify short comings and delay of the actions and activities foreseen and agreed in the Action plan, building on the internal evaluation currently being undertaken by the Bureau of Strategic Planning. The study should include recommendations for additional actions and assistance for reaching the goals and aims in the Action Plan within the framework of the programme.

The review should examine, as a minimum, the areas listed below. The overall areas and specific questions will be elaborated during the detailed development of the methodology and will take into account the information contained in the 2011 Baseline Study on Strategic Management Capacities in the Serbian MoI.  In particular, the question areas will be narrowed down to ensure that the assignment is manageable.

 

  • Relevance of the Action Plan to actual MoI priorities
  • Effectiveness of the implementation of relevant areas of the Action Plan
  • Efficiency of the MoI in implementing the Action Plan
  • Ownership of the Action Plan by the MoI
  • Communication and reporting on the Action Plan
  • Coordination of implementation of the Action Plan and support provided
  • Gender considerations

The study will include identification of specific obstacles to implementation, as well as highlighting successful approaches that may be transferred to other areas. The conclusions and recommendations provided by the review Team will be used as an advice to Sida/SNPB and the MoI in order to maximize the results of the Action Plan.

Mandating organisation / agency / department / ministry

Mandate outputs / products

The outputs from the whole review process are expected to include:

  • A draft report with clear recommendations upon completion of the debriefing with Sida/SNPB and the MoI.

Outcome objectives of mandate

The outcomes from the whole review process are expected to include:

  • Sida/SNPB better able to prioritise project resources to support the MoI in the next phase of the project through the identification of clear options for engagement MoI Bureau of Strategic Planning capacity to undertake reviews increased through being part of the process to carry out this review

Start date

01/12/2013

End date

01/04/2014

Summary

Buy-in from political leadership:It took some time for the report to be given attention (due to floods and elections, as mentioned) but the new leadership at the MoI is showing interest for its findings.. Screening for Chapter 24 was completed, Serbia submitted the corresponding Action Plan to Brussels, in Q2 2014, in which the MoI was strongly involved. In this context, ISSAT evaluation provided an opportunity for the MoI to test its readiness to be ‘observed from outside’ (as one participant in the AAR put it) and to be aware of methods and tools that can improve performance of the MoI in areas perceived has having an impact on the performance of the country in the Accession process.HowISSAT works, in this regard, can be as important aswhatISSAT recommends the MoI to do.One example of methods ‘considered to be good for the whole system and not only for the MoI’ is the careful triangulation of information as a basis for consistent strategic analysis. Also, the new cabinet seems to have understood better the importance of having budgeting along strategic planning, in order to allocate resources to implement according to set priorities. The new Action Plan for the MoI Development Strategy, recently drafted, includes for the first time budgeting for the activities outlined. The new minister of Interior specifically pointed out the need to improve the quality of reporting and voiced his intention to give different dynamics to units like the Analytics Directorate, which correspond to gaps highlighted in the evaluation. A second, broader circulation of the report in the MoI (outside the handful of senior managers that read it when it was submitted) is expected somewhere in Q4 2014. Future will tell, though, if recommendations will be upheld by the Cabinet in terms of institutionalising processes and responding to strategic goals instead of immediate political priorities.

Specific Lessons Identified

Outputs and Outcomes

The mid-term evaluation report delivered by ISSAT was considered very useful, pertinent and objective  by both the mandator and the MoI. Both stakeholders noted nonetheless that the report has yet to produce it’s full impact due to circumstances external to the mission: first, the catastrophic floods that put the country in a status of national emergency for several months; second, the general elections held in March that redrew Serbian political landscape and brought a new party to power. At the MoI, both events took attention and resources away from discussions on strategic management and disrupted ordinary activities. This was compounded by an overriding priority given by the new Government in its first months in office to the revision of the National Programme for the Adoption of theacquis communautaire(NPAA) and the follow-up to the EU screening on Chapter 24 (Serbia recently submitted a new action plan to meet the goals set by Brussels on Justice, Freedom and Security).

Only recently life returned to normal in the Ministry. The action plan for Chapter 24 and the new plan for the Development Strategy provided an opportunity for BSP to use ISSAT’s report within the MoI, at this stage to raise awareness of issues raised in the document and the importance of building capacities in areas like budgeting and strategic analysis. ISSAT findings and recommendations are likely to have a bigger impact long after the mandate finished, into 2015. Indeed, the review seems to be recognised at senior level in the MoI as a reference source to inform planning at the Ministry, in two dimensions that seem interconnected. First, the mandate report is used as a stand-alone document considered for its sensitive analysis and recommendations - even if the latter were not yet or not entirely acted upon. Second, the mandate (report, methodology and ISSAT’s overall approach) left a set of tools and good practice, meaning that ISSAT contribution is clearly understood to have high value beyond the review conducted. New management in the Directorate for Analytics has also enhanced opportunities for the recommendations to actually be taken in consideration in terms of addressing some of the imbalances identified in the report.

The item of capacities for budgetary inputs into strategic planning was not included on the initial Terms of Reference for this review but it was considered relevant during the field mission and included in the report. The resulting remarks and evaluation were credited as being very useful to the MoI, well beyond the new Action Plan recently approved. Adding budgeting to the mandate contributed to raise awareness of the importance of this focus-area at the MoI, as previously mentioned.

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Success factors

  • Objectivity: ISSAT mandate was carried out in a way that safeguarded the team and the report against considerations of political bias and confirmed the reputation of the organisation within the MoI as an independent body.
  • Contextual knowledge: previous ISSAT mandate with the MoI and in Serbia, and in the region provided a robust knowledge of the realities and issues at stake in this review.
  • Balance and relevance:  the report was perceived as addressing all the relevant issues against a benchmark that was rational, balanced and that made justice to the current capacities and overall context of the MoI. This meant in turn that recommendations are credible in that they contain attainable outcomes, when the opposite is quite often true in the experience of the MoI: evaluations against  an ideal scenario with no relation to realities on the ground and existing baselines, thus immediately discarded by those to whom they are addressed.
  • Language/Tone: the mandate touched sensitive topics and the report raised sensitive questions, including transparency, stakeholder engagement etc, in a tone that was “diplomatic but straight to the point” to convey the important messages. The subtle but sharp relevant language also contributed to empower without undermining (see below).

Lessons identified for improving the chances of success:

Link-up the review with building the capacity of the institution(s) being assessed:ISSAT team was requested to share its review methodology with the BSP, in order to share additional tools and practices that could provide the Bureau with ideas to inform their role in the context of the Accession process. While the use of such methodology by the Bureau needs further confirmation, the fact that it is perceived as useful to other programmes within the MoI is a relevant ‘collateral’ gain. (See also below).

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Main challenges

  • Time constraints:while prior knowledge of the MoI from ISSAT team and assistance from Sida/SPAP greatly contributed to carry out the field mission, the team had only two weeks in Belgrade, which restricted the number of meetings and activities possible.
  • Culture of secrecy: like if by default, all kinds of documents and information are classified in the MoI and it is difficult to navigate a mandate of this nature when the prevailing institutional culture and legal/policy framework is one of secrecy and opacity.
  • Empowering while doing no harm– Capacities are uneven among mid- and senior management at the MoI and between units. The imbalance of capacity across units is compounded by uneven attention given to different units by senior managers and donors. In this mandate, the risk was that those units needing the most support would be undermined further by being highlighted as deficient in the report due to the inherent blame culture (the Analytics Directorate being an example). Asymmetrical support to some units while others take on expanding responsibilities posed another challenge: how to reinforce the most performing units (e.g. BSP) whilst not creating too much of a gap in capacity with the rest of the MoI, making them the object of jealously by their peers.
  • MoI in transition– the MoI was looking ‘very inwards’ (sic) until Brussels gave its feedback to the screening under Chapter 24, and then preparing Serbia’s follow-up on the results; afterwards, the new Cabinet has been focusing attention in drafting the new Police Law. Discussion on gaps identified by ISSAT will thus depend on the Cabinet being more free of those processes to think on strategic management. The report ‘is a seed that can grow, but in other conditions’, as pointed out in the AAR. (See below also).

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