Performance of Technical Assistance

Evaluation Document | 1 March 2007

This evaluation examined the strategic management of technical assistance (TA) at the corporate, country, and sector levels; country level factors affecting performance and corporate level factors influencing TA results.

Several reviews and evaluations carried out over the last decade found that technical assistance (TA) had not reached its full potential in achieving development results, and identified concerns over the approach to TA management and the effectiveness of many TAs.

This evaluation study undertook an assessment of past reviews and evaluations, an analysis of the evaluation database on TA performance, and country case studies of purposefully selected sample TAs in selected sectors. About two-thirds of ADB's TA activities were successful and many generated strategic impacts that transferred best international practice to developing member countries. On the other hand, still about a third of TAs activities were not successful.

Based on an assessment of past reviews and evaluations and country studies in Fiji Islands, India, Kyrgyz Republic, Philippines, and Viet Nam, this evaluation examined

  • the strategic management of TA at the corporate, country, and sector levels;
  • country level factors affecting performance; and
  • corporate level factors influencing TA results.

Combining the top-down (strategic and corporate level) and bottom-up (project level) assessments, TA operations was considered partly successful. This rating reflects weaknesses in TA management at the corporate, departmental, and divisional levels in the areas of

  • TA fund allocation,
  • TA selection,
  • quality control,
  • TA implementation,
  • monitoring and evaluation,
  • knowledge management follow-up on recommendations, and
  • allocation of ADB staff to TA formulation and administration.

Summary of findings

Key Issues

  • Mixed design quality
  • Supply-driven TAs rather than DMC owned
  • Poor country level strategic focus
  • One-off rather than programmed TAs as part of a long engagement process
  • Inflexible designs
  • Poor dissemination of findings
  • Weak follow up on the implementation of results and recommendations
  • Suboptimal use of national consultants
  • Insufficient ADB staff inputs
  • Weak implementation and performance monitoring, and
  • Weak knowledge management.

Key Findings

Reasons for the varying performance of TAs include

  • a lack of clarity in TA strategic direction at the country level and they were often spread across multiple sectors;
  • TA formulation processes were inadequate;
  • TAs had variable quality at entry; and
  • there were several TA implementation issues.

Corporate level weaknesses also impact on TA performance. Despite their being corporate priorities, little progress had been made in ensuring stronger country focus, a greater coherence of all ADB activities at country level, long-term engagement in selected areas in each DMC, and better coordination with other funding agencies.

Recommendations

  • The system of TA resource allocation should be improved to ensure that it fits with ADB's strategic development priorities, and addresses the strategic areas and themes contained in country strategies that reflect country requirements.
  • Country partnership strategies should include a clear strategy and program for TA within a long-term framework that prioritizes and focuses on selected topics covering both lending and nonlending operations and better integrates the work of ADB's knowledge departments and the ADB Institute into the country partnership framework.
  • Corporate level TA management needs to be improved.
  • ADB should consider delegating more authority and contracting accountability regarding TA prioritization, programmatic approaches, consultant selection, consultant performance evaluation, and supervision to executing agencies that have sufficient capacity and adequate systems to guard against corruption.
  • Consideration should be given to ensuring that, wherever practical, staff who process advisory TAs remain involved up to completion of the TA, even if they are transferred internally to a new assignment; and tracking the results of these advisory TAs and reflecting these in staff performance assessments.
  • ADB must strengthen its quality at entry control systems for TA.
  • The system for TA portfolio monitoring and evaluation should be overhauled to provide corporate and departmental level data on TA implementation, performance, and outcomes.
  • A core systematic TA knowledge management process should be developed to collect and synthesize lessons and key findings from TA, and ensure that they are used to improve subsequent TAs.

Contents 

  • Executive Summary
  • I. Introduction
  • II. Context
  • III. Findings from the Special Evaluation Study Country Studies
  • IV. Corporate Level Influences on Performance of Technical Assistance
  • V. Overall Assessment, Conclusions, Lessons, and Recommendations
  • Appendixes
  • Supplementary Appendixes