Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Ministry of Finance (MoF)

Civilian Technical Assistance Program (CTAP)
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The CTAP Overview:

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The Civilian Technical Assistance Program (CTAP) is a National Capacity Development program of the government of Afghanistan, designed to strengthen the capacity of Tashkeel staff and key ministries within the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, whereby assisting public agencies to effectively deliver services to the public while supporting towards the successful implementation of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) and their prioritized programs.

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Technical Advisors’ Coordination Meeting Held

ctap-tas-meeting-6-2014

Tuesday, July 03, 2014The CTAP TAs Coordination meeting was held at Intercontinental Hotel, Kabul. The objective of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for the CTAP technical advisors to share their experiences, exchange their ideas and discuss issues of common interest with the CTAP management and the MoF Leadership.  In addition, such meetings serve as a unique chance for the Program management to listen to the valuable recommendations and feedback of the TAs to improve the Program implementation and impacts.  

The participants of the meeting included the Technical advisors, the deputy of the Supreme Audit Office and the Secretariat Staff. It was chaired by Mr. Qarizada, the DM for policy, and started by a quick introduction of the Program and its overall goal by Mrs. Nadia, the CDD Officer. Following that, Mr. Ata Tokhi was asked to recite some versus from the Holy Quran. Then, Mr. Fardin Seddiqi, the CTAP Director was asked to open the meeting officially.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Fardin Seddiqi said that the objective of such meetings which are regularly held by CTAP is to provide an opportunity for the TAs to exchange their ideas and experiences. He asked the TAs to only raise issues of major administrative nature and avoid discussing technical issues that are usually discussed and followed with the CTAP management and various departments. He also suggested to the Deputy Minister to change the name of the meeting to TAs’ Interactive Forum which was later approved by Mr. Qarizada.

 Speech by DM Qarizda and Mr. Syed Mahdi Hussaini:

Mr. Qarizada, the DM for policy started his speech by warmly welcoming Mr. Hussaini, the DM for Supreme Audit Office (SAO). He added that he was expecting the meeting to take place more regularly but it was postponed due to many unavoidable events such as the Election Days and the TAs unexpected holidays. He appreciated the hard work of the TAs and asked them to work with stronger commitment and effective planning from now on. He explained that Afghanistan is experiencing a transition process in all aspects which will follow with unwanted decrease in the donors’ monitorial commitment.  He added: “We all have to learn to carry on our joint business in a different way so as to earn the confidence of the donors. Simply, we have to prove that we are an effective capacity building program in Afghanistan.” 

tas-meeting-6-2014 smallMr. Qarizada also talked about the CTAP Director’s  participation in the latest Donors Coordination Meeting held at MoF and explained that the meeting had been a very useful for the CTAP fundraising purpose. He explained that during the meeting, CTAP initiative was highly appreciated by the  participants. He added that some of the donors have already initiated some basic capacity building projects without having adequate information and understanding about the environment and real needs  of the government agencies.  “Therefore, during the meeting, the donors were asked to engage with CTAP before starting to implement such programs and get our advice and suggestions”- He explained.

Mr. Hussaini, the Deputy Director for the Supreme Audit Office talked about his experience with the CTAP Technical Advisors’ inputs and achievements, and appreciated their highest commitment and professionalism. Elaborating on the CTAP capacity building approach and impacts, he added that CTAP is a very significant program in terms of capacity building in Afghanistan.  He also shared his experience of working directly CTAP TAs, and differentiated them from similar programs explaining that different organizations had so far replaced various advisors during the past years in SAO but unfortunately, most of them failed to establish systems inside the organization because they have been mainly donor driven and have been replacement initiatives rather than a capacity building programs.  Working as the principal counterpart for the two of the CTAP TAs, Mr. Abbass Hoveyda and Mr. Rajvir Singh, he explained: “So far we have been provided with two TAs from CTAP. They are ideal advisor with strong commitment and skills which have really impressed me.”- He explained. Mr. Hussaini ended his speech by the CTAP for providing the right technical assistances and indirectly asked the donor organizations to continue their maximum financial support to CTAP because he believed that CTAP is a different and real capacity building program in Afghanistan.

The meeting continued by an open follow up discussion where some of the Technical Advisors were sharing relevant challenges and suggestions and on the other hand, the CTAP management and his Excellency Mr. Qarizada was providing them with detailed responses and solutions. Several issues were raised by the TAs starting from suggestions made regarding how to promote CTAP to a credible source of capacity building to translation problems inside client agencies and also suggestions regarding conduction of Clients’ Coordination Meeting. Pointing to the suggestions made by Mr. Satish Chandra on how to transform CTAP to a sustainable and credible source of capacity building information, Mr. Qarizada welcomed the idea and linked that to the decision made by CTAP to establish and strengthen thematic groups. He explained:  “In Kabul process conference, it was suggested that all GIRoA agencies should be clustered. The MoF is working on a proposal to restart the clustering meetings. Once that is done, all the CTAP TAs will be put under the relevant clusters.”

 He added: “Bringing you in thematic areas by CTAP management, I think it will help CTAP and stakeholders to better coordinate specially in core function areas. Through this thematic work groups, we will be able to develop guidelines, procedures and policies and present to other government agencies for implementation.”

Mr. Bismarck Sakunda, one of the CTAP’s senior TAs appreciated the idea of Client Coordination Meeting and suggested that the meeting should be held each six months where the Deputy Ministers and the relevant General Directors from different government agencies could come  together to share their understanding and experiences of working with CTAP TAs and address the challenges. Mr. Qarizada strongly supported the idea and assigned the CTAP management to conduct such meetings as soon as possible. He asserted that such a meeting will provide a chance for both the CTAP and the client agencies to share their challenges and achievements.

In the end of the discussion, Mr. Qarizada addressed the issue of translation and language problems. There were two solutions raised by some TAs and the some of the CTAP staff in this regard; to conduct Dari/Pashto language courses or to hold English language courses for the TAs’ counterparts.  Mr. Qarizada asked the CTAP management to discuss about the problem and come up with the right solutions.

 Messages and Presentations:

The meeting re-started with some short messages by Mr. Mohammad Yasin Samim, the Communications and Outreach Manager. Mr. Yasin had three key and direct messages to the TAs: first, he told the TAs to receive their business cards and the basic communications package. He asked  them to submit the packages to the relevant decision makers at their host agencies. Second, He explained that based on the CTAP program document and the undergoing communications and outreach strategy, the CoD is committed to systematically document the successes and inputs of the TAs. For this, he asked CTAP TAs to inform the CoD of the events and achievements in which they have played a key role. Third, Mr. Samim provided information on the communications strategy development progress and the complete launch of the CTAP website in the near future.  He requested the TAs to communicate the link of such sources with their counterparts and supervisors once this is completely done.

Following him, Mr. Abdur-Rahman Tokhi, the CDD Manager read the messages of Mr. Shams the Afghanistan Railways Authority Director. In the message he had praised and acknowledged the technical assistances so far provided by CTAP and called it to be very effective for the promotion and standardization of this Independent Directorate. In the end, the CDD Manager and Mr. Jasper Morara the Senior Institutional Development Advisor at CTAP, presented their presentations which followed with detailed questions, suggestions and discussion.

As this point, the CTAP Director, Mr. Seddiqi highlighted on the importance of such presentations and added that the main objectives of those presentations were to make sure that the expected results are achieved. He explained: “Indeed, you are all professional people in your fields and we are not here to teach anything new but all these efforts are to help you better align your approaches to what has been developed and agreed by CTAP management team. To put in simple words, we are here to gather our thoughts and experiences and make the mechanisms improve.”

Mr. Abdur-Rahman Tokhi said that the purpose of his presentation was to get the TAs ideas on how to develop minimum standards for the CTAP Capacity Building Approach and implement them effectively throughout different GIRoA Agencies. Having quickly reviewed the CTAP capacity building approach, he classified capacity building into two specific types and explained each process along with required tools and skills.  He explained: “To develop realistic minimum standards for the CTAP capacity building approach, the process will be consultative and interactive rather than a prescriptive one. The strategy we have considered for this will be to Share, Support and Measure. Therefore, the baseline assessment survey which is underway will be conducted to enrich and support the suggested CB approach.”

Just as the presentation ended, Mrs. Kamini Paul asked about the methodology considered for the baseline. Mr. Abdur-Rahman Tokhi responded: “We have selected few ministries focusing on core function areas in our baseline survey. We are identifying the current status of ministries and then we can direct our assistances accordingly. The baseline is not broad but rather selecting few ministries.”

Mr. Pradeep, another CTAP TA shared his experience of working as a capacity building advisor with UN agencies and added that usually those organizations, first of all, conduct some institutional capacity building assessments and then hire the required technical advisors which could be a good example for CTAP as well. He added: “When I was deployed at Ministry, I realized that there were things that had been ignored in my ToR and it created lots of confusion for my job.” 

Mr. Abdur-Rahman, the CDD Manager, appreciated his suggestions and explained that in fact, CTAP is doing the baseline survey to avoid facing such problems in the future. He added: “In the past we did not have enough staff to do begin this and now, we are ready to implement the Organizational Capacity Building Assessment Tool (OCAT) to understand the gaps and capture an overall picture of the intended agency.”

In response to Mr. Satish concern regarding the low capacity of the counterparts in filling the technical questionnaire, Mr. Simon forester, the CTAP deputy Director explained:  “We are aware of these challenges and some of you have already developed fantastic techniques to address them but we are not starting the process immediately. We are looking for your solutions to advise us.”  

To complement Mr. Simon’s explanation, Mr. Frank Kabudula explained that that the researchers will be asking the counterparts questions regarding the current status of capacity building  keeping in mind  the specific set of indicators contained in the CTAP II Program Document and therefore, the baseline survey will not be over ambitious.”

Mr. Abdur-Rahman ended presentation by specifically answering to the each concern and questions raised by the technical advisors; for instance, Mr. Daniel showed concern about the possibility of unrealistic judgment by the supervisors. Mr. Abdur-Rahman assured that the counterparts and the supervisors are not the only sources for the baseline survey because the technical team also interview the TAs, discuss with them and analyze the data by the contexts which might vary from one organization to another.

Finally Mr. Jasper Morara made his presentation on the thematic work groups. He said that the objective of forming thematic groups were to bring coordination and synergy amongst the TAs and provide an opportunity for the them to learn from each other in terms of knowledge, skills and experiences. Mr. Jasper provided details on formation of the thematic work groups and the logic of his categorization which that followed with an interesting discussion; Mr. Bismarck Sakunda did not fully agree with the categorization done by the CDD and M&E team on thematic areas. He argued that such a categorization is very wide and confusing. He suggested that team has to regroup the TAs with new definitions of the themes which will directly minimize the number of the groups. His questions were answered by Mr. Kabudula saying: “Mr. Bismarck! You are right. If we categorize by the notion you have suggested, I am sure that 65% percent of the TAs can be classified under one thematic area but we have done this categorization based on the Afghanistan Development Strategy (ANDs). Therefore, it is quite different.”

tas-meeting-6-2014 small2The open discussion continued. The TAs took turn and discussed about how to run and manage the thematic groups; for instance:  Mr. Fardin Wardak suggested sharing information between the technical advisors through exchanging CDs and hard copies of materials. Satish Chandra suggested that CTAP secretariat should come up with realistic ToRs for each of groups and finally, Mr. Bob Horton suggested that the TAs themselves should discuss and come up with draft ToRs.  Mr. Fardin Sediqi put an end to the dialogue and once again, thanked the TAs for their constructive comments and feedback and asked them to sit in thematic groups, discuss the issues and come up with concrete suggestions.  

As instructed by Mr. Morara, the TAs and the Secretariat Staff were divided into thematic areas to discuss in detail about the questions contained in the presentation such as their roles, the challenges of conducting thematic work groups and expected support from CTAP secretariat. The participants discussed for about 20 minutes and selected one person from each thematic group as the point of contact for the Secretariat. All the TAs agreed on the managing role by the CTAP secretariat. They asked the Secretariat to come up with a regular timing and invite the TAs for thematic discussions so as to guarantee its sustainability.

 Wrap up and conclusion:

Mr. Fardin Seddiqi concluded the meeting by summarizing the key points raised and discussed by the TAs and the Secretariat staff. He quickly named the problems and suggested appropriate solutions and then asked Mr. Simon, the Program Director to mention if there are things left untouched. Mr. Simon Forster appreciated the inputs and suggestions of the TAs and requested them to work harder in order to help CTAP appear work more effective and efficient in future steps. He concluded his speech by saying: “The thematic grouping process will continue until we get it right. As known from the group discussions, everybody wants to share his/her documents and CTAP would be working on developing an institutional memory storing system. We know that you are in touch with some of the donors and you can feed CTAP the information about potential donor support we can get for many years to come. Thank you all for your interactions and contribution this is an ongoing process and will not end here”.