Support to Territorial and Administrative Reform
What is the programme about?
The undertaking of a territorial and administrative reform is one of the main priorities of the current Government of Albania’s programme, aiming at the further democratization and strengthening of the governance in the territory and the encouraging of economic efficiency through the creation of premises for an integrated planning in a more consolidated administrative space. The relatively high number and small size of most local government units coupled with concerns of efficiency and quality of service provision has increasingly been considered as a serious obstacle to local governance and development and emerged in national policy debates since early 2003.
The Government of Albania anticipates that through a twin track approach: the administrative consolidation and the revision of the current fiscal and decentralization frameworks, several key benefits will be yielded for the local governments, including:
- Savings achieved from reduced duplication, reduced operating costs and streamlined systems and processes
- Enhanced ability to attract and retain professional staff as well as create demand for expertise in new areas
- Enhanced ability to provide a greater range of services with greater quality and lower unit costs
- Better access to technology, increased productivity and economies of scale
- Improved long term integrated planning, including management and maintenance of assets
- More equitable revenue raising and service distribution in the territory
- Increased capacity to attract state and donor funding and a more appropriate position to partner with businesses for community projects
Committed to a successful and swift implementation of such an administrative and territorial reform, also taking into consideration the adoption of the new territorial division for the next local elections scheduled for mid-2015, the Government of Albania has put forward during 2014 an intensive and comprehensive reform process, which produced a new administrative map for the country by end of July, legislated by the Parliament in early September. The newly approved administrative division reduces the current number of 373 LGUs to 61 new and larger LGUs.
The Parliamentary approval of the Law last mid-September has paved the way for embarking on the development of the approach and the action plan for the amalgamation as per the following incremental implementation sequence:
1. Design the amalgamation procedures through piloting and testing it initially in a few selected LGUs
2. Dissemination of the consensual model/approach to the rest of the LGUs through training of trainers and formation of field amalgamation teams
3. Coaching and capacity building to amalgamation stakeholders and beneficiaries
To support this major government reform, the donor community has agreed to establish a multi-donor fund under the management of UNDP Albania, known with the name “Support to Territorial and Administrative Reform” (STAR) project.
The STAR project was designed with the intention to provide coherent technical, operational and logistic support to the reform process through the Minister of State for Local Issues - the central institution made responsible for the development and implementation of the reform.
In this respect, the Government/ Minister of State for Local Issues has the leading role and the responsibility for shaping the reform as well as for identifying and coordinating assistance and expertise for developing the reform content, while STAR ensures the reasonable resources and a timely response to the Government plans and its identified needs and activities.
What have we accomplished so far?
Radical reform for reorganization of Local Governments in the territory consolidating 373 units into 61. STAR contributed by:
- Capacitating MSLI with 38 specialists (amalgamation team experts, regional coordinators, archive specialists), who provided an effective support for the successful implementation of TAR.
- Recruiting 12 short-term National Experts for the TAR design, setting of criteria, elaboration of alternatives and drafting of the law on administrative and territorial division, having each individual experience and knowledge in various subject matters related to the TAR, such as local governance, local finances, fiscal decentralization, local economic development, and legislation;
- An international consulting company with special knowledge on amalgamation processes resulting from direct experience with territorial and administrative reform was contracted to provide Technical Assistance (TA) to the design phase.
Facilitation of participatory and structured consultations with relevant stakeholders across the country on various reform stages and actions;
- 54 consultation meetings, reaching 3296 number of people, 1010 of which were women
- 2 national conferences with participation of 550 participants in total
- A survey with participation of 16.000 citizens were organized to draw the citizens opinion on the presented options
- 2,000 copies of leaflets, 600 posters, and 2,000 plastic bracelets with the territorial reform logo were produced and distributed in 12 regions, as well as 2 TV and radio spots (broadcasted 200 times in total)
- A photo competition was organized during March – April 2015, primarily targeting youth and aiming to showcase the TAR through photography. The competition required also to highlight the human face of TAR. A separate domain was set up in the TAR website which was active during March – April 2015 and 11,455 persons visited the website. As a result of this intensive campaign, 266 applicants participated in such competition.
- Extensive consultations with different groups of interest at national and especially at local level led to changes in initial options of 39 vs 47 to 61 Local Government Units.
A due diligence process of 381 LGUs commencing with development of guidelines and methodology;
- Support is provided to assess the financial and operational aspects of the entire LGUs. The so called due diligence process is implemented by STAR through a contracted service provider and in close cooperation with 61 groups established at new municipality level. Due diligence reports present a clear picture of the financial and operational aspects of the entire LGUs in Albania. This process served to understand the situation of LGUs, to identify where the bottlenecks and risks related to amalgamation were and to establish an adequate merging process that takes the aforementioned into account.
Developed a series of tools/products necessary for the amalgamation and further consolidation of LGUs (amalgamation manual, prototype organizational structures, policies and procedures of new municipalities, Code of Conduct, manual of IT policies and procedures, budget model, etc.);
- Due to the fact that Territorial and Administrative Reform directly impacted the business model of LGUs, the nature of the responsibilities assumed by the local administration, and the citizens’ access to and the way of delivery of public services, STAR paid due and timely attention to several concerns related to: (1) the standardization and establishment of a new organizational structure for the new LGUs, (2) the review and application of an efficient and fair human resources policy, (3) unification of potentially different existing business systems, (4) integration of the financial systems into a single one, (v) addressing the likely legal issues and developed a series of tools and products necessary for the amalgamation and further consolidation of the 61 merged LGUs.
- In this endeavor, STAR, through service providers, has engaged a team of 24 senior experts (for a total of 1100 wds) and regional teams composed of 24 legal and finance experts for a total of 2300 wds;
Assistance to 26 new municipalities to prepare short –term Local Development Operational Plans including specific project fiches for capital investments;
- In September 2015, STAR initiated its support to newly elected officials in designing the short term Local Development Operational Plans. These plans would serve as blueprints for the municipalities and are expected to be particularly useful during their first 2-3 years of existence. To guarantee a harmonized approach, the LDOPs were compiled in accordance with a common and unified structure, prepared by the MSLI. As part of this assignment, 26 new municipalities have been assisted in developing LDOPs. The benefiting municipalities are grouped into clusters according to their geographical characteristics and similar development typologies. UNDP has engaged two experts tasked to focus on integrating gender mainstreaming during the entire phases including data collection, analyses and prioritization.
Who finances it?
A pool of donors is already contributing to the programme, while some additional prospective ones are expected to join in the near future.
The current contributors are:
· SIDA $1,395,836
· Italian Government $996,264
· Swiss Development Cooperation $702,738
· USAID $400,000
· UNDP $100,000