Views from the Field No. 4 – Francophone West Africa

Posted by Jean-Gustave Sanon and Bruno Imbert

For the latest in our series of “views from the field” Richard Allen interviewed Jean-Gustave Sanon and Bruno Imbert, FAD’s regional PFM advisors in the IMF’s regional technical assistance center for Western Africa (AFW) based in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). The AFW Center covers ten countries in Francophone West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

RA: What are the main challenges of PFM in the region?

JGS/BI: All of the countries are engaged in relatively “advanced” PFM reforms including multi-year budgeting, performance-based budgets and accrual accounting. Such reforms are obviously a huge challenge for countries that are frequently cited as lacking basic tools and methods of PFM. The Republic of Guinea has recently adopted a new by-law on public finance and soon Mauritania will start working on a new financial constitution as well, with FAD and AFW support. Developments in the Western African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU), which includes all the AFW countries except Guinea and Mauritania, are a major driver of PFM reform across the region. In 2009, the Council of Ministers of WAEMU passed six regional by-laws (directives) which have to be transposed by the member states into their own legal framework and will substantially affect the way their PFM systems operate.

RA: Can you tell us more about the WAEMU directives, and how they will affect PFM systems?

JGS/BI: The WAEMU directives set out a very precise schedule for reform. Member states were given up to December 31st 2011 to transpose the directives into national laws. The directives must then be implemented by 2017 (with a possible extension to 2019 for accrual accounting). Very few countries have yet adopted the directives, and only two countries (Burkina Faso and Mali) have started implementing some of the key innovations. In the other member states, the absence of a clear framework and action plan to implement the directives is a concern. Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire have prepared action plans to implement accrual accounting by 2017, but these plans are not linked to a comprehensive strategy for PFM reform in line which would be necessary to implement the directives.

RA: How do you work with the donors on PFM reform issues? Can this working relationship be improved further?

JGS/BI: At the regional level, the work done so far on the WAEMU reform has benefited from strong collaboration among the development partners (UNDP, World Bank, African Development Bank, FAD and AFW). UNDP has focused its actions on the reform of budget legislation, the World Bank on treasury systems, the ADB on FMIS, and AFW/FAD on fiscal tables and financial reporting. Donors also collaborated effectively on preparing the methodological guides that were formulated for each of the directives. At the country level, collaboration has been less effective in the absence of a clearly defined strategy for PFM reform. As the regional experience has shown, when strong political leadership and a well-defined strategy and action plan exist, it is easy for partners to work together. When they are absent, progress is inevitably difficult.

RA: How do you coordinate your work program with the member countries and FAD HQ? Does the coordination process create any challenges?

JGS/BI: Like other RTACs, AFW has an annual work program that is first discussed with FAD HQ (back-stoppers) and the national authorities, as well as the area department (AFR and MCD). The work program is then presented to the steering committee, which comprises representatives of the member states, the donors who fund the Center, and the IMF. By establishing close relations with the member countries and flexible programming approaches, AFW is able to accommodate changes in TA priorities which frequent arise in some countries.

RA: Are the Fund’s Resident Representatives involved in your TA missions? How could their contribution be improved further?

We keep the local Resident Representative closely informed about upcoming missions. Whenever possible a meeting is organized with him/her at the beginning of each mission, and he/she usually participates in the wrap-up meeting at the end of the mission. The Res Rep is an important source of information for us, as well as a strategic ally to follow up the implementation of the TA we provide. We wish we could have the Res Rep’s feed-back on a more regular basis.

RA: Following the recent political troubles in Mali, AFW was recently relocated from Bamako to Abidjan. How did those events affect AFW’s work program?

JGS/BI: The coup that occurred in Mali in March 2012 led to the evacuation of all AFW advisors and the decision, in June 2012, to re-locate the Center in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). Of course, the evacuation affected our work. Organizing missions and recruiting experts were especially difficult in such conditions. Furthermore, the evacuation resulted in some big changes in our working program: all activities that were programmed in Mali were suspended for security reasons. In addition, the political crisis in Guinea-Bissau led to the suspension of our activities in that country. Several missions were reprogrammed for other AFW countries such as Niger, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. Despite those events, we have been able to maintain a high level of TA delivery in the region.

RA: Does AFW have a specific approach on PFM? Are you giving some PFM issues priority attention?

JGS/BI: AFW has formulated a logical framework for 2012-2014 to organize its activities which includes four main work areas: (1) transposing theWAEMU directives on PFM into the member states’ regulatory framework; (2) strengthening budget preparation and budget execution with an emphasis on results-based management; (3) building the public accountancy profession; and (4) promoting international standards in budgetary and accounting practices. All AFW activities programmed for the current fiscal year are linked to one of those areas, and targets are set on the basis of expected outputs and outcomes. To the extent possible, our activities concentrate on providing continuing assistance through multi-year projects rather than one-off activities. However, as mentioned earlier, we try to respond to urgent and unplanned requests from countries in a flexible way. 

Note: The posts on the IMF PFM Blog should not be reported as representing the views of the IMF. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the IMF or IMF policy.