Part II.
Case Studies



Chapter 6. Education: Sector-Wide Approach (SWAp)


The Sector-Wide Approach (SWAp) program in the education sector aims to ensure thatexternal funding to the sector supports a single sector policy and expenditure program, under government leadership and adopting common approaches to planning andimplementation. The concept of SWAp was introduced to the education sector in thecontext of the national reforms initiated by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MOEYS) around 1999. MOEYS, in collaboration with its partners, has so far formulated asector strategy and conducted joint sector reviews under the SWAp.


1.    Historical background and recent trends in donor assistance

Emergency relief and reconstruction period (1994-1999)

In the 1990s, Cambodia underwent a period of emergency relief and reconstruction during which it was heavily dependent on external assistance. The level of external assistance to education consistently surpassed the government’s own education budget throughout 1994-1999 (Table 6-1). During 1994-1996, external assistance to the education sector increased rapidly from $29 million to $44 million. The assistance during this period concentrated on technical/vocational education and higher education (around 40 per cent), while support for basic education was limited. However, since the mid-1990s, donor support has gradually shifted towards basic education. The major donors that have contributed to this shift include EU, Sida (through UNICEF) and ADB. The political crisis in 1997 had a negative impact on donor assistance, which declined by nearly 40 percent from $53 million in 1997 to $34 million in 1999, but still exceeded the government’s spending on education.

Table 6-1. Annual education sector spending (budget in US$)



Development Partners


























Grand Total




Source: MOEYS website (

Note: The development partners include bilateral and multilateral agencies, and NGOs. The figures provided above are intended for indicative purposes only.

The Education Investment Plan 1995-2000, developed with the financial support of ADB, was an early attempt to coordinate donor assistance to the education sector. However, the plan achieved only a limited success, as described in the government’s own assessment in 200029. This report acknowledged the sector’s disappointing performance despite substantial donor assistance over the past decade, and addressed the need for more sustainable and policy-led reform. The limited impact of aid to education during the 1990s was also attributed to the proliferation of discreet and unconnected donor projects, which aggravated policy fragmentation.

Sector Program Approach since 1999

With the recognition of the need for a different approach to address those problems, the Sector-Wide Approach (SWAp) was envisaged in the education sector. The government’s new paradigm that advocated a shift from "donorship to government-led ownership and partnership" presented at the CG meeting in 2000 also drove the MOEYS and its partners towards the SWAp process in the education sector. An additional factor that drove them to take a practical step towards SWAp was an alliance of like-minded donor agencies, and substantial technical backup by an ADB TA team.

Donor funding to the education sector for the period between 2001 and 2007 is estimated at US$ 321 million, with US$ 39 million (actually spent) in 2001, US$ 45 million (actually spent) in 2002, US$ 45 million (estimated) in 2003, and US$ 193 million (projected) for 2004-07. Funding by the two largest donors, ADB and World Bank, accounts for 38% of the total expected amount in 2003. Other large donors include UNICEF, JICA, EC and WFP.

Table 6-2. Total education sector inputs by donor (US$)


2001 Actual amount

2002 Actual amount

2003 Expected amount

2004-07 projected amount

2001-07 Total expenditure







AuF (France)











BTC (Belgium) 500,000 8,250,000 8,750,000
DFID 479,019 4,311,174 4,790,193




























































* Sida channels its funding through UNICEF. Sida’s portion is included in the amount of UNICEF’s support on the table. Source: Education Sector Donor Report (2002) and Cambodia Education Sector Donor Report (2003).

2. Mechanisms of aid coordination

Aid coordination is a key component of the SWAp process (though it does not fully represent SWAp). This section therefore attempts to present mechanisms of aid coordination in the context of the education SWAp.

To begin with, definitions of SWAp used by those concerned with the education SWAp process to date shall be discussed. Definitions of SWAp vary, but the following definition was adopted in the Education Sector Donor Report 2002. 30

All significant funding in the sector supports a single sector policy and expenditure program, under Government leadership, adopting common approaches across the sector, and progressing towards relying on government procedures to disburse and account for all funds.

The definition of SWAp was revisited in the donor report for 2003 31 with the recognition that, "…the concept of, and more importantly the practice of implementing SWAp is not and cannot be uniformly prescribed. Rather the approach evolves over time and the pace and depth of the transition towards a ‘pure’ SWAp is dependent upon highly context specific factors."

The SWAp process

Key milestones of the SWAp process to date are highlighted in the table below. The SWAp process can be divided into three stages: commitment to partnership, sector policy and strategy formulation, and joint sector review.

Table 6-3. Key milestones of SWAp process


Discussion of SWAp in the context of education sector reform

Stage 1: Commitment to partnership

March 2000

Statement of Intent for a new form of government/donor/NGO partnership signed (by some donors and NGOs).

Mid/late 2000

MOEYS hosts government, donor and NGO seminars on international experience in sector wide approach to education reform

February 2001

Formal agreement on education partnership principles by MOEYS/Donor/NGO Consultative Group, alongside revitalization of donor Education Sector Working Group

March-April 2001

Education Strategic Plan (ESP) 2001-05 developed by MOEYS and approved by Government/Donor/NGO Consultative Group

Stage 2: Sector policy and strategy formulation

June 2001

Joint review and appraisal of ESP 2001-05 and Education Sector Support Program (ESSP) 2001-2005

September 2002

2002 ESSP Joint Review – revised ESSP (2002-2006), the Donor Report, poverty impact, sector performance prepared as part of the ESSP Review

Stage 3: Joint sector reviews

Late 2002

Formulation of preliminary PRSP and Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), drawing on the policy and strategic directions set out in the revised ESSP 2002-06

May 2003

2003 ESSP Joint Review – revised ESSP (2003-2007), the Donor Report, sector performance (the whole sector as well as provincial sector performance) and departmental achievement reports prepared; a special meeting of the Education Finance Management Committee (EFMC) convened to address critical financial issues

Commitment to partnership

Prior to 1999, interactions among donor agencies remained at the level of consultation and information sharing, mostly through personal communications and ad hoc groupings or gatherings. There was no agreed framework to bring donors to work in partnership with the government.

As the first step in formalizing a new partnership for the development of education in Cambodia, donors and NGOs signed a Statement of Intent (SOI) in March 2000. ADB was reportedly the primary agency that facilitated this process with the aim of initiating a SWAp in the education sector. The SOI could not receive endorsement by all invited organizations, however. Nine of the agencies invited to sign did so, but five donors (USAID, French Cooperation, GTZ, JICA and EU) kept their endorsement pending. The reasons for not signing may have differed among the donors, but some interviewees speculated that they might include concerns about the constraints the SOI might impose on future assistance, e.g. conditions that conflict with donor countries’ own foreign assistance procedures and policies. In addition, the partial support to the SOI implies that the process to carry forward its endorsement may not necessarily have paid full attention to obtaining consensus from all those concerned.

To address these concerns, the government made clear that it was taking an inclusive approach to SWAp and had no intention of excluding any donors from the SWAp process. The Minister of Economic and Finance, for example, made a statement at a ministerial meeting in October 2000 that excluding any donor agency from the SWAp process would not benefit the country. In addition, the Minister of Education encouraged donor agencies which intended to assist Cambodia through project-type support to participate in the SWAp process at the Government/Donor/NGO Consultative Meeting (the ‘Consultative Meeting’ hereinafter) in November 2000.

Later in February 2001, the Consultative Meeting approved a document "Principles and Practices for Partnerships," which clarified the objectives and scope of SWAp and the ways in which partners would engage and cooperate. Its adoption did not take the form of a written endorsement by all the donors, but it helped establish common understanding of SWAp and nurture the spirit of partnership and cooperation of donors in the sector. In this way, the "Principles and Practices for Partnership" laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Donor Education Sector Working Group (ESWG) during the subsequent stages of partnership development.

Sector policy and strategy formulation

MOEYS took another step to formalize the education reform planning and implementation process in early 2001. The Education Strategic Plan (ESP) 2001-05 was developed with technical and financial support of the ADB, and in consultation with donors and NGOs, and was approved in April 2001.

The ESP summarizes the phasing of priority education policy and strategy reforms for the next five years. The process leading to the final ESP document also involved internal consultations within MOEYS through four policy task forces,34 as well as with MEF and MOP. In conjunction with the ESP document, the Education Sector Support Program (ESSP) 2001-05 was developed to consolidate the priority recurrent and capital programs identified by MOEYS for implementing and achieving the medium-term policy and strategy objectives defined in the ESP. The ESSP development process involved 14 different working groups within MOEYS. The process of consultation with internal and external stakeholders throughout the ESP/ESSP development was coordinated by the Planning Department of MOEYS.

Box 6-1: Key features of ESSP

  • Embodies priority recurrent and capital programs for the next five years that reflect medium-term policy and strategy objectives defined in ESP
  • Focuses on the long-term goal of achieving Education for All (EFA) by 2015
  • The rolling nature of ESSP development and implementation makes the planning process forward-looking
  • Collaborative and consultative processes for planning, management and monitoring of ESSP policies, strategies and programs.

      Source: Based on a review of ESSP documents by the author

The joint review and appraisal of the ESP/ESSP 2001-05 took place in June 2001. It involved working group sessions with each of the three coordination teams and five appraisal teams. The process of integrating outputs of all the teams was as follows: (1) each appraisal team held group sessions; (2) outputs from the appraisal teams sessions were assembled by two coordination teams (the Sector Management Coordination Team and the Program Development Coordination Team); and (3) the assembled results were integrated by the Appraisal and Review Coordination Team. Each team typically involved a mixture of officials from MOEYS and other Ministries and external partners. An overall coordinating committee of senior policy staff from the Ministry, donors and the NGOs was responsible for final negotiation of the appraisal. This process was supported by a Secretariat located in the Planning Department and financed and staffed by a number of donors.

An Education Round Table session was organized to conclude the appraisal process during the last part of the joint review. Senior members of the government and representatives of the donors and NGOs presented their responses to the ESSP. The appraisal results were incorporated into the final version of the ESSP 2001-2005 document, and reflected in the subsequent detailed implementation planning of MOEYS for 2002.

Joint sector reviews

Since the 2001 ESSP appraisal, MOEYS in collaboration with its partners has undertaken two joint ESSP Reviews, one in September 2002 and one in May 2003. Currently the ESSP is being revised based on the last ESSP Review, under which a new budget is being negotiated for approval. The ESWG and the Consultative Meetings have fed critical inputs into the preparation process of the joint ESSP Reviews. A donor coordination advisor has also played a critical role in liaising between different stakeholders and forums.

Similarly to the 2001 appraisal, the joint reviews of ESSP in 2002 and 2003 involved a series of team working exercises involving various stakeholders. The team organization under the 2003 ESSP Review is summarized in Table 6-4.

Table 6-4. ESSP Review 2003: Team Organization


Participating bodies

1     Appraisal and Review Coordination Team

MOEYS (including two Secretaries of State), EC, UNICEF, NEP

2     Sector Management Coordination Team

MOEYS, UNICEF, EC, World Bank, World Education

2.1      Financial Planning and Management Team


2.2      Capacity Building, Monitoring and
          Decentralisation Team

MOEYS, MOI, UNICEF, JICA, VSO, SCF Norway, World Education

3     Program Development Coordination Team

MOEYS, WFP, EC, World Bank, ADB, French Cooperation

3.1     Education Services in Remote Areas and
         Special Education Needs Team

MOEYS, WFP, UNICEF, Sida, CARE, Disability Action Council

3.2    Quality of Primary Education Team


3.3    Secondary Education Policy and Strategy Team

MOEYS, World Bank, ADB, French Cooperation, Innerchange, NEP

3.4    TVET Policy and Strategy Team

MOEYS, ADB, UNESCO, NEP, VSO, Public/Private Employers Representatives

3.5    HE Policy and Strategy Team

MOEYS, AuF, French Cooperation, UNESCO, Maryknoll, Public/Private Employers Representatives


Source: Education Sector Joint Review Report 2003.

In addition to the review team meetings, a special meeting of the Education Finance Management Committee (EFMC) was convened to address critical financial issues, in particular the core policy matrix, education sector financial performance and Priority Action Programs (PAPs) implementation. The PAPs issue is revisited in a later section in connection with the discussion of direct budget support to the education sector.

Institutional arrangements for aid coordination

The institutions that played important roles in the process of Education SWAp include a mixture of (1) joint working frameworks; (2) aid coordination tools; and (3) intra-donor coordination. Table 6-5 summarizes the institutions involved in the SWAp process.

Table 6-5. Institutions that played important roles in the process of Education SWAp




Joint working frameworks

Education Sector Working Group (ESWG)

Principal formal mechanism for discussion and information exchange, as well as coordination of joint planning and appraisal activities among donors

Government/Donor/NGO Consultative Meeting

High-level forum for senior officials of the Ministry and donor/NGO representatives

NGO Education Partnership (NEP)

Forum for education NGOs and MOEYS

Aid coordination tools

Common Policy Implementation Matrix

Framework for policy based strategic negotiation, planning and monitoring

Intra-donor coordination

Donor Coordination Advisor

Coordinator to liaise between donors and MOEYS, and based at ESWG

Education Sector Working Group (ESWG)

The ESWG was established as a sub-group of the Social Sector Working Group in the spirit of Partnership Principles in 2001. The Terms of Reference formally adopted in late 2001 spelled out the aims of ESWG including:

  • Advancement of education in Cambodia

  • Establishment of linkages with the Government especially through MOEYS

  • Monitoring education reform and development in Cambodia

  • Co-ordination of donors working in the education sector in Cambodia.

The ESWG has played a role in coordinating donor assistance in the education sector, and in promoting a common and integrated program approach. It has served as the principal formal mechanism for donors to discuss policy, strategy and implementation issues related to the ESP/ESSP. It has also served as a forum for donors to exchange information on plans and status of implementation of their programs in the education sector. The working group has been chaired by the Representative of UNESCO, which also provides secretarial services and works closely with the donor coordination advisor. The ESWG meets approximately once a month with typically 20 members attending each meeting.

Government/Donor/NGO Consultative Meeting

The Government/Donor/NGO Consultative Meeting has been organized on a regular basis since the Appraisal of ESP/ESSP in 2001. Chaired by the Minister, it is attended by senior officials including Secretary of States, Director Generals and other senior officials at MOEYS, donor representatives and NGO representatives. The Planning Department serves as the secretariat for the Consultative Meeting. It meets regularly once every two months to share information on the implementation status of ESSP, formally ratify major policy documents and statements, and agree on strategic directions for the sector. The Chairpersons of the ESWG and NEP (discussed below) present the collective views of their respective constituencies.

The Common Policy Implementation Matrix

The Common Policy Implementation Matrix was initially developed as part of an agreement between the government and ADB as a budget support component in its policy adjustment loan program. The donors subsequently accepted the Ministry’s request to jointly expand the matrix to cover the whole sector. It provides a framework for policy-based strategic negotiation, planning and monitoring covering the whole sector. It serves as a critical reference point against which funding agreements between agencies and the government are negotiated in the medium term. A matching Indicators Matrix was also developed and now provides national level indicators against which to measure expected outcomes.

NGO Education Partnership (NEP)

The NGO Education Partnership (NEP), established in 2001, promotes the discussion and exchange of ideas between education NGOs and MOEYS. The NEP has successfully facilitated a more coordinated approach to the work of NGOs within the context of the ESSP and the sector wide approach. It provides support for the development of the education sector in a variety of ways, including inputs to specific initiatives and mechanisms (e.g. the EFA National Plan, ESSP Reviews, the ESWG, the CG and the Consultative Meeting), and operational research. The ESWG recognises and appreciates the critical role played by NEP within the education partnership approach in Cambodia.

Donor Coordination Advisor

The donor coordination advisor has been serving over the past few years to underpin the process of aid coordination during critical times, in particular during the preparation of the ESSP Reviews. The primary objectives of this position are to strengthen the capacity of the donor community to provide timely, well-coordinated and professional responses to the ESP/ESSP and to facilitate discussion among donors on education policy, strategy and program priorities and targets. The advisor has been based in the UNICEF Education Section, works extensively with the Planning Department at MOEYS and provides advice to the chairperson of the ESWG.

Donor financing modalities

The modalities of donor financing to the education sector can be divided into (1) direct project support; (2) direct budget support; (3) off-budget support to the Ministry; (4) indirect support through NGOs; and (5) direct agency support. Definitions of each modality are summarized in Box 6-2. Of the total financial inputs to the education sector committed by donors in 2003, US$ 25 million or 57% is provided in the form of direct project support and US$ 8 million or 18% is in direct budget support.

Table 6-6. Inputs to the sector by funding modality (US$)

Financing modality

2001 Actual amount

2002 Actual amount

2003 expected

2004-07 projected

Direct Project Support





Direct Budget Support





Off-Budget Support to Ministry





Indirect Support through NGO





Agency Direct Support











Source: Education Sector Donor Report (2002) and Cambodia Education Sector Donor Report (2003).


Box 6-2. Donor financing modalities

Direct Project Support: This refers to traditional project support where the assistance is accounted for in the development budget of the MOEYS and included in the PIP. Usually this type of support has separate donor defined disbursement, accounting, auditing and reporting procedures and is often associated with a discrete project implementation unit. Commonly the MOEYS needs to maintain two accounting reporting systems to satisfy both government and donor requirements.

Direct Budget Support: This refers to direct payments from the agency to the Treasury usually on the basis of a letter or statement of policy outlining the activities and outcomes which determine the release of annual or semi-annual tranches. Funds pass through the recurrent budget of the Government, though not specifically through the MOEYS. Disbursement, accounting, auditing and reporting is normally done through the government system of financial management.

Off-budget support to the Ministry: Donor agencies may provide funds and resources direct to a Ministry through a separate bank account system, often co-signed by a MOEYS official and a donor representative. Such accounts may not be included in either recurrent or development budgets, and are usually accounted for only by the donor.

Indirect support through NGOs: This refers to support to the sector which is provided via other organizations such as non-government organizations. Funds are paid to those agencies and accounted for by those agencies directly to the donor. The Ministry may not be aware of the existence or extent of this support and it may be provided low down in the system e.g. directly to individual schools or institutions in the sector. It is usually not included in the budget of the Government.

Agency direct support: This refers to funds held by the donor agency and expended by it directly. This is a common modality for scholarships (either in country or abroad), small or specific consultancies (such as lending program identification) or small and discrete supply of assistance such as equipment. These funds do not appear in the government budget and are accounted for only by the donor agency. The MOEYS will often be unaware of the level of financing.

Source: Cambodia Education Sector Donor Report (2003).


The direct budget support portion up to 2002 is solely attributable to the ADB Education Sector Development Program (ESDP) policy loan. The 2003 portion consists of US$ 5 million from the ADB and US$ 3 million expected from EU, both of which are loans. The direct budget support provides funding for non-wage recurrent costs in the education Priority Action Program (PAP) framework of the government.

The PAP is the government’s innovative budgeting scheme introduced to the education and health sectors in 2000. The PAP was intended to ensure that: (a) specific activities gain access to their full budget allocation by removing PAP funding from the discretionary cash allotment system; (b) introducing budget management centers (BMCs) at provincial and district levels, which manage their own budgets in accordance with pre-approved plans; (c) replacing pre-audit of spending actions by post-audit; and (d) creating dedicated accounts in provincial treasuries offices which are not subject to treasury discretions about cash release.36 The PAP was piloted in 10 provinces in 2000, followed by a nation-wide operation in Education from 2001 onward.

Chart 6-1. Flows of the Priority Action Program (PAP) Funds



Source: Education Sector Support Program 2002/06, MOEYS

The current system for distribution of the PAP funds to provinces involves transfers of money from the National Treasury to Provincial Treasuries and then on to the Provincial Budget Management Centers (BMCs). The money received at the provincial BMCs is then sent to institutions directly or to schools via district BMCs (Chart 6-1). All PAP funds are sent and received in cash. So far, the Ministry has experienced difficulties in securing the release of funds for PAP implementation. At the time of the Joint ESSP Review 2003, only 50 % (59% for provincial BMCs and 34% for central BMCs) of the total PAP 2002 cash had been released from the National and Provincial Treasuries.

A significant portion of the direct project support funds comes from the ADB, AusAID, French Cooperation, JICA, UNICEF/Sida and the World Bank. The majority of the projects are resourced in the form of grants, and the rest are supported through loans. Disbursement, accounting, auditing and reporting procedures differ between projects depending on donors’ policies. This type of assistance is included in the education Public Investment Program (PIP) (Chart 6-2). Future financing plans of donors are reflected in the three year rolling education medium term expenditure plan (MTEP) that is to be integrated with the government’s MTEF.

Salary supplements, or more broadly the provision of financial incentives, to government officials under donor-funded projects are another issue of concern in the implementation of programs/projects. While concrete data is difficult to obtain, anecdotal evidences seem to suggest that donors’ and NGOs’ projects provide financial incentives for MOEYS officials in a variety of forms, including per diems, travel allowances, etc., which are associated with specific activities under donor-funded projects, such as research, field visits and training. There are also cases in which government officials assigned to work for a Project Implementation Unit take a leave of absence during the project implementation period and receive salary supplements. A comprehensive mapping of salary supplement practices is beyond the scope of this study and this topic shall be discussed in the context of another study on capacity development under the Government Donor Partnerships Working Group.


Chart 6-2. Summary of ESSP Sector Wide Planning Mechanisms


3.    Achievements of aid coordination


To what extent has a shift from donorship to partnership, and eventually to ownership, has been achieved since SWAp was launched in education sector? It is difficult to assess this shift in an objective, quantitative manner, but many of the observers interviewed in the course of this study felt that government ownership had definitely been enhanced. The new arrangements for aid coordination and the new opportunities for collaborative work with donors have resulted in a high level of commitment from MOEYS. Several donor representatives told the study team that the Minister, Secretaries of State and Director Generals have all been present at the regular Consultative Meetings and are actively involved in determining major policy directions.

The fact that MOEYS now has a mechanism for directing donors to align assistance with the sector’s needs has also encouraged MOEYS to take a more active role. Several donor representatives reported with appreciation that they are increasingly having consultations with MOEYS officials over their development assistance plans. Technical advisors based at MOEYS also noted that their work is increasingly supervised by MOEYS. Other informants felt that the government’s increased sense of ownership was apparent in the way that MOEYS now addresses problems facing the education sector. For example, in response to the delayed PAP disbursements, the Minister of Education officially acknowledged the issue at the ESSP Joint Review 2003, and committed to address the problem in collaboration with MEF.


A number of donor advisors share the view that the process of working with donors to coordinate aid has in itself improved the capacity of MOEYS officials. For example, according to those participating in the ESSP Joint Reviews over the past two years, government officials participated more actively during the 2003 review than they did in 2002, and even led group sessions. Some government officials also made the same point. A senior official of MOEYS, during an interview by the study team, said that the SWAp process to date has succeeded in building leadership of MOEYS. In particular, he stressed that the series of workshops on SWAp at an early stage had significantly helped MOEYS to deepen its understanding and eventually build confidence in taking it up as a Ministry’s approach. This improved confidence, in turn, has led to the strong leadership demonstrated by MOEYS at later stages of SWAp.

Another example of increased government capacity has to do with how documents are drafted. In the past, a number of official documents of MOEYS were reportedly drafted in English first with significant assistance by foreign advisors, then translated into Khmer. However, both government officials and donor representatives stated that the recent drafting of the National Plan for EFA 2015 was conducted primarily by government officials with limited assistance from foreign advisors.

A number of donor-funded technical advisors have been assigned to the education sector, especially since the beginning of the SWAp process. There is no doubt that their assistance has contributed to the above-mentioned progress of the reforms as well as capacity development of MOEYS to manage its programs/projects. However, several MOEYS officials working at the operational level felt that technical advisors’ roles should have much sharper focus on the transfer of skills to MOEYS officials than is currently the practice. They observed that in many cases donor advisors spend a large portion of time carrying out the tasks of officials. It was also reported that the work of technical advisors does not always build on the earlier work done by his or her predecessors and often lacked connection with other foreign assistance. These issues concerned with technical assistance will be further discussed in the later section as part of the challenge in providing more effective and efficient support of capacity development.

Despite the issues raised above, MOEYS officials in general appreciated donor assistance in the past, and also recognize the need for technical assistance to develop the capacity of MOEYS officials in implementing new initiatives such as SWAp. Some MOEYS officials at the central level interviewed told the study team frankly that they face difficulty in fully understanding the financial management procedures, in particular of PAP, not only because the procedures are new, but also because the procedures have often changed over a relatively short period of time. The need for capacity development is much more pronounced at the sub-national levels, including provincial departments, district offices and schools, a finding that was reinforced during in a field visit to Prey Veng Province. The report of the Planning Department submitted to the ESSP 2003 Review perhaps summarizes the current situation most succinctly, noting that: "As far as sector planning, financial planning, education budgeting are concerned we depend mostly on technical consultants and donors because the DoP does not yet have the capacity to handle these tasks so that it can become independent."38 Further development of capacity in this respect is therefore needed.

Overlap of donor assistance

Aid coordination is expected to reduce overlaps of donor assistance, align assistance with sector policies and strategies, and subsequently maximize the impact of aid within limited aid resources. Some progress in this regard has been observed in the SWAp process so far.

The first step in aligning donor assistance with a common policy framework is having comprehensive and detailed information about what donor assistance projects there actually are. Cambodia’s education sector has made significant progress in this regard. A comprehensive listing of donor interventions and the Common Policy Implementation Matrix were provided as part of ESSP review documents. Since then, the combination of information on donor interventions and the policy matrix has been used as a basis for discussions and negotiation about the planning and monitoring of donor assistance.

Transaction costs to the government

Aid coordination also aims to reduce the transaction costs to MOEYS of coordinating each donor agency bilaterally. ESWG has played a positive role in this respect by serving as a forum for donor agencies. A consensus is forged at ESWG and then reported to the Consultative Meeting by the chair of ESWG. The existence of the two collaborative frameworks and the liaising arrangement between the two forums has enabled MOEYS to avoid discussing its policy matters with each of the donor agencies one at a time, saving resources and allowing MOEYS officials to spend more time on their primary duties, such as policy development and implementation, rather than donor coordination. In addition, with the view to reduce the transaction costs of MOEYS, some donors have partly integrated their project/program reviews into the sector review process. UNICEF/Sida, the World Bank and the EC undertook review missions during the 2003 ESSP Review and some other funding agencies sent advisory staff from HQ to participate in the review.

On the other hand, many donor representatives pointed out that the increased number of consultation steps, such as attending the ESWG meeting before direct consultation with the government, has significantly increased transaction costs to the donors. While this cost increase is usually not appreciated by those managing donors’ resources, it could be interpreted as a shift of some of the administrative burden from MOEYS to the donors.

To what extent the aid coordination effort in the education sector has contributed to improvement of the sector performance is of great interest to many. Indicators to measure sector performances have been presented in the ESSP and reviewed in a course of the ESSP reviews and, according to the Education Sector Performance Report 2003, some indicators (e.g. enrollment rates, quality of teaching services, etc.) showed improved trends over the past years. However, it is difficult to determine to what extent the aid coordination effort so far has contributed to the identified improvement.


The ultimate goal of aid coordination management, in terms of sustainability, is to reach a state in which MOEYS has sufficient institutional capacity to efficiently manage sector programs/projects by itself, without substantial donor funds or technical assistance. The development of ESP/ESSP and initiation of its review process, characterized as annual Joint ESSP Review, appears to indicate progress in institutional capacity development.

Despite recent progress, there are some key issues to be addressed in the organizational capacity of MOEYS to better manage sector programs and projects. In particular, the weak financial management capacity of the government is seen as a cause of the delay in the PAP release and a constraint in financial monitoring and reporting at all the levels. These issues will be discussed in the next section.

4.    Lessons learned from aid coordination

Contributing factors to achievements

A flexible approach towards the terms and process of establishing partnership encourages broader and more active participation.

The government made an initial attempt in March 2000 to establish a written partnership framework between MOEYS and a group of donor agencies and NGOs. The SOI was signed by only nine out of 14 participating agencies. The failure in obtaining unanimous endorsement of the SOI could be a negative lesson learned by the government and the donor community in Cambodia. More attention to obtaining consensus from those concerned prior to requesting formal endorsement might have prevented the initial lukewarm response by donors. However, the subsequent actions of the government rectified the situation. Responding to the concerns by the donors that did not sign the SOI, the government demonstrated its intention to take an inclusive, rather than exclusive, approach to donor assistance in the SWAp process. Senior officials emphasized on several occasions the importance of involving all the donors in the SWAp process. The flexible approach of MOEYS in partnership development resulted in active participation and cooperation of all the major donors in the SWAp process to date.

Wide dissemination of program concepts among stakeholders should take place before actual partnership negotiations start.

Several workshops on SWAp were organized in 2000, mainly funded by UNICEF/Sida. They targeted MOEYS officials and donor/NGO representatives to deepen their understanding of the SWAp concept. A senior official at the MOEYS admitted during the interview that a significant portion of MOEYS staff had a negative view of SWAp at its initial stage. However, as their understanding of SWAp deepened, they changed their views and gained confidence to move forward. The successful experience of MOEYS clearly indicates that disseminating the concept of SWAp widely at an early stage helps build confidence and trust among stakeholders and helps build government confidence to lead the SWAp process forward.

A fair and unbiased process is crucial for encouraging donor participation and frank discussion.

Most of interviewees from donor agencies expressed their appreciation on the way in which ESWG meetings were managed. Several emphasized that the fair and unbiased working and decision-making process of ESWG was a key to the success of consensus building among donors. In fact, some donor representatives said that the fair working base established a cooperative atmosphere at ESWG and contributed to promoting honest and frank information sharing among donor representatives. Some of the reasons that ESWG was able to do this, according to interviewees, were that: (1) UNESCO’s limited influence in the education sector in Cambodia meant they were seen as neutral in their role as chair of ESWG; and (2) the chairperson’s personal management style avoided the perception of biases and ensured fairness to all participants.

Achieving consensus among donors prior to consultation with the government results in more coherent recommendations and reduced transaction costs to the government.

Following the "Principles and Practices for Partnerships" endorsed by MOEYS and donor agencies in 2001, the donor community has made significant efforts to build consensus among themselves prior to consultation with MOEYS. ESWG serves as a forum to build such consensus among donors and its chairperson represents all the donors at Consultative Meetings with MOEYS and NGOs. This arrangement has mitigated one of the common problems in Cambodia in which donors pull the government in different directions by sending conflicting messages. This also helped build donor agencies’ ownership of consensus-based decisions made at ESWG meeting. Furthermore, this arrangement reduced the cost of coordinating donors and NGOs separately, for MOEYS if not necessarily for the donors.

An effective coordinator can make the process work more smoothly.

The "people" factor is also critical. Many stakeholders involved agree that the donor coordination advisor has played a significant role in facilitating communication between donors and MOEYS. Funded by UNICEF/Sida, the donor coordination advisor has taken on a significant portion of administrative tasks at ESWG meetings and worked together with the chairperson of ESWG to efficiently coordinate with MOEYS. The position of the coordination advisor has also reduced the administrative burden to the donors for aid coordination activities.

Future Challenges

Developing a more consistent information system

Significant progress has been made in sharing information, in particular on the current status of financial inputs by donors, among MOEYS and donors since the introduction of SWAp. There are two data sources: (i) a comprehensive list of donor assistance with information on financial figures and activities, which was developed as part of the donor report for ESSP 2003 and prepared by the donor coordination advisor; and (ii) AID Management Information System (AIDMIS) compiled by the Project Management and Monitoring Office (PMMO) of the Planning Department of MOEYS, with support of UNICEF/Sida and UNDP/CDC.39 The AIDMIS is prepared based on the questionnaires filled by donor agencies on the regular basis. Both data sources enabled MOEYS and donors to easily identify ongoing activities conducted by each donor agency in the education sector, although a remaining challenge is the discrepancy in numbers between the two data sources, as indicated in the donor report for ESSP 2003 and discussed at ESWG in June 2003.

The Director of the Planning Department at MOEYS estimated that the AIDMIS covers only around 80% of the current total donor assistance in Education, partly due to the limited capacity of PMMO. A more serious issue, however, is the fact that not all the donors responded to the questionnaire sent by the MOEYS, which has created information gaps in the AIDMIS. It was reported that donors were more likely to respond to the request of the donor coordination advisor than that of the PMMO. It is therefore recommended that MOEYS further strengthen this already well-established AIDMIS as recommended at ESWG in June 2003. The primary information gaps are in the current status of donor assistance. Consistent data on future projections of donor assistance should then be made available as the next step, particularly in view of feeding information to MTEF. Donors should ensure full cooperation to provide assistance information upon the request of MOEYS, and provide technical support for further development of AIDMIS. An incentive to achieve full cooperation of donors might be that MOEYS could publish the information on the regular basis to all the stakeholders involved in the SWAp process.

Better coordination of technical assistance for capacity development of MOEYS officials

While there is no doubt that MOEYS needs continued technical assistance, MOEYS and development partners have come to recognize that the number of technical advisors has increased to the extent that MOEYS cannot fully grasp the overall picture of assistance and therefore needs to coordinate them. There are some cases in which the activities of different technical advisors were overlapping in the past. This could have been avoided if the Ministry and donors had had better grasp of activities of all technical advisors. In addition, there are cases in which advisors’ work has focused primarily on providing policy advice to high-level officials and drafting official documents of MOEYS, whereas little emphasis has been put on developing the capacity of the officials who are actually responsible for preparing the Ministry’s documents. Although advisors may have needed to play these roles in the past, many officials interviewed strongly felt that advisors’ task is not to do the work, but to build officials’ capacity to do the work. They stressed that MOEYS and donor partners should make concerted efforts to develop the capacity of officials who engage in day-to-day management, in particular of their program/project management as well as report writing skills.

As the first step to clarifying the status of technical assistance for MOEYS, ESWG conducted a quantitative survey of technical assistance support to the education sector in June 2003.41 The report revealed that the volume of the technical advisors assigned to the education sector in 2003 was estimated as 958 person-months (581 for central departments and 377 for provincial departments; 506 international and 452 national). It follows that around 80 technical advisors are working full-time in the education sector. In addition, ESWG is currently conducting a qualitative survey on the roles of technical assistance. It will be completed in November 2003. Building on the findings of the survey, MOEYS and development partners are expected to discuss and agree on the scope of further work to facilitate better coordination of the supply and use of technical assistance.

Strengthening the financial management system, in particular related to reform measures such as PAP

The delay in the government’s release of the PAP funds has been a problem that hinders the effective conduct of the sector program through the direct budget support by ADB’s policy adjustment loan program. The release rate of the PAP 2002 fund42 remained at around 80% and the PAP 2003 fund has not been released at all as of September 2003. In addition, the monitoring and reporting on the PAP expenditures has not been adequately conducted at spending units such as schools. In other words, the central departments of MOEYS are unable to obtain the overall picture of the PAP expenditures in the whole education sector. Several informants stressed the risk of further increasing the direct budget support without adequately addressing the problem of weak financial management system, and expressed a concern that the budget support program that is resourced by a loan may not be paid off. Key challenges in the connection are described below.

(1) Ensuring timely disbursement of PAP budget

The delay in the PAP release and the ineffective PAP execution appears to have been caused by several factors. The problem is attributable partly to the PAP planning process at the central level, and partly to the treasury operations and cash management. It was also reported that there are liquidity constraints in the treasury which affects the timely disbursement of the PAP funds and causes fragmentation of its payments to BMCs. In fact, schools in Prey Veng reported that they received the PAP 2002 allocations divided in more than 10 installments over the period of one year.

In response, ESWG requested that MOEYS and MEF jointly take effective measures to address the PAP execution problem. As part of MOEYS’s efforts, the EFMC was established to address problems around PAP disbursements. The Minister of Education also acknowledged the problem at the ESSP 2003 Joint Review and committed to address it in collaboration with MEF. The most recent inter-ministerial initiative to address this issue is the establishment of the PAP Taskforce including MEF, MOEYS and MOH. It was initiated in September 2003 with the objective of identifying the cause of the ineffective PAP execution and thereby proposing practical measures to address it. MOEYS in collaboration with other ministries and with technical support of donors needs to urgently move forward, according to the steps suggested by the taskforce.

(2) Strengthening the capacity to manage PAP expenditure at provincial departments, district offices, and spending units such as schools.

Obvious capacity gaps exist in the area of monitoring and reporting on the PAP expenditures. Among 185 districts, there are only 144 district education offices that have so far established BMCs. In addition, as indicated by the IFAPER report in 200343 , the rapid scaling up of PAP has brought to light significant capacity gaps in the BMCs in areas such as budget preparation, costing, accounting records and reports, financial control procedures, and control systems44 . Several officials of MOEYS indicated the fact that more than 80% of administrative staff at provincial and district education offices are teachers by training and have no formal training in administration. The lack of relevant background and training makes it more difficult for them to get used to the PAP management. The study team was also informed during a field trip in Prey Veng that a number of school directors have had difficulty in handling the PAP reporting procedures. School directors as well as BMC staff attended training programs on PAP management, but a common view shared by officials at different levels was that the training was not enough for them to gain adequate skills to handle PAP. It is therefore suggested that donors continue to provide technical assistance to build capacity in this area.

Searching for complementarities of assistance modalities

Donor funding through direct budget support accounts for 18% of total donor assistance to the education sector in 2003. The Indicator Matrix adopted as part of the donor report for ESSP 2002 provides a target as "50% of total donor support for the education sector is provided through direct budget support by 2005". 45 However, the donor report for ESSP 2003 recognizes as, "Whilst the figures provided this year for the medium term clearly indicate that this target will not be achieved, it is suggested that this target should be reviewed in the context of the need to consider an optimal mix of modalities…"

This could suggest that a target setting driven by donors and without sufficient assessment cannot mobilize support by other stakeholders. Currently, budget support by ADB is targeted to the recurrent budget through PAP. The direct impact of the budget support, e.g. improvement of enrollment rate, has been reported in various occasions, but its effectiveness in institutional development in a sustainable way has yet to be seen.

UNICEF/Sida has been operating a technical assistance project to address the capacity gaps in PAP management at the provincial levels. The Education Quality Improvement Project (EQIP) financed by World Bank has also supported a participatory planning process at school clusters in three provinces and proved to be effective in complementing the PAP implementation. These are examples of good practices in which the advantages of different donor assistance modalities have been combined to address capacity and investment gaps identified in the sector.

Further enhancing capacity of donor agencies

Both MOEYS and ESWG recognize that the capacity of donors in understanding and engaging in the SWAp process has improved since its introduction. Nevertheless, a critical issue in this respect is the capacity of donors in dealing with the growing number of tasks required for aid coordination. Some donor advisors felt overwhelmed by the volume of administrative tasks resulting from the increased number of steps before consultation with MOEYS. A lesson from the experience of MOEYS and donors, as earlier mentioned, is that the reduction of the government’s costs for donor coordination are achieved in part by increasing the donors’ transaction costs. The study team received the impression that most of the donors do not appreciate the increase in their administrative burden; however, in consideration of the primary purpose of reducing MOEYS’s cost, donors may have to accept the increased costs as well as to consider increasing their capacity to contribute to aid coordination.

The donor report for ESSP 2003 suggests several ways to enhance donor capacity, including complementary ad hoc workshops, seminars and discussion sessions on technical and strategic issues targeting donors.46 In the past, a number of initiatives have been undertaken, including a workshop on budget support in 2002. It is expected that donors will obtain further understanding on strategic issues in this way; for example, through technical briefings by MOEYS technical advisors. The donor report also recognizes that a vast amount of information on aid management exists and it is difficult to know what will be potentially useful. In this respect, the report suggests that donors consider the establishment of a small document or information center, incorporating key information on the ESP/ESSP, donor policies/strategies and wider education and aid management information.


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