PROCUREMENT PRACTICES UNDER
TITLE XII: REAFFIRMATION OR REORIENTATION?'
Chris 0. Andrew2
This paper deals with U.S. technical assistance in agriculture for Third World countries. Particularly, it is concerned with procurement of assistance through Title XII universities to agricultural research, education, extension and policy making entities in developing countries. Present USAID rules and management behavior too often result in wasted resources, talent, goodwill and valuable time.
Currently the U.S. technical assistance program for agriculture is hampered by: lack of coordination among major donor agencies; fragmentation in delivery of bilateral projects; philosophical discontinuity among development assistance scientists and agencies; and excessive USAID emphasis on the processes of selecting and evaluating bilateral contractors at the expense of achieving potentially high quality and substantive long-term results. The agricultural sector and the farm household are complex. This, itself, tests our ability to deliver effective assistance in a variety of settings. Accepted bureaucratic impediments, make the difficult impossible. To best use U.S. technical support capability, complete "rethinking" followed by "refocus" from process to substance in long-term regional and country development strategies is necessary.
Proposed herein is a regional strategy consistent with the intent of Title XII. It suggests a procedure for technical assistance entities to become qualified for a region (several countries) where they will be committed to work over a period of 15 to 25 years. It calls for a strategy for determining where university subject matter and geographic capabilities lie. It provides for development of institutional capacity and experience. Several entities would be qualified for each region so shifts in responsibility over time could take place without breaking program continuity and without severing established relationships between technical assistance entities and recipients. The high cost and inequity of competitive project procurement on a project basis would be reduced. Qualification on a regional program basis would give equitable opportunity to bidders of any size. The result would be programs less subjected to politics and personal whim and more directed to resolving long-term agricultural production, resource use and welfare problems. The programs would be implemented through "Collaborative Assistance Support Pools (CASPs)" an important complement to the existing Collaborative Research Support Projects (CRSPs).
lPresented at the 1988 Annual AUSUDIAP Meetings, Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 7-9, 1988. Comments by Peter Hildebrand, Ken McDermott, Carlton Davis, Kamal Dow, Steve Kearl, and Wendell Morse are greatly appreciated.
2Professor of Food and Resource Economics, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.
Projects or Programs?
Successful agricultural assistance programs result from a holistic perspective of agricultural production problems and policy issues. Yet, technical assistance donors and agencies often impart divergent and incongruent objectives to Third-World countries through uncoordinated project interventions. While regional coordination of technical assistance often relates to U.S. based regional configurations, coordinated and shared assistance to Third-World countries in a region is not common among donors and their bilateral purveyors of assistance Further, within a single technical assistance agency, various projects may not be consistent with each other nor compatible with the purposes of the recipient government. Finally, within a single project, continuity may not prevail. It would appear that organization and management of technical assistance most often is designed to favor suppliers and not recipients. Also in this context, the supply of technical assistance may create its own demand. Effective demand, determined by donor funding priorities, may or may not be indicative of recipient country priority needs.
Even when a USAID mission has well defined country programs that address the whole agricultural sector including farm and rural community needs, projects implemented by different universities and technical assistance firms usually are not coordinated. A contractor in attempting to implement procurement responsibilities, may also lack personnel commitment due to instability in project procurement. USAID Washington often perpetuates contractor uncertainty by confounding the linkage between mission needs and university capabilities.
The distance between the world research and education community and the Third-World farmer is very great, both technically and institutionally, yet current assistance mechanisms seem to mitigate against closing the gap. Voids in the research to farmer linkage result from: disintegrated specialization along project and organization lines; various assumptions about who should perform certain technology development, adaptation and transfer tasks; and spotty investments in the research and extension system.
These fragmented project conditions cause the U.S. technical assistance effort to be ineffective in use of human and institutional resources and its scientific knowledge base. It seems that there is too much imposed donor management generally and especially in procurement. As a result, we often do not tap the most appropriate human resource capabilities. Many of our efforts to address the food problems of the world lack continuity, consistency and compatibility. Ultimately, we often fail to address recipient needs.
Processes or Product?
While Title XII is one of the most innovative congressional foreign policy statements of this century, it remains for us to make implementation of the legislation more effective. While not entirely of its own making, USAID, the implementing agency for Title XII, is confronted with institutional obsolescence. 'It seems that too often we legitimize the Agency and it's projects on the basis of the process. The potential effectiveness of Title XII can be enhanced by reduced emphasis on bureaucratic procedures and greater emphasis on product.
3CDA (Cooperation for Development in Africa) is one attempt to address this dilemma by organizing donor support around ecological zones, although it does so informally.
Recently, U.S. assistance has become somewhat more decentralized. Regional country and recipient administrators of USAID programs have more authority. This effort should be applauded because it puts technical assistance resources closer to problems and decision makers. The Title XII and AID mechanisms for contracting and procurement are competitive and "fair", to be sure, and the BIFAD has invested heavily in the effort.
Competition, however, can dissuade long-term cooperation and contribute to diffused rather than focused programs.4 A specific objective and time focus is lost to either contractor "one-upsmanship" or "donor fadism". Although the Title XII mechanisms assure competitiveness on a project basis, they also assure discontinuity with considerable delays in initiating and continuing technical assistance program work. This situation is caused by overemphasis on bureaucratic process; too little attention is given to the resulting program and the recipient country's institutional processes. Even program evaluation and monitoring efforts are tied up in short-term administrative details that prevent them from achieving their intended purpose of contributing to sustainable performance over the long-term. While program mechanisms become more complex there is a tendency toward ease of contracting mechanisms that may sacrifice quality to achieve ease of process. In both cases process driven mechanisms relegate programs and products to second priority.
The Title XII focus must be with those who receive our assistance (demand-side benefits) as opposed to those who supply it (supply-side equity). Responsible technical assistance programming should allow for ex-post (demand-side) evaluation as opposed to heavy emphasis on ex-ante (supply-side) manipulation. Responsible university contractors individually and as a group must insure their own quality and not burden donors with a task for which they are illprepared. We must trim the sail and create a system that will sustain participation on a longterm basis; be conducive to program continuity; and sustain education, research and extension program development for our clientele. We now speak of sustainable agriculture; the question is, can we provide sustainable support to Third-World agricultural institutions?
Ovtortunitv or Problem?
More now than ever before, the Title XII universities are prepared for agricultural development work in the Third-World and simultaneous contributions to the agricultural sector of the U.S. If we elect to combine our experience in a collective and well coordinated systems approach, greater success can be achieved. But if institutional drift toward project fragmentation continues, specialization without integration will diminish the opportunity for problem solving on a broad basis and slow, if any, progress will inevitably be the outcome.
Times have changed. Agriculture is more complex and agricultural policies and
agricultural research systems that fail to address the whole system must themselves fail. Methodologies and approaches are being developed that allow us to better understand the whole system by taking from it specific problems, resolving them in a manner that will make the results remain compatible with the system and, when reintroduced to the system, provide a basis for rational evolution in that system. The question before us now is whether donors and implementors of technical assistance can become more consistent 'and unified in support of national governments and farmers who must deal with developing agriculture as a system.
41nspired by Richard A: Baldwin. International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAR) in a paper entitled "Focused Cooperative Agricultural Research" presented at a seminar arranged by USAID entitled "Strengthening Collaboration in Biotechnology: International Agricultural Research and the Private Sector", 17-21 April, 1988.
Specialties or Systems?
Organization of technical assistance needs to focus on accessing the special skills of participating governments, donors, agencies, universities and individuals. Not all problems of a given setting can be solved by a single assistance project or agency. Skills are developed and experience gained under different settings from which national governments may want to choose. But the context for managing technical assistance must consider a hierarchy of potential agricultural research and policy interventions. This hierarchy extends from agricultural systems through farming systems, cropping systems, to commodity and component research. The universities and International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) along with the USAID/Collaborative Research Support Projects (CRSPs), are building structural entities through which this targeted and responsive programming can occur.
An expertise based support system for agricultural development will rely upon the success of regional efforts in prioritizing common problems and opportunities. A deliberately designed support network is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the overall technical assistance endeavor. Such a network has been partially defined and developed for Africa but the policy linkages often are not clear for exchange between research, extension and farmers. The balance between adaptive and fundamental research, between disciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches, between production and marketing and among varied client needs (women and men farmers, for example) should be clarified. At present, coordination seems to be a missing link.
An approach that utilizes the AID suooort project concept is proposed for technical assistance directed toward regional and country programming. It would provide for Collaborate Assistance Support Pools (GASPs) to complement the CRSPs and would be composed, on a regional basis, of a prequalified group of entities. It would focus on consistent and sustainable long-term support.5 And it speaks to a more collaborative mode of assistance; that is, collaboration between the eventual suppliers (universities) and users (Third-World education, research, extension and policy making organizations).
Even before a new strategy unfolds, I already hear contracting authorities saying, "What you propose can not be done contractually". My response, however, is simply, "It must be commodated if we are to become more effective and efficient in our developmental programming." Our ultimate mission, and that of contractual authorities, is to serve limited resource rural people.
Procurement for Regional Programs:
Serving a Different Master
A regional program focus (Western Sahel, Caribbean Basin, etc.) designed to addressmulticountry similarities, as well as needs of specific countries should be developed within the U.S. agricultural technical assistance program, (African area studies, agricultural and research faculties). The elements in a technical assistance package would include: 1) the capable institutions for regionally focused and country specific research, education and extension; 2)
5We are reminded of early and successful technical assistance adventures in countries such as Brazil and India where long-term participation made a significant difference.
institutions capable of providing for capital assistance; 3) programming for component, cropping, farming and agricultural systems research and development; and 4) cooperative work toward a major and consistent mission within a region.6 The initiative for establishing this effort would be with the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) and would require continued U.S. institutional commitment to the longterm principles of Title XII.
A regional strategy could include a GASP Board of Directors chosen from support entities and recipient countries.7 The Board would represent an institutional base that would be qualified for service in ways similar to those required presently when a university or firm responds to an REP. The institutions to qualify for a given region, would constitute the group responsible for assistance to countries of that region for an extended period of time. Review at periodic intervals would accommodate continuous institutional strengthening for support to the region. Accountability and evaluation would emphasize ex-gost procedures based on carefully developed short-term and long-term plans. The CASP would participate in elaboration of the USAID country strategy statements as well as regional strategies.
The Regional Assistance Community
Universities involved in regionally targeted programs could prepare for long-term assistance with faculty and induce faculty to work on the basis of a secure career plan. Technical assistance firms could fit into the strategy just as universities depending on the specific expertise. The capability of participating support universities to develop long-term inter-institutional ties would be strengthened significantly, as would their ability to respond to needs within the region. Participating Third-World institutions would not only develop a stronger capability to provide 'support to agriculture but would also gain from experience within the region to further strengthen indigenous technical assistance capability. The universities would become centers for regional studies and more fully utilize the Title XII and area studies (Title VI) potentials of the universities. Where work is related to commodity based problems, sharing across country lines would benefit the region, specific recipient countries and the U.S.
The regional approach would provide a comprehensive plan to allow for secure long-term involvement. It would not necessarily assure that each participating institution or each qualified faculty member would be heavily involved. This would depend upon capability, sustained commitment and quality of work, but most importantly, demand from the region. Nevertheless, the base would provide the potential opportunity for qualified individuals at less experienced and smaller institutions to participate along with groups of individuals from more experienced and larger institutions.
6Our technical assistance efforts deserve and demand the same tenacity and coordinated consistency as was evident in fulfilling John F. Kennedy's declaration in 1961 that we would place a man on the moon before the close of the decade.
7am aware that some in USAID dislike boards and advisors because they represent "unnecessary added expense with little benefit". I am sure the record does not uniformly support this assertion. Good models do exist and I would agree with the need for keeping the oversight structure simple. The Board, however, would have more than oversight responsibility.
A strategy is needed to determine initially and periodically how individuals and institutions would develop specializations and qualify to contribute to the regional focus of a CASP. How can we come to an understanding among ourselves as to who will be responsible for subject matter and geographic expertise, in various parts of the Third-World, in such a way that the supply of services not only meets needs but does so with long-term equity, quality and continuity? Should capital assistance activities be mixed, as far as implementing institutions are concerned, with the technical assistance role? Technical assistance and capital assistance must be closely coordinated. While these activities should integrate and be managed at the regional level, those most competent to give capital assistance generally are not those most competent to give technical assistance and vice versa. Universities and international research centers generally fall within the area of technical assistance services; capital related assistance services generally operate through the private sector.
Comparative advantage in human resource development by subject matter and country orientation involves major long-term investments. In several instances people have been trained through Title XII investment for career participation in regional programs and country-specific assistance. However, long-term institution- to-institution assistance on a regional basis requires a critical mass of faculty. These people must embody complementary regional and subject matter interests if the full backstop potential of a university or group of universities is to be achieved. Thus, the overall technical assistance authority, evolving through interaction among 1890 and 1862 universities, must establish a strategy that operationalizes the concepts of comparative advantage, critical mass, self-determination and long-term security/integrity. From this base we might redefine the overall procurement strategy of U.S. technical assistance.
Planning and Procurement for the Long-Term:
Mature Intra Community Supt)ort
The "bidding" process for specific projects would not necessarily come into play. Some other outside selection process could be developed and implemented by BIFAD. Possibly a modified indefinite quantity contract would provide for program-specific long-term inputs and provide distribution of the work load based on input capabilities. The regional CASP Board of Directors would oversee this activity with an eye toward efficiency and effective program implementation. The continuous bidding and proposal preparation process, entailing numerous universities competing for the same activity, would no longer consume so many resources. Again, as was first intended in the landmark Humphrey-Finley legislation, the quality and destiny of U.S. technical assistance to the Third-World would be determined to a considerable extent by the nature and potentialities of the university system upon which it rests.
The recipient (demand) oriented regional focus would be regionally targeted in terms of coordination, collaboration and training from the program support base in the U.S. to coordinated delivery in the recipient region or country. This support base would provide coordination for preparedness and follow-through by the participating institutions designated to implement activities in a country or region. The CASP would also provide the program support base for coordinated activities on the ground. Long-term development of capability to support such activities and study the results would provide for continuity in the support capability and it's information base. The rebidding process that often shifts one assistance entity in one country to another (where it may have less experience) while another entity follows behind it as in "musical chairs", is disruptive to programs and wasteful of valuable time and resources. The regional pool of technical assistance resources (entities and people) from which the CASP Board could help direct rational change would provide greater security
to recipient countries and sustained program continuity. This continuity, while beneficial to recipients, translates to maintaining enthusiastic expertise in support entities.
CASP universities could group together to strengthen regional capability with workshops and training sessions for U.S. faculty in preparation for service to the region. At the same time the Board would coordinate assistance efforts in the region with national program leaders as mutual needs would dictate. Curricula, targeting the needs of regional students, could be developed and shared. Faculty exchanges and short-term training would give impetus to developing or further strengthening areas of expertise as in the arid lands or humid tropics. USAID participants studying in the U.S. would fit into the U.S. networking activity as well as into the networking activity in the region when they return home. Broader based peer groups would be established among these individuals to further support the overall long-term effort. The human resource base could then truly provide the linkage for involvement in the technical assistance process and the emergence of a sister institution concept not unlike the sister city program. This would be the basis for developing long-term (15 to 25 years or more) technical assistance and scientific networks.8
Procurement for Near-Term Imolementation:
Service From a Family of Institutions
A regional orientation for technical assistance, based on a qualification mechanism of long-term commitments by a family of institutions, would not need to deal with many of the issues currently stimulated by the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). The procedures and mechanisms now imposed on both institutional subcontracts and personal service contracts often make timely assistance impossible for qualified human and institutional resources. The FAR fails to distinguish between procedures for procuring Defense Department hardware and State Department human services. With long-term qualification of a regional assistance community, the near-term human resource contribution will receive scrutiny both through field contact and through career oriented peer evaluation. Long-term programs and career commitments can then create both depth and breadth in the assistance base.
Procurement would work in two stages. The first would be a continuous effort that qualifies and requalifies people and institutions for the regional pool. The second would draw from the institutional pool for major bilateral contracts or from the human resource pool for specific personal service contracts.
Procurement of "hardware" as opposed to people may well follow current guidelines but the regional focus may also lead to those entities that are best suited to providing this support to a given region. Service to several bilateral contracts at once may then achieve scale economies while reducing delivery time and improving service.
8Carl Eicher suggests, for example, a 20 year time frame to achieve an expanded research program in food and livestock. He observes that it took the U.S. 40 years to develop a productive system of federal and state research. See Eicher, Carl K. "Facing Up to Africa's Food Crisis" in Carl K. Eicher and Jon M. Staaz, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1984, p. 470.
Procurement for Commodity and Subiect Matter Programs: Family Ties Amofig Regional Assistance Communities
A commodity focus could utilize the USAID organization now operating through the CRSPs and other support projects that address specific subject matter, disciplinary or methodological concerns. The Farming Systems Support Project was an example of effective multi-institutional (21 universities and 4 private firms) collaboration to address a major subject matter area. Collaboration between support projects, the IARCs and universities is essential. Again, using program lines such as in the CRSPs, a Board of Directors could lead the activity. Centralized Bureau leadership would not be necessary but some sort of management support would be essential for the Board of Directors. A coordinating body for such activity could be BIFAD and Regional USAID agricultural officers.
Various component and system oriented subcommittees or subcouncils could be reworked to provide a scientific input directly into regional programs. The CRSP and CASP efforts would deliberately interact, some from the same resource base, for service to the regions. The councils and committees should be made up not only of U.S. personnel, but also Third-World nationals qualified to serve. A goal would be to further strengthen communication between the scientific community and the training base. Emerging networks would have roots in a sustainable service base.
The overall concept of support systems is sound and is based on the experience of USAID/Science and Technology projects. The experience should continue to evolve through broader based and longer term planning than now prevails in the year-to-year budget process. A support system can and should provide services to a regional program base, where problems and opportunities are well articulated, and solutions are adapted to regional, country and local needs.