Nyeri County Governors Delivery Unit: A Delivery Tool For The Countys Development Agenda And Comprehensive Response To COVID 19
Context and Challenge
Following the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in the Republic of Kenya in March 2020, the National Government launched an array of measures to curb the spread of the virus and prevent the loss of lives. At the devolved level, County Governments were tasked with the domestication of the national-level response within their respective counties. It was in this context that the County Government of Nyeri, led by H.E. Governor Mutahi Kahiga, requested the support of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBIGC) to strengthen the county’s health and socio-economic response to COVID-19. The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change was the partner of choice to support the effort to define and articulate the immediate-short term response to COVID-19, given TBIGC’s significant expertise in the establishment of management structures to coordinate and steer health and economic responses to pandemics, including the support TBIGC provided to the
governments of Sierra Leone and Liberia to establish crisis management structures to coordinate economic and public health measures related to the Ebola outbreaks in 2014.
TBIGC Kenya, in consultation with the Nyeri County Administration, undertook an assessment exercise to determine the needs of the County to strengthen its multi-faceted response to COVID-19. Given that the public health response within the County was already underway, the assessment revealed that critical gaps concerned the limited resources to meet the immediate and long-term COVID-19 health facility and equipment needs. From a socio-economic perspective, the negative impacts of COVID-19 were already being felt by residents of the County, with representatives from the private sector reporting the loss of up to 5,000 jobs a few months after the first COVID-19 case was identified in the country. The assessment revealed that a coordinated county-level COVID-19 socio-economic response was yet to be defined due to the speed at which the virus was spreading in the country.
Response and Actions
The approach adopted by the County Government of Nyeri, with the support of TBIGC Kenya, to address the identified gaps revolved around:
- Strengthening resource mobilisation efforts to meet the immediate and long-term health needs of the County, and;
- Developing a medium-long-term economic recovery and reconstruction strategy to cushion Nyeri residents against the economic impact of COVID-19 and transform the economic apparatus of the County in the long term
TBIGC Kenya recommended the establishment of a “crisis management structure” that would drive the County’s response to COVID-19. It proposed the establishment of a Governor’s Delivery Unit, to not only serve as the crisis management structure in the immediate short term but ultimately to drive delivery of the County administration’s priority outcomes in line with the Governor’s vision for the County and other County planning documents, including the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP).
TBIGC’s definition of “delivery” is a specialised approach to designing, managing, and monitoring the implementation of government priorities that are intended to have a significant effect on development outcomes. TBIGC’s model for delivery units consists of a small group of dedicated, skilled individuals trained in delivery tools and techniques, focused exclusively on achieving impact and improving outcomes within government priorities.
TBIGC Kenya worked closely with the County administration to identify a limited number of priority outcomes that would ultimately deliver on the Governor’s vision for the County, one of which was mitigating the health and socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on the residents of Nyeri County. In line with the key priorities identified by the leadership of the County, TBIGC supported the County administration to define the skills, structures and systems that would be required within the Governor’s Delivery Unit (GDU) to ensure the Unit had the required capacity to consistently support, track, monitor and report on the Governor’s priority programmes/projects, and troubleshoot problems/challenges proactively to mitigate programme/project delays.
Following the establishment and operationalisation of the Unit, TBIGC Kenya supported the onboarding members of the GDU, and facilitated their induction, covering critical concepts related to delivery practice and principles, including the importance of prioritisation, planning and resourcing, performance management, stakeholder engagement, problem-solving techniques and tools, and communication strategies. TBIGC Kenya continues to support the Unit to institutionalise delivery systems and processes, utilise delivery tools and implement delivery approaches.
Successes of the Nyeri County Governor’s Delivery Unit include:
- The appointment of a special advisor within the Unit, who is a delivery expert and serves as the Head of the GDU.
- The Nyeri County Hospital Bed Manufacture Programme was one of the 5 key interventions within the Nyeri County Economic Recovery Strategy that has yielded quick gains at the community level, namely the procurement and distribution of foot-pedalled hand washing equipment to all County hospitals following the release of funds by the Kenya Devolution Support Programme for level one capacity-building support.
- The Nyeri GDU has coordinated the process of establishing performance contract targets, and evaluation and ranking of departments in line with the County Performance Management Guidelines. The Nyeri GDU also supported the integration of the 5 interventions of the Nyeri County Economic Re-Engineering Recovery Strategy within the performance contracts of the relevant county departments and staff, which will ease the process of monitoring progress towards each of the interventions. This process has been effective towards institutionalising service delivery within the County administration, and specifically the County departments.
- The Nyeri County GDU has played a key role in the monitoring of key projects and programmes within the County, specifically by writing and disseminating progress reports to the Executive arm of the County and the County Assembly. The progress reports include pictorial evidence observed from the ground, and verification procedures to ensure quality assurance in line with standards tendered.
Following the operationalisation of the GDU, TBIGC has adopted a lighter touch approach to supporting the unit. This light touch support is in the form of technical delivery advice and support related to the functioning of the GDU and the fulfilment of its mandate as communicated to TBIGC during monthly periodic check ins.
It is anticipated that as the Country emerges from the third wave of COVID-19, the Nyeri County GDU will continue to play a critical role in identifying and addressing service delivery barriers while driving progress towards the completion of county-level projects and programmes and institutionalisation of principles of integrity and accountability in county-level project management.
A key concern encountered in the establishment of the Nyeri County GDU relates to the need to ensure that the functions of the GDU did not compromise/encroach on the functions of the existing county administration. This challenge was overcome by strengthening understanding of delivery principles and practice within the county administration, and clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of each GDU officer to avoid encountering bureaucratic obstacles.
Recommendations (what can other counties learn)
A key good practice regarding the establishment of a Governor’s Delivery Unit/Service Delivery Unit is to integrate TBIGC’s 7 critical components of delivery, namely:
- Political authority emanating from the Governor to empower the Unit to incentivise delivery within the County administration.
- Strong capacity of the Unit by ensuring the members of the Unit are delivery professionals, with sufficient resources to drive the delivery agenda within the County.
- The Unit should serve as an accountability mechanism regarding delivery of 3–4 key priority projects/programmes in line with the Governor’s vision for the County, the CIDP and the Annual Development Plan (ADP).
- The Unit should serve as a tool to institutionalise delivery practice and principle through role modelling and to facilitate regular communication with the public on key priorities/projects and progress towards the realisation/full implementation of these.
- Prioritisation of 3–4 key priorities/projects that represent the Governor’s vision for the County and the CIDP and driving concerted efforts to fully implement these priorities/projects in line with established budgets and time frames.
- Efficient planning and resourcing processes to translate 3–4 key priorities/projects into realistic trajectories and to support resource mobilisation efforts to meet any budgetary shortfalls.
- Undertake performance management processes by monitoring progress towards achievement of established milestones and goals, and applying problem-solving techniques and tools to tackle implementation challenges across the delivery chain.
Another good practice is ensuring that state and non-state actors are consulted in the decision to establish a GDU, and that they are included in the process of identifying key priorities that the GDU will drive delivery of. This avoids creating bureaucracy within the County administration and eases the nature of interaction between the GDU and other members of the County administration.
It is important to note that Delivery Units are intended to embed an evidence-based culture in government by collecting and analysing performance data, and proactively proposing interventions and strategies to ensure that desired results related to government priorities, programmes and projects materialise on the ground. It is therefore important to ensure that delivery units are structured accordingly, and equipped with knowledge of delivery practice, principles and tools to avoid duplication of existing efforts to implement government priorities, programmes and projects within county administrations.