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5 Institutional Impacts

5.1 Institutional Framework and Expected Impacts

One of the objectives of the evaluation is to examine the impact of the Program on institutional capacities, with special emphasis at the municipal and regional level.

As the program evolved from a series of direct investments in tertiary infrastructure in the 1980s and mid 1990s, to a five component, formal PAST Phase One program in 1999 and on to PAST Phase Two in 2004, it became more formalized, with common structures, procedures, standards, manuals and guidelines applied in all three regions.

During PAST Phase One, regional transport support teams were highly active in RAAN, RAAS and the newly added Las Segovias Region. These teams were responsible for project planning, management, procurement, implementation and supervision.

One of the main strategic shifts between Phase One and Two was an explicit strategy to align the program more closely with a national policy of decentralisation of responsibilities to regional and municipal governments. As noted in the Final Component Description[53]:

“Even stronger emphasis will be placed on building capacity at community, municipal and regional levels, with the objective of promoting decentralized planning, implementation and maintenance of the municipal and regional transport infrastructure network. During this phase, the municipalities[54] will take on more responsibility for the planning, administration, and implementation of the projects. The regional support teams will support the municipalities in assuming this function, but the level of assistance to each individual municipality will decrease as capacity is developed. This will release capacity in the regional support teams and allow the teams to extend support to a greater number of municipalities. Weak municipalities will continue to receive full support.”

By the latter part of Phase Two of PAST, this strategy of gradual transfer of responsibilities to municipalities had evolved into a process of full decentralization of responsibility for all aspects of project identification, proposal development, procurement, implementation and maintenance to the municipal level. Indeed, by the mid-2009, the decentralization process had been completed in all participating municipalities. Some PAST staff reported that the process of decentralization to the last few active municipalities active in PAST had been perhaps more accelerated than was warranted, especially in terms of decentralizing authority for procurement.

Nonetheless, the main role of the three regional PAST support offices in Phase Two has been to work with the municipalities and communities to identify and design projects, obtain commitments, train staff and supervise works and to support the process of decentralization.

The regional support offices established during Phase One were from the beginning of Phase Two staffed with a Regional Advisor and an engineering and socio-economic team. A coordinated approach has been adopted in all three regions. Although there have been significant differences given the divergent communities involved, common program strategies and objectives have been introduced in each region.

During the process of decentralization (until the municipality has taken on responsibility for all aspects of the project) the regional PAST engineering teams are responsible for elaboration of project proposals and, if the project is considered viable, the detailed technical design and budgeting. These activities are supported by the relevant Municipal Technical officers (TMs) who would ultimately take over the responsibility. The regional socio-economic teams have, in the past, been responsible for training and community organization as well as for support to implementation, particularly with respect to maintenance and sustainability. The socio-economic teams have also been coordinating monitoring and baseline studies, and secured the integration of gender, environment and indigenous issues into the project design and development process.

The three CRTs, established late in Phase One, have responsibility for receiving annual project proposals from the municipalities, prioritizing and approving projects, and making the final recommendation to the CED for the distribution of funds. An important activity in Phase Two has been the legislation and institutionalization of the CRTs so they could play a permanent key role in coordination between MTI, FOMAV, donors and the municipalities on transport related matters.

In fact, one of the expected outcomes of Phase Two has been the full institutionalization of the CRTs as the key organizational element in the program. As noted in Section 2.1, all three major planned outcomes in institutional strengthening during this phase were focused on the CRTs.

As described in the Component Description:

“Regional Transport Councils are the principal counterpart organisations for the institutionalization of this component. It is the intention to ensure they have the appropriate legal standing to make decisions about the transport networks in the respective regions on behalf of the municipalities...

As the majority of members of the municipal councils will change every four or so years with municipal elections, it is also the intention that they [CRTs] are provided with a trained secretariat to provide continuity and technical expertise...

Procedures for planning, pre-selection and project prioritisation have been developed and implemented by Danida staff during the first phase. The CRTs will be trained in applying these procedures in order to assume the responsibility and gain full control of the process during the second phase.

The CRTs will also have assumed the responsibility for monitoring the maintenance of completed projects and ensuring compliance with the project agreements that are a pre-condition for project approval.

It has been the expectation that once the CRTs had been institutionalized, they would be responsible for the planning and approval of projects, not only those funded by Danida but also for projects funded by other donors and state agencies. One hoped for outcome is that the system, or a very similar approach, would eventually spread to other regions in the country.

The CRT is governed by an executive board, consisting of a president, vice president and a secretary, democratically elected by the members of the CRT. Each council consists of one representative from each of the participating municipalities (the mayor or the vice mayor) and a representative from the Regional Autonomous Government and the Regional Autonomous Council (in the case of RAAN and RAAS). Furthermore, representatives from the MTI are participating as a member of each of the Councils. Training has been provided for members of the CRTs and a small Technical Secretariat for the CRT established in each region to provide technical support and advice to the members, maintain the regional transport database, and provide continuity between former and newly elected municipal councils. The cost of the Secretariat is being financed by the members (the municipalities), with initial support from PAST on a decreasing scale.

Transport infrastructure is currently the legal responsibility of MTI. The CRTs has therefore had a role in negotiating annual maintenance agreements with the MTI to facilitate coverage of overlaps or critical gaps in their respective network responsibilities.

As part of the process of working with municipalities to allow them to take on greater responsibilities during Phase Two, PAST has expended considerable effort in supporting the staffing and training (and equipping) of a cadre of technical and administrative staff in each of the municipalities active in the program.

Within each of the municipalities a TM, a social promoter (helping to motivate and organize communities) and a financial administrator have been appointed with responsibility for planning, implementing and administration of community projects, including backstopping of maintenance. The municipalities have also been responsible for working with the communities to raise awareness about the projects, securing the necessary community commitments, and capacity training with advice and support from the regional support teams. The responsibility within the municipalities for project identification and administration, and for designing and supervision of construction work, has gradually increased with their capacities. The municipalities have been responsible for all staff payments, unless some special conditions have applied (for instance, isolated location or lack of administrative capacity).

As already noted, the long-term aim has been for the municipalities to assume full responsibility for the implementation of the projects and thereby limit the PAST involvement to primarily monitoring and backstopping activities.

Framework for Institutional Analysis

The context in which an institution is operating also infiuences the conditions and frame for its capacity development. The context therefore provides both the drivers and the constraints to changes, in the sense that explanations for good or poor performance are to be found not only inside the institution itself but also in relation to the wider context in which the institution is performing.

In the assessment of the institutional impacts and sustainability of the PAST interventions, the evaluation is therefore making use of an approach that take into consideration the internal dimensions (observed changes in tasks and working procedures within the institutions) as well as the external dimension (which focus on how external factors, including political aspects, will infiuence the task and working system dimension). It also attempts to consider how the institutions have changed in their capacities and responsibilities over time.

This chapter examines institutional and organizational and capacity development impacts of PAST at the community, municipal and regional levels.

5.2 Community Organization and Capacity

The evaluation evidence of PAST’s impact on the capacity of participating communities to organize around key issues of development and to identify, develop, manage, implement and follow-up on development initiatives comes from the quantitative econometric analysis, from key informant interviews with national, regional and municipal officials and from the qualitative evaluation activities carried out in the communities themselves.

Survey Data

The survey data for Las Segovias indicates that PAST project communities were able to attract an increased number of other (non-PAST) development projects while comparison communities suffered a decline in the same time period. The relative success of project communities in increasing the in-fiow of development projects could be attributed to a number of factors:

  • The improvement in year round accessibility for the communities with PAST projects (especially in light of the reported decline in accessibility for comparison communities);

  • An improvement in the capacity of the community members to identify development issues and to formulate potential projects and attract external government and non-government projects to their community; and,

  • An improved relationship between project communities and municipal governments based on their cooperation on PAST supported infrastructure projects.

It is important not to discount the potential effect of improved access on attracting development projects supported by agencies outside the communities. On the other hand, the key informant interviews and the qualitative work at community level also indicate that improved community organizational capacity has played a role. As already noted, it is possible that external organizations shifted their pattern of development project investments due to other factors such as a desire to target more isolated communities or to shift from communities where they had achieved their objectives. On balance, however, it seems that PAST communities are more able than non-PAST communities to attract new project investments either because they are more organized or are now relatively easier to access.

Key Informant Interviews

Interviews carried out at national and municipal level indicate that communities have increased their organizational capacity through the experience of developing and implementing investments in transport infrastructure with the support of PAST. FOMAV officials, for example, report an ongoing and clear improvement in the quality of project proposals from municipalities taking part in PAST.

In turn, municipal officials point to the increased ability of community members to take part in project planning, implementation and follow-up in an organized way as evidence of increased capacity at community level. They also noted that communities with experience in implementing PAST projects have proved to be a good source of recruits for technical positions at the municipal government level where their experience makes them well suited to the process of project planning, development and implementation.

Qualitative Evaluation at Community Level

The qualitative evaluation work at community addressed the question of community organizational capacity across four different dimensions:

  • The continuing role of PAST trained community members in leadership positions in the communities;

  • Community member perceptions of the level of community organization and capacity before and after implementing the projects;

  • The ongoing operation of program structures, mainly in the form of the maintenance committees; and,

  • The apparent relationship with the municipal government as evidence of the communities’ ability to identify and organize around its practical interests.

On entry into the communities, the evaluation found immediate evidence of the impact of the program on the capacity of communities to organized and manage the project planning, implementation and maintenance process in the continued presence in each community of one or two very active community organizers trained by PAST in technical and administrative aspects of project management. They were usually serving as current or past chairs of the project and/or maintenance committee and they have considerable stature within the community.

In 18 of the 26 project communities taking part in qualitative evaluation methods, community members indicated that their communities were now more capable of organizing to address development issues with the PAST supported project contributing to this change. On a regional basis six of seven communities in Las Segovias, five of nine in RAAN and seven of ten in RAAS reported a positive change in community organization related to participation in the program.

Most often community members pointed to their ability to identify, plan, and implement community development projects as the most evident change in capacity. Another, less frequently cited positive impact was on the ability of producers in the community to organize cooperatives and similar producer organizations.

Interestingly, two of three comparison communities chosen in RAAS were in the process of preparing proposals for submission to the CRT for approval. Members of both these communities pointed to participation in the proposal development and submission process as a factor in an important gain in the organizational capacity of the community. Similarly, community members in two of the seven comparison communities in Las Segovias reported that they were beginning to develop proposals for submission to PAST and were beginning to experience improvements in community organizational capacity as a result.

Generally, however, comparison communities continue to rely on traditional structures of community organization and did not report that those were becoming more active or stronger during the same time frames. Table 16 summarizes the responses of members of program and comparison communities on a regional basis.

Table 16: Community reported improvements in organization and capacity
Region Project Communities Comparison Communities
  Positive Change
No Change
Positive Change
No Change
Las Segovias 6 1 2 5
RAAN 5 4 2 1
RAAS 7 3 2 1
Total 18 8 6 7

It is worth noting that four of the six comparison communities which reported improvements in the level of community organization and the capacity of the community to identify, plan and manage development projects were, at the time of the evaluation, in the process of preparing proposals for support to transport infrastructure projects to be submitted to the PAST program through their municipal government. Members of these communities reported that engagement in the PAST process was contributing to these improvements.

Where community members did not report a gain in community organizational capacity as a result of participation in PAST supported projects, they most often indicated that the community was already well organized prior to the project.

Chapter 6 provides a detailed analysis of the operation of PAST project maintenance committees in the communities as an important factor in the sustainability of the infrastructure created with program support. For the purpose of this analysis, it is most important to note that maintenance committees continue to function in 20 of the 25 project communities where this question was addressed. Similarly, the ongoing operation of the maintenance committee is often cited by community members as one piece of evidence supporting their perception that the program has had a positive impact on community organizational capacity.

Finally, the qualitative evaluation work at community level provides evidence that communities where PAST supported infrastructure investments take place enter into a deeper and more balanced relationship with their own municipal governments. Whether or not community members were satisfied with the level and quality of municipal support provided to their infrastructure investments, they were able to cite examples of ongoing dialogue with technical and administrative officials at municipal level.

Community members were clear and vocal concerning their expectations of service and gave examples of negotiations with municipal authorities. Community members reported that this was an important change from the situation prior to the PAST project. Before the projects, they indicated that they had little direct contact with municipal authorities. Comparison communities which were beginning the process of preparing proposal for support by PAST also noted an improvement in their interaction with municipalities.

Interviews with municipal officials, including mayors, program technical and administrative staff and members of municipal councils, supported the finding that communities undertaking PAST supported infrastructure projects became both more engaged and more demanding of services from the municipality. They saw this development as necessary and linked to their own capacity development experience from participation in the program.

Summary: Community Organizational Capacity

In summary, participation in PAST supported infrastructure projects have had a positive impact on the capacity of communities to organize to address developmental issues through the identification, proposal, implementation and follow up of development projects. It has (along with improved access) also apparently improved their ability to attract development project investments from outside the community and has strengthened their relationship with their municipal government. In fact the PAST project identification, proposal, approval, execution and maintenance process seems to result in a dynamic which can strengthen both the community and municipal level. With communities improving their capacity to engage with and make appropriate demands on municipal structures and with the municipal governments better able to respond with financial, technical and administrative services.

5.3 Municipal Impacts

Strengthening of Technical and Administrative Capacities within the Municipalities

It is important to note that the question of what can reasonably be expected in terms of results in strengthening technical and administrative capacities clearly varies from region to region and from one municipality to the next.

Despite the differences in starting points, in all three regions it was found that a strengthening of municipal capacities had taken place due to PAST interventions. Extensive training of municipal technical staff, promoters and financial administrative staff within all project municipalities has been a corner stone in the PAST strategy on how to ensure that institutional outcomes and impacts would be developed from the interventions. This has included training in MOI; design of public works using auto-cad software; project management; accounting and procurement; community organization, motivation and mobilization; gender and women’s participation; and, environmental management.

Interviews in the municipal offices confirm that municipal staff believe that training provided by PAST has been highly relevant and contributed to a strengthening of institutional capacities in terms of project planning, execution and management as well as in relation to financial administration, budgeting and procurement. In general, it was emphasized by the municipal staff that the relatively long and intensive institutional support provided through the PAST program had contributed to changing the working mentality and mindsets within the municipal offices.

One area where the program achievements seem to have been more limited is in relation to the training of the technical staff within the Municipal offices. It was reported from most of the interviews with the Municipal offices in all three regions that there is still a need to consult the Regional PAST offices on a number of technical aspects related to construction and maintenance of the roads.

The general view that technical and administrative capacities of municipal offices have been upgraded through involvement in PAST was strongly supported by interviews with FOMAV officials. According to FOMAV there is a remarkable difference in the quality of those proposals prepared by municipalities within the three PAST regions compared to proposals received from municipalities within other regions. This leads ultimately to more efficient proposal discussions and approval processes in relation to PAST municipalities.

It was also observed by the evaluation that capacities of the municipal offices have been strengthened within other areas than transport infrastructure by having staff trained by PAST making use of their improved skills also on non-PAST activities within the municipal offices. For instance, the financial administrative person is normally using less than 50% of her/his time on PAST projects. The remaining time is absorbed by other working tasks, often of a project nature, and it was reported that the training from PAST had contributed to more efficient performance also on these non-PAST tasks.

Similarly, technical staff often provide support to other, non-PAST, development projects, where they often are able to make use of skills and techniques acquired from participation in PAST training activities.

Sustaining Capacities and Skills at Municipal Level

As with the task of building capacity at municipal level, the problem of sustaining these capacities varies in magnitude from one municipality to the next and from region to region. There are at least four temporal elements which could infiuence outcomes in this area: the age and general level of development of the municipal government; the duration of the municipality’s active participation in the PAST program; its history of accessing PAST technical, material and financial support; and, the general history of political development of the municipality. Some municipalities have more active, engaged administrations now than they did in the past and for some the reverse is true. Municipalities also vary in their commitment to the program over time. Esteli for example, is a large and prosperous municipality with apparently little or no interest in participating in PAST as a program in recent years.

In terms of sustaining capacities and skills within the municipal offices, the evaluation found relatively little staff turnover in technical and administrative positions. In most of the municipal offices visited, the technical, promoter and administrative staff trained by PAST, had been in the same position for several years. In RAAS there appears to have been more frequent turnover in these staff positions, but even there, most TMs had two or more years of experience in their current post. The longevity of employment of PAST trained technical and administrative staff in a given municipality is an important indicator both of the level of interest in transport infrastructure on the part of the municipal administration and the degree of professionalization of staff in the municipal office.

In municipal offices where recent changes in staff trained by PAST have taken place, new staff emphasized the importance of the manuals and guidelines prepared by PAST as effective mechanisms for understanding the program context. However, they also emphasized the need for continuous training by the program to bring the skills of new staff up to a similar level to their more experienced counterparts.

The possibility of introducing elements of PAST manuals and guidelines into the curriculum of some technical university programs in Nicaragua is currently under consideration[55]. This would provide another element of sustainability for these techniques. Finally, municipal officers pointed out that the training of a large number of community leaders in planning, design and implementation of construction works has provided a pool of potential candidates to continue administering and promoting the MOI methodology within the municipal offices. In one municipality in Las Segovias, an example was presented where a former community leader for a PAST project had subsequently been employed as a TM.

In terms of sustaining the improved capacities at the municipal offices, the approach applied by PAST for training and capacity building of municipal staff therefore seems to have been both relevant and effective. The combination of limited turnover in trained staff positions within the municipal offices, the development of useful and high-quality guidelines and manuals, and the existence of a pool of community leaders with strong technical knowledge on MOI, is providing a sound basis for the sustaining of these capacity building efforts in the future. This is particularly true for many municipalities in Las Segovias.

In contrast, in many municipalities in RAAN and RAAS, the evaluation found that the technical, engineering and logistic support provided by the PAST regional offices to the municipal offices appear still to be of critical importance for the sustaining of those activities that have contributed to generating the identified outcomes and impacts from PAST interventions in these two regions. A critical factor here appears to be the often relatively time consuming and expensive travel from the municipal offices to visit project communities, and as a consequence of this, less frequent visits together with more limited funds available for repair of any transport infrastructure emergency damage.

In terms of programme design it could therefore be questioned whether it was a right decision to apply the same implementation strategy and objectives for the PAST interventions in, respectively, Las Segovias and RAAN/RAAS. The high dependency rate in RAAN/RAAS on continued support from PAST regional offices indicates that the institutional sustainability is fragile here and that much of the institutional structures and procedures that have been supported by PAST may fall apart if/when it is decided to phase out the support activities within a limited timeframe.

Transport Infrastructure Planning, Maintenance, Budgeting and Implementation

In contrast to technical capacity, it was clear from the municipal visits and key informant interviews that municipalities are at very different stages, in terms of their professional and financial capacity to plan and budget infrastructure interventions. The level of capacity in this area tended to be closely related to the elapsed time of a municipalities experience with PAST.

In Las Segovias, those municipalities that have been working with PAST for several years now successfully operate their own systems for planning and budgeting transport infrastructure construction and maintenance. Specific budget lines are allocated for maintenance of the road network, something that was not existing prior to PAST. It has, however, become a more severe financial challenge for these municipalities, as more communities with bad road access are requesting road improvements as priority number one during community consultations. Similarly, the increase in constructed road kilometres within the municipality contributes to year-on-year increases in maintenance costs. These two factors have made it difficult for some municipalities to match increasing road maintenance demands with budget constraints.

One way municipal offices have attempted to limit the budgetary impact of maintenance costs has been by ensuring that the communities carry out routine maintenance as required. In many municipal offices in Las Segovias this logic appears to inform the process of interaction with the communities.

Either the TM or the promoter makes frequent visits to all project communities (onetwo times a month) as well as to non-PAST project communities. This relatively high frequency of visits by the MT/promoter was confirmed during the qualitative fieldwork within the treatment communities. The community members emphasized the importance of these visits for the maintaining good and close relations with the municipal office. They also allow the municipality to contribute to resolving any potential confiicts in the community organization which could ultimately affect the routine maintenance of the local transport infrastructure.

This frequent, mostly, positive contact between the municipal offices and the communities was not found to quite the same extent in RAAN and RAAS. Communities there were more likely to complain of lack of municipal support for periodic maintenance work. There are a number of factors which may have contributed to this difference between municipalities in RAAN and RAAS and their counterparts in Las Segovias as well as differences within the region.

In the first instance, municipal offices in the central zones of RAAN and RAAS (as in Las Segovias), where there are better road connections to urban markets and more productive and economically rewarding agricultural production, clearly have more financial resources and more capacity than some of their counterparts in the coastal zone. This does not mean, however, that all coastal municipalities have not made significant efforts to support communities in carrying out routine and periodic maintenance.

One factor limiting municipalities’ ability to satisfy the need for maintenance of rural transport infrastructure arises from the fact that municipalities receive most of their fiscal resources through direct transfers from the central government. With a recent cut of 20% in the transfer of funds from the central government to the municipalities, there is a risk that this will even further constrain their fiscal capacity in the future.

The establishing of FOMAV has created an additional funding source for maintenance of transport infrastructure by the municipalities. The amount of funding that the municipalities can apply for at FOMAV is, however, not sufficient to cover the increasing demand for transport infrastructure maintenance. Interviews with FOMAV confirmed that municipal demand for financial support for transport maintenance projects is increasing and exceeding the pool of resources available. If FOMAV were to play a more important role for future sustaining of transport maintenance within the municipalities, this would require a political decision to increase the fuel levy which would automatically lead to an increase FOMAVs funding base.

Application of MOI by Municipalities

In terms of impact on municipal practices, the evaluation found important differences between Las Segovias on one side and RAAN and RAAS on the other.

In Las Segovias the municipal interviews reported increasing legitimacy and political profile with regards to investments in rural transport infrastructure. Staff in all municipalities reported that yearly community consultations often ranked rural roads as the first priority within many communities where water and electricity which have traditionally been at the top. This is a change from the period before PAST interventions commenced in these municipalities, when basically all rural roads were in the same bad or non-existent condition. Now that a large number of communities have benefitted from transport infrastructure projects, the positive developments related to these projects have been noted by other communities. This, in turn, has led to a higher demand and prioritizing of rural transport infrastructure projects from these communities.

In Las Segovias, MOI has now been adopted as a strategic, integrated part of planning and execution of construction works within a number of municipalities: three out of six interviewed municipalities indicated they had now adopted the MOI methodology and were often using it for all projects in all types of construction works. Similarly, two of the six municipalities noted that they were often using a mixed approach with both machines and MOI, while one municipality said it was still not comfortable with the methodology and needed to analyze its potential benefit. Those municipalities that were among the first to receive support from PAST were also those that were making most frequent use of the MOI approach for other projects.

An interesting finding is that within these municipalities the MOI is not only being applied for rural road construction/maintenance projects but also for road construction/ maintenance projects within the urban centre as well as for other types of municipal construction work (municipal parks and recreation areas, health clinics and schools, etc.).

This tendency observed in Las Segovias of gradual adaptation of MOI by a number of PAST municipalities was supported by the survey results which showed that HH heads within treatment communities had significantly increased their relative and absolute employment rate within the construction sector. It stands to reason that treatment community members trained in the use of MOI methods through participation in PAST projects would have an advantage in accessing employment on construction and maintenance projects using the same techniques in an urban setting.

In RAAN and RAAS the municipal interviews provided very few examples of the use of MOI outside PAST interventions. Here it seems that the use of MOI has still not been as effectively adapted, not even for those municipalities that have been supported by PAST for a longer time.

While most of the municipal staff interviewed in RAAN and RAAS agreed that MOI was useful in PAST projects, a number pointed to difficulties with MOI in the context of the expectations of both funding agencies and community members. specifically:

  • The very long rainy season in RAAN and RAAS contributes to a very short active period for construction. This means that it is often impossible to implement a project in a single year using MOI which creates problems in terms of community member expectations and some funding agencies who wish to disburse funds in a single calendar year. As a result there may be fewer projects in RAAN and RAAS where MOI can be successfully applied.

  • As PAST projects using MOI are spread over a number of years it has sometimes been difficult to adjust the labour rate for MOI workers and, given advances in day-labour rates in the private sector, it can be hard to attract the workers required.

  • While the cost of rehabilitating and maintaining transport infrastructure using MOI is more or less equivalent to using mechanized methods[56], some municipalities find their road network growing rapidly and therefore feel they can amortize the cost of mechanized equipment over more kilometres of road which makes mechanized maintenance more cost-effective.

Another possible explanation for these observed differences between the municipalities in Las Segovias and RAAN/RAAS seem to be the different level of capacity and resources. The municipalities in Las Segovias, in general, have a stronger resource base and are in better position to plan and implement infrastructure interventions on their own. In RAAN and RAAS, many municipal projects are donor-funded. And since donors may have their own preferences for mechanized construction and maintenance, it has been more difficult for MOI to become rooted as standard practices in these municipalities.

5.4 Regional Capacity

The establishing of the Regional Transport Councils (CRTs), bringing together mayors in Nicaragua with different political backgrounds to discuss and plan municipal transport infrastructure investments, is considered a significant achievement of Danida PAST interventions. The ability of the CRTs to be operational at the regional levels despite different political interests among the participating mayors stands out as one impressive result of the institutional part of PAST interventions.

In addition, key informant interviews at national, regional and municipal level support the conclusion that PAST Phase Two has accomplished its main desired outcome of bringing the CRTs to a higher operational level and having them assume responsibility for key functions relating to prioritizing, approving and monitoring PAST projects and coordinating municipal investment in rural transport infrastructure (PAST funded) at regional level.

What still has not been fully achieved in relation to the role and responsibilities of the CRTs is the institutionalizing of the CRTs as regional coordinating bodies towards MTI and FOMAV for planning and prioritization of interventions in the regional transport networks, in particular in relation to the linking of secondary and tertiary network interventions.

Avenues of Financial and Technical Support to CRTs

As already noted, the CRTs are funded by the municipal contributions, and receive some ad-hoc technical support from PAST. Currently, the budget for the CRTs does not allow the Technical Secretaries to do much travel within the respective region. This further limits his/her ability to monitor development in the transport infrastructure network and assess needs for new transport infrastructure constructions or maintenance.

Some threats to the sustainability of the CRT’s have been identified:

  • Some municipalities, in particular those which have not been much involved with transport infrastructure projects, may drop out when they don’t have the potential to benefit from PAST financial support. The intention to attract other funding sources has not yet succeeded. The CRT mechanism is still viewed by outsiders very much as a “Danida” mechanism, and potential external funders have not been tempted to channel their support through CRTs for coordination.

  • Interviews at in municipal offices in Las Segovias reported a recent tendency to a “political fractioning” within CRT, which could lead to a separation of the group.

  • The financial sustainability of the CRTs is often threatened by the frequent delays in payment of the assessed contribution by a number of municipalities in each region. The CRT has no means to sanction these municipalities (although technically a municipality in arrears should not have projects approved for funding in the new fiscal year). This financial threat to the CRT would be aggravated if some of the municipalities decided to leave the council if it lacks financial resources to allocate to projects.

The benefits for the municipalities of participating in their CRT (without Danida program funding) can be found mainly in the area of information sharing and closer relations to MTI and FOMAV. In the absence of Danida program funding it would be incumbent on MTI and FOMAV to commit to the CRT as a mechanism for prioritizing and approving their support to infrastructure investments if the mechanism was to be sustained.

Regional Governments and Councils

In RAAN and RAAS, the respective Regional Governments have an ongoing role to play in the operation of the program, mainly through the CRT. Regional and municipal interviews indicate that the Regional Government in RAAN has shown a greater interest in the operation of the CRT. On the other hand the Regional Government of RAAS recently created a Commission for Infrastructure with a transport division in order to be able to better interface with the CRT. The current head of the transport division is also the Technical Secretary of the RAAS CRT. The commissioner for infrastructure in RAAS has also indicated that he would like to use a similar mechanism to the CRT to coordinated investments in health and education infrastructure but has not been able to interest MINED or MINSA in such an approach.

[53] Final Component Description. 2004. P8.

[54] In this chapter the term municipality refers to the municipal government, (alcaldía) rather than the geographic/administrative entity of the municipality proper which encompasses the municipal centre and all communities located within the boundaries of the municipality.

[55] According to staff from PAST offices.

[56] Comparative Study on Employment Creation and Financial and Economic Costs of Labour-based methods in Rural Roads in Nicaragua. I.T. Transport Ltd. 2009. p.15.

Version 1.0. 17-09-2010
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