Establishment of the Palestine Public Finance Institute
Palestine Public Finance Institute

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Despite continuous efforts on the ground, the weak capacity to deliver the expected quality for public services (health, infrastructures, education, agriculture, etc.) hit the vulnerable people the most. This limited capacity has fed disappointment and lack of trust in the government and public services and institutions which is also reflected in low tax compliance. Such situation produces a vicious circle with insufficient public incomes that prevents national authorities from carrying out quality public policies. Reinforcing the institutions’ capacity is a key element to address such a situation, and especially in public finance management (PFM). Improving transparency and efficiency in public spending is another enabler for progress. At the end of the day, the aim is to improve people’s living conditions and build trust between citizens and public authorities. Over the past years, the Palestinian Ministry of Finance has been undergoing major restructuring and development processes aiming at providing a Public Finance Management (PFM) that corresponds to international best practices for both the revenue and the expenditure sides in order to overcome public defiance. The very peculiar political situation, which includes the objective to build a Palestinian State, adds strong incentives to yield a transparent and efficient public service under definitely suboptimal conditions. Reform processes have been running for a decade in Palestine, with the assistance of the international community, including the World Bank, the European Commission and EU member-states, and USAID amongst others. All efforts conducted have repeatedly found limitations with consideration to the two following factors: 1. Difficulties to actually improve the capacities of the national and local authorities staff responsible for the PFM in order to enable them to improve the quality of its delivery; 2. Insufficient capacity to streamline the work processes inductive for proper values and ethics. From these experiences has emerged a change perspective focusing on up-grading human capital capacities relying on the development of a strong training approach dedicated to public staff in charge of PFM within the Palestinian administration, linked with improvements in all HR management aspects. Therefore, the Palestinian Public Finance Institute (PFI) was created as part of a comprehensive answer to the issue at stake.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The initiative consists in a state-of-the-art training institution that contributes to the building of effective PFM conducive to transparency, to accountability, and in turn raising public trust. The Public Finance Institute was designed as a tool to improve PFM, embracing in particular the Palestinian Authority’s reforms implementation and benefiting from the international community expertise while tailoring the training materials developed to address the local Palestinian needs and specificities. Recent major Palestinian reform agendas have incorporated the PFI in their strategies (i.e. the Palestinian reform and development plan (PRDP) for 2014-2016, the Public Finance Management strategy for (2017-2022), which demonstrates strong Palestinian ownership of this young training institution.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The effects of the PFI contribution to improve people’s lives lies in its very nature: an enabler institution contributing to enhancing the quality of public governance. It has improved public governance quality through a comprehensive approach of capacity building. The PFI implements such a comprehensive approach linking training to all HR tools developed in the public sector. It incorporates: well-designed training tools developed by MoF staff; technical, organisational, team building knowledges; personal and collective quality assessments; professional documentation updating; MoF’ staff trained trainers; involvement of all hierarchy levels in the training process. These elements have raised the sense of collective belonging within MoF from the sharing of the training experience in a milieu where proudness of being civil servant was unevenly shared. The PFI strength resides in its capacity to both deliver technical training to improve public staff technical qualifications and bring updated management tools to improve the work environment within the administration and therefore to facilitate the practical application of the knowledge transferred. All Public Finance business lines have not yet benefited from such training tools developments. The progress has been made visible where it has been implemented, i.e. for customs and taxation, public accounting financial control and management, and internal audit. Its impact is visible through the improved quality of contacts between taxpayers and the tax administration, as well as the improved financial and audit reports contributing to effective public finance management. Equal treatment for similar situations is contributing to making it more predictable for all those that are in contact with PFM institutions. The PFI missions also include a communication programme addressed to the public at large. PFI supports the MoF programmes that address the issue of raising awareness about Public Finance Management in order to provide a permanent incentive to build bridges of understanding between PFM practitioners and citizens that are both taxpayers and beneficiaries of public policies. The PFI has also developed a documentation centre dedicated to citizens’ use (including business, scholars and students) and public practitioners’ needs, which is an operational tool for knowledge dissemination in the area of PFM. Its ambition is to progressively become a centre of excellence in which the civil society can debate and exchange ideas on how to improve financial governance and public policies. However, it is important to note that these early sustainable achievements are in daily stress because of the general constraints resulting from the political framework in which we are acting. Such context gives even more importance to our achievements, which, despite their fragility, provide hope for tangible improvements in the Palestinian public management.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The PFI plays a creative and innovative role by: • Promoting the importance of investing in Human Resources, as the main tool to achieve sustainable development, • Enhancing professionalism within public services through PFM professionals’ knowledge capacity building and improvement of the management of human resources, • Restoring the image of public services by improving the efficiency of civil servant skills (specialized and soft skills), • Raising public awareness about the benefits of good governance through targeted communication tools (updated news, media and events), • Contributing to building trust between citizens and the public authorities through the promotion of transparency and public efficiency incorporated in the training curricula, • Targeting youth, women, and academic groups whose role is crucial to ensure the sustainability of the achievements made by the PFI (knowledge exchange and awareness sessions promoted by the PFI documentation centre). Combining these several approaches makes this initiative unique in delivering successfully recognised inputs for governance improvement.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The need for a training center devoted to Public Finance Management (PFM) was formulated in 2005 by the Ministry of Finance. The initiative was implemented with the strong involvement of MoF general directorates. They provided professional technical teams to consolidate an internal pool of trainers and a training coordinators team. By the legal status, a board of directors was set in 2011 involving the MoF at highest level, the General Personnel Council (GPC), academia, business. Improving PFM, from both revenues and expenditures side has the potential of affecting all the society. In practice, effects are appearing progressively. They result from better-trained staff in charge. The training of Customs officers contributes to improving the safety of the products on the market. Well-trained staff in charge of the Large Taxpayers’ Unit contributes to collecting taxes from major economic actors in a fair way. The professional capacity of staff in charge of public accounting contributes to sustainability of financial statements issuing. Moreover, training staff about the International Public Sector Accounting Standards increases the readiness of our country to implement such standards that provide transparency and accountability to the public. These inputs are definitely needed, and PFI is a key actor to provide them. Taxpayers, citizens in need of public services, can find themselves in a situation of witnessing progresses. For the public at large, witnessing positive effects can only result from a combination of multi fold changes, training being one of the bricks.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The initiative was launched as a co-financed project. The Palestinian government budget has been responsible from start with the financing of the building, the running costs (including the staff costs), and the current training delivery program through the training modules developed in-house or selected from outside providers. The total amount of Palestinian funding to date is of 3 M€. A French grant of 3.5M€ was provided to assist Palestine in creating the training center (2008-2014). This grant covered all development costs (including the equipment of the premises, transfer of know-how regarding assessment needs, training modules’ development, training of trainers). The strategical approach for developing the capacity of the PFI aimed at combining (1) the benefits from the international community experience in best practices and (2) the ability to answer the technical knowhow and the human resource needs in the very peculiar context in which the Palestinian institutions are to deliver. Palestinian ownership of the project has been considered since the very early phase of designing its content. Monitoring and evaluation has relied on two complementary bodies: the board of directors of the PFI, the steering committee and high level meetings between the Palestinian and French partners. The strategy followed adapted to the issues that were emerging progressively and to the risks for achieving the aim. It incorporated following pursued achievements: change the way training was considered in order to make it a natural tool for achieving the missions given to each directorate; make all hierarchical levels playing their respective role for making the whole training process work; involve the best cadres as direct actors in designing the training tools in order to incorporate their knowledge of the best solutions to the worse difficulties, identify the international standards to be incorporated, end up with an in house built knowledge that reflects the real context of work and delivered by local staff, adapt to the national features the training approach. In the peculiar Palestinian situation, the public administration has to reinforce its social legitimacy and capacity to interact along the rules implemented since Oslo. More than in any other context it is crucial to capacitate MoF staff with all the knowledge needed in order to demonstrate its ability to do well. Ongoing developments shall be pursued to feed the training catalog in order to cover all PFM aspects. Also, the number of in-house trainers which is a milestone for the sustainability of a training process, shall be continuously increased. Inspired by the successes obtained with “mass training” for Customs’ officers, a strong front-loading in training all the staff is also on the agenda.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The initiative was designed and implemented through a bilateral cooperation project between the Palestinian Ministry of Finance and the French technical cooperation Agency (Expertise France). Both administrations worked closely together to provide technical expertise and political guidance for the establishment of the PFI and the launching of its training activities. From 2011, after the “Public Finance and Taxation Institute” also known as the “Palestinian Public Finance Institute (PFI)” was given its legal status, its board of directors, became a central component for managing the implementation of its activities. The composition of this board chaired by the Minister of Finance includes the main directorates of the MoF and a representative of the General Personnel Council, the Ministries of Planning, High Education, National Economy, a private sector and an academic representative. By organising public or official events on PFM matters, the PFI welcomes several communities, inter alia, the media, the business sector, Palestinian public institutions, international community representatives and academia. This component of its activities is to be further developed along the present PFI three year strategy (2017-2019)

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The initiative contributes directly to SDG16 “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” and is instrumental for the decisive SDG17 which is dealing with means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda. By contributing to the strengthening of Public Finances, and therefore reinforcing the Palestinian institutions’ capacity to deliver public services and support economic growth, the initiative addresses de facto many others SDGs. On the revenue side, it delivers knowledge inputs in order to strengthen domestic resource mobilization (SDG17). On the expenditure side, knowledge gained through training contributes indirectly to funding aimed at poverty eradication, health, education and gender equality (SDG1, SDG3, SDG 4, SDG5), as well as employment and economic and industrial growth (SDG8, SDG9). All in all, with outputs conducive to improve governance and transparency, to enhance public trust in institutions, the initiative largely contributes to the components of SDG16. The initiative was effective by providing relevant inputs that contribute to the quality of PFM, where it: 1. Established a state‐of‐the‐art training center for Fiscal and Economic issues, 2. Provide feasible and relevant training which corresponds to the improvement of the Public Finance Management, that leads to improve the quality of civil service in this field, 3. Contribute to the foundations for sustainable human resources capacity-building system at Palestinian Ministry of Finance including the training of in-house trainers in the different fields of responsibility of the Ministry of Finance and the improvement of hierarchical capacities of managers, 4. Offers a documentation center aimed at helping the public (including academia, media, business, organised civil society, public at large) to access reliable and updated information, 5. Gather all PFM stakeholders, including the international community, providing a shared platform for coordinating capacity building efforts and delivery.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
A major challenge is to convince the public institutions’ leadership on the importance of investing in a long-term perspective on topics related to human resource development. Spontaneously, priority is usually given to short-term challenges, not always justified by a strong outcome aim. Conversely, the PFI approach has insisted on the benefits to expect from a gradually accumulated common culture of high quality knowledge within the public institutions that is progressively reflected in attitudes, mentalities, and sense of belonging. The understanding and support of the leadership is a key issue because when lacking, investing in people and their training, will neither be supported at technical level nor covered financially. This obstacle has been mostly overcome to date through the development of solid communication canals to share arguments and the accumulated successes that can inspire beyond those already on board. Also, the feedback coming from in-house trainers and from trainees provides powerful support to the PFI approach.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Describe the impact of the initiative. Provide concrete examples for how the initiative made a difference in the delivery and impact of public services. Describe how the improved delivery of services had a positive impact on the public and whether and how the initiative, for example, responded to the needs of people, notably the poorest and more vulnerable, or promoted social inclusiveness or gender equality, or improved access to public services, or facilitated participation, etc. Please provide information on how this impact was measured. The impact can be assessed by both the inputs and the outputs sides. On the input side, the training center has delivered thousands of days of training. Almost each employee at MoF and in charge of public finance in other ministries participated in at least one training course. Investing in employees’ knowledge in order to achieve better delivery has definitely become part of the professional culture. The implemented Training-or-Trainers program for to date over 40 MoF’s employees is contributing to the in deep strengthening of such an in-house culture. Self-esteem is progressing at individual and collective levels which have a beneficial impact. We are witnessing a growing demand from public sector entities to get training from PFI in public finance matters. It is remarkable to see the MoF making budget available to PFI for securing the training program in a context of budget difficulties. On the output side, we can give specific examples of the benefits generated by the initiative in various areas of public action. Customs’ staff has benefited from training addressing the issue of the control of products’ conformity which contributes now in increasing the food security in Palestine. Training modules dedicated to the harmonization of tax procedures’ implementation and unifying the interpretations made by public officers of the tax code are reflected in an increased professionalism and a more satisfactory dialogue with taxpayers. The PFI training for public internal auditors aimed at unifying the methodology of internal audit and developing the quality of audit reports provide conditions for raising public trust in public management. The same applies with the Public Accounting Handbook Training Program, where accountants have been instructed with harmonized unified procedures for quality and proper timing in issuing financial statements. The PFI contribution aiming at strengthening the capacities of the Palestinian administration officers gives its best fruits when it is articulated with the more general framework of a strategy at government level addressing public finance management to serve the society needs in the most efficient and appropriate manner. The international community has repeatedly valuated progress made with public finance management, for instance with progresses in the allocation of national budget to social policies in line with SDGs’ implementation. Besides, the PFI have succeeded in offering a recognized platform of dialogue for good practices in the field of public finance policies and public management, able to mobilize a pool of expertise and trainers. The international community and national institutions are increasingly using it for specific initiatives.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
No doubt, capacity building is an enabler for improving integrity and accountability. The general mission of PFI includes improving governance within the Palestinian public administrations through technical and managerial capacity building for civil servants. One crucial aim pursued is a public finance decision-making at all levels more efficient, transparent and accountable. With its program of work, the PFI participates in the general objective of strengthening integrity (i.e. through raising a sense of belonging to an institution in charge of raising the common good) and accountability (through training on PFM, accounting, etc.). Thus, the PFI supports and assists MoF in answering the challenges of sustainable progresses and proper governance that are facing all modern public fiscal administrations: a) Transparency – clear policy, results oriented, and attentive to communicate well with the public; b) Efficiency of the tax receipt system (along with the fiscal policy followed); c) Efficiency of the expenditure system – getting efficient and well-controlled budget execution; d) Capacity to permanently adapt to change – good and accurate reform program. Doing so, PFI participates in the development of proper conditions for people to benefit from a public service accountable on its deliveries. All in all, the improvement of integrity and/or accountability as appreciated by the public at large covers a much larger scope of factors than what encompasses the PFI contribution. That is why a direct measurement is not really applicable even if PFI is committed to measure its contribution. To date, the measure of the efficiency of the PFI relies mostly on inputs indicators developed in-house which quantify progress through the numbers of training modules, of in-house trained trainers, of days of training, of trainees attending courses. These input indicators correspond to the present phase of development for an institution that is still in its early years. In the PFI’s 2017-2019 strategic document, additional objectives have been addressed with new indicators that will measure its contributions to the information of the public at large, to the media awareness about MoF reforms, to the interaction with universities that are delivering diploma in economic and financial matters.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Overall, PFI activities systematically incorporate a gender sensitive approach although it is not in its core mandate to focus on women and the vulnerable. In Palestine, 40% of public servants are women. Improving managerial skills taking in consideration the women access to top managerial levels is indeed part of the PFI top preoccupations. The PFI therefore pays special attention to reaching a proper gender balance among the participants in its activities. This attention concerns women participation to the development of the in-house training modules, to the delivery of training by trained in-house trainers, to achieve a gender balance for trainees attendance. The participation of women as training coordinators (at present, 13 women are coordinators out of a total of 22) is an asset as it allows a gender sensitivity when addressing the training needs. Where applicable, the data of the PFI’s follow-up indicators are disaggregated by gender.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Palestine Public Finance Institute
Institution Type:   Public Agency  
Contact Person:   Nihad Assad
Title:   Director General  
Telephone/ Fax:   00970 2 241 6036/7/8
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   nyounis@ppfi.ps  
Address:   Ramallah, Al Bireh, Al balou' Asfour building Palestine
Postal Code:   P.O Box 3533
City:   Ramallah
State/Province:   Ramallah
Country:  

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