What we do
We offer a number of different services depending on your need, please click on one of the headings below to learn more about what we do….
Public Finance Management (PFM) +
Effective Public Financial Management (PFM) systems are required to enable strategic resource allocation, to support overall service delivery, to create the highest level of transparency and accountability in government finances and to ensure long-term economic success. Furthermore, in the context of international development, recent literature has highlighted the importance of sound PFM systems to economic growth, poverty reduction and the achievement of the millennium development goals (MDGs).
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) define PFM as the system by which financial resources are planned, directed and controlled to enable and influence the efficient and effective delivery of public service goals. At Actra Advisers we support this broad definition. We believe that a multitude of players, the legislature, the public, suppliers, government officials and other interested parties all have an important role in ensuring that taxpayers’ money is used effectively and efficiently. Responsibility for sound PFM goes beyond accountants and economists.
At Actra Advisers we have significant practical experience in the assessment of PFM systems, the design of PFM reforms and the implementation of new systems.
We have been involved in the development of the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) diagnostic from the early stages of its development. We have also attended PEFA training courses, including training the trainer. We have drafted guidance on the use of the PEFA assessment at sub-national level, for reform formulation and are currently working on its use at sector level. We have carried out more than a dozen PEFA assessments at central and sub-national level across a wide variety of countries.
We have also been involved with numerous other PFM and procurement diagnostics such as CFAAs, ROSCs, CIFAs, PEMAAPs and FRAs.
We have participated in the design of PFM reform programmes in Tanzania, St Lucia and various other countries. We have also been directly involved in the design and implementation of new financial management information systems including new costing, billing and asset management systems in the UK and overseas.
Monitoring and Evaluations +
Monitoring is the systematic, regular collection and occasional analysis of information to identify and possibly measure changes over a period of time. Evaluation is the analysis of the effectiveness and efficiency of an activity, programme or policy and involves making a judgement about its relevance, sustainability and impact. Governments and donors are increasingly stressing the need for policies, strategies and programmes that are more result-oriented. For example, the result-orientation of the poverty reduction/economic growth approach considers final poverty outcomes/impacts, intermediate outputs/implementation processes and the delivery of the key inputs of poverty reduction strategies.
At Actra Advisers, we consider that effective monitoring and evaluation needs a clear direction on expected uses, benefits and impact at the outset. In order to know where you want to be, it is equally important to understand where you are starting from. Regular monitoring of progress including the progress of the change management programme allows for timely action to be taken to address any problems.
At Actra Advisers, we have carried out a variety of monitoring exercises and evaluations of projects and programmes.
Project and Programme Evaluations
We have carried out a wide variety of project completion reports, reform programmes and country evaluations on behalf of governments and donors including DFID and EU.
PFM Literature Review
We have carried out a literature review of PFM reforms including the various approaches to reform; technical developments as well as non-technical factors affecting the success of reforms.
Public Sector Reforms +
What constitutes the public sector differs from one country to another. Governance and organisational arrangements also vary considerably. Demand for changes or reforms to the public sector, is generated by internal or external pressure. In many cases these pressures are focussed on improved service delivery or greater value for money, although some are generated by fiscal or political crisis. Over many years there has also been significant donor driven demand for public sector reforms and structural adjustments.
At Actra Advisers we believe that successful public sector reforms need to recognise the economic, social, cultural, constitutional and political context of the country. The level of economic development and the state of the market economy provide constraints on the types of reforms that are feasible or desirable. The political climate and political beliefs of the ruling party or parties will also determine whether particular reforms are acceptable. The institutional context will also shape the reform agenda. Failure to understand and address these issues will inevitably result in lower than expected results.
Directors at Actra Advisers have worked in central government, local government and for other public sector organisations. Therefore we have significant practical experience of public sector reforms and understanding of public sector cultures.
Reforms in the water sector
We have been involved in the development of alternative organisational and institutional arrangements in the water sector in Ghana and Zambia. This included the review of the commercial feasibility of various scenarios and recommendations for the most economic and socially acceptable solutions.
Review of Government funded Agencies
Worked closely with government officials on a programme to review the status of government funded (subvented) agencies, assessed the validity of proposed changes and presented recommendations to senior management on their future viability.
Change Management +
Organisational Development is generally associated with activities and techniques designed to bring about organisational change. It deals with two aspects of change. The first includes the rational processes of what needs to be done. This has primarily to do with the so called ‘hard issues’ around structures, systems and work practices. The second aspect relates to the emotional responses to the intended change and how to manage it to ensure successful and sustainable change.
Change in an organisation can at best be exciting and at worst traumatic for those involved or affected by the process. Many leaders may be mistaken by thinking that a rational case for change will be enough to get buy-in from their staff. Leaders may know what needs to be done. The difficult part of the reform process is how to get their followers to embrace these changes and to anchor them into the organisation’s culture (“the way we do things”).
At Actra Advisers we accept that these two aspects are part of the same coin albeit different sides of the coin. We view the rational ‘hard issues’ as part of project/programme design, while the messy and (sometimes) irrational ‘soft issues’ is seen as part of change management. We accept that clients would rather focus on the technical design and implementation (action plans) of reforms, as outcomes may seem more clear cut than the unpredictable, inconsistent and conflicting ‘soft issues’.
With our past experience in change management in both the public and the private sectors, we have the skill to help organisations develop and implement effective change strategies (beyond the usual focus on leadership, communication and change champions) that will maximise the organisation’s chances for successful and sustainable change.
South African Civil Service
We helped implement changes within central Government Department following the first democratic elections. Programme dealt with incorporating staff from opposing factions (government, national states and liberation movements), creating a new organisational culture and coaching newly appointed (but inexperienced) managers.
Supplier to major UK high street retailer
We designed and implemented critical structural and systemic changes for a supplier to a major high street retailer (with more than 2500 shops) that helped them deliver on commitments and prevented the retailer suffering substantial losses.
Capacity Development +
Capacity development (CD) is the process whereby people, organisations and society as a whole unleash, strengthen, create, adapt and maintain capacity over time. Donors and governments often equate capacity development only with human resource development. However, there is a growing realisation that organisational learning is key to the sustainability of reforms.
At Actra Advisers, we are of the view that some traditional approaches to capacity development need to be revisited. For example, instead of training for training’s sake, there is now a recognised need to ask (and answer) the question - Training on what and why? Creating new capacity is not the only option available when developing capacity. Indeed, there are various operational strategies for capacity development. These can include: (i) eliminating old or inappropriate capacity; (ii) reducing demand on existing capacity; (iii) making better use of existing capacity and strengthening it; and (iv) providing space for innovation and creative use of capacities.
Directors at Actra Advisers conduct various training and lecture programmes on PFM, leadership and change management for a wide variety of clientele.
Supporting Capacity Development in PFM
We have written a Practitioners Guide to supporting CD in PFM for use by donor representatives and government officials.
Following the first democratic elections in South Africa, we provided coaching to a number of newly appointed managers during major civil service reforms.