Jul 28, 2021

Building Effective and Productive Partnerships Is Fundamental

Talking to Alastair Swarbrick, Senior Policy Adviser at OECD, SIGMA, we touched on the work of Support for Improvement in Governance and Management (SIGMA), what benefits come from institutions working together and how mentoring can work both ways.

SIGMA is a joint initiative of the OECD and the European Union. How would you, in more practical terms, present the work it does?

SIGMA’s key objective is to support the strengthening of the governance and capacities of public administrations in EU enlargement and neighborhood regions.

A well-functioning public administration is a prerequisite for transparent and effective democratic governance and is a fundamental element of EU accession. It is the foundation for the functioning of the state, determining a government’s ability to provide public services and foster competitiveness and growth. We have been working with our partners on strengthening their public administrations since 1992, and one of our key areas is public financial management and audit. Our work focuses on reviewing and giving advice on governance systems, legal and regulatory frameworks, reform strategies, and the design and prioritization of reforms. We also provide methodologies and tools to support the implementation of reforms, share good practices from a wide range of countries, and publish policy papers, comparative studies, and assessments to help drive improvement.

Through this work, we look to help our partners to create stable democracies, access the benefits of a free-market economy, and either fulfill the key requirements for EU membership or create a closer relationship with the EU.

In your view, why are partnerships between institutions important?

If we look at what we are trying to achieve, it is clear that building effective and productive partnerships are fundamental for the successful achievement of our objectives, and helping partner countries to strengthen their public administrations. It is important that institutions supporting the development of the EU enlargement and neighborhood cooperate to ensure that we make effective use of our capacities and resources, and leverage our diverse knowledge and skills effectively. We all face resource constraints and we should ensure our activities are complementary to each other and avoid unnecessary duplication. In the same vein, we recognize when partner institutions are better placed to support certain objectives.

The importance of building effective partnerships is also crucial when we consider the absorption capacity of partner countries in managing reforms and working with many institutional partners. Finally, we all need to work together to try and provide consistent messages to countries about the key issues and reforms in general.

These issues can be challenging, but building partnerships and effective coordination are vital if we want to support the overall objective of strengthening partner countries.

Recently, you were also a mentor to one of the newest members of the CEF team, Ms. Arjonela Dedja. It is often said that the mentors learn at least as much as the mentees, so how would you describe this experience?

I see it is as a positive experience. It gave me an opportunity to share my experiences as a finance professional and hopefully provide some insights into the development of certain aspects of PFM in our partner countries, along with my thoughts on the challenges and areas where further capacity and skills need to be developed. At the same time, I could take a step back and think, and consider the direction the auditing profession, in particular, is traveling, something that I rarely seem to be able to do. I also understood some areas where the CEF are looking to focus on and think about how SIGMA can further support these.

I would like to think that in a small way it will also help further strengthen the relationship between the CEF and SIGMA.