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International Consultant

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United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
Location: Skopje, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Last Date: September 4, 2011
Email: italev@unicef.org (Reference: DevNetJobs.org)


Terms of Reference

Background

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is currently in the process of decentralizing many of the functions traditionally performed by the central government. The decentralization process was primarily perceived as a part of the political reforms used to improve political cohesiveness and to strengthen democratic institutions in the country. However, as decentralization moves forward, the issue of quality and access to public services as well as the overall efficiency of the local institutions is being considered as equally important features for developing the decentralized system of governance.
Decentralization is viewed as a key democratic governance objective, supportive to the efficient delivery of services, reduction of regional disparities, economic growth, and development of political identity as well as civic participation. A primary element of this effort includes decentralizing provision of social services to the sub-national government level, many of which are vital to children’s education, health and overall development. Research linking decentralization of social services or fiscal transfers from the central to the local level with child welfare outcomes is scarce. Studies from various countries reveal the relationship between decentralization of certain social service sectors and sectoral outcomes for children. In Indonesia for example, a regression analysis of investment per capita in education has uncovered a positive correlation between provincial income and the number of primary schools per capita, and a negative correlation with provincial literacy rates, suggesting that central level transfers played a significant role in reducing disparities in educational achievement within and among provinces. A similar exercise in Uzbekistan however, could not yield comparable results. Nevertheless, it has become commonly accepted that decentralized service delivery requires inclusive and accountable sub-national governance and effective public expenditure management at the local level.

Experience to date indicates that whilst decentralized public goods and services may be an important element to sustained poverty reduction, they may not – in themselves – be sufficient. This tendency is associated with common challenges linked to weak financial and institutional capacities at the local level, unclear local governments’ mandates, inadequate fiscal transfer systems from central government to local government, and weak accountability mechanisms.

In accordance with the Law on Financing of Units of Local Self Government from 2004, the fiscal decentralization process is to be conducted in two phases in order to establish a transparent financial mechanism for municipalities, based on objective criteria and indicators. While in the first phase of decentralization municipalities were given largely the control over physical infrastructure (school facilities for example), in the second phase they were also given the competency over salary management and disbursement, which required them to possess financial management skills previously concentrated at the central level.
All municipalities were encompassed in the first phase beginning on the 1st of July 2005, with the transfer of competences and finances for their implementation from the central to the local governments. All but six municipalities (of the 84 existing ones) have gradually moved toward the second phase, following the fulfillment of certain criteria, such as: adequate human resource capacities for financial management, regular fiscal reporting, timely debt settlements etc.
UNDP has solicited the assistance of external academic institutions and is currently supporting the Ministry of Finance to introduce changes to the formula for inter-governmental fiscal transfers, There are three stages of reforms envisaged . In the first, the focus is on technical aspects of the process in order to improve transparency without diving into political questions about relative allocations. In this stage, the broad pattern of grant distribution will remain unchanged but the formulas will be based on single per-client expenditure norms, so that there is a clear foundation for further reforms in the second stage. The goal in the second stage is to move towards a system of equalisation across municipalities, where the size of the transfer is based on a computation of fiscal disparities (i.e. taking into consideration both the expenditure needs and revenue-raising capabilities). The first two stages essentially address the financing of functions as they have currently been assigned to municipalities. In the third stage, it is envisaged that a more comprehensive and consistent system of conditional and equalisation grants for functions that are devolved, as well as sectoral grants for those functions that are delegated, will be introduced. It is recognised that this third stage should involve a lengthy discussion about the various functional responsibilities and the best assignment of functions. In some cases, it may be found that certain functions should be re-assigned to the central and vice versa, potentially leading to changes in the Law on Local Self-Government.

Purpose

The purpose of the assignment is to contribute towards improving the fiscal decentralization process in the areas of education (primary and secondary) and child care, through:
(a) scientific analysis of relevant literature with a strong focus on equity and through the prism of child rights, (b) technical support to relevant institutions to develop sectoral strategies for improving the fiscal transfers in the selected areas, and, (c) advocacy among key stakeholders in the country to adopt the recommendations resulting from this process.

Tasks
Under the supervision of the UNICEF Social and Economic Policy Specialist, the consultant will conduct a desk review of the budget fiscal transfers, as well as fiscal transfer formulas from the central to the local level in three areas – primary education, secondary education and child care. The consultant will cooperate with the authors of the study on “Financing Equitable Service Delivery for All Citizens” commissioned by the UNDP Office in Skopje, and critically review the proposed fiscal equalization grants in the three areas mentioned previously, from the perspective of ensuring equitable service delivery for children. The consultant will be an active contributor in the advocacy process to adjust the levels of fiscal transfers from the central to the local level in order to ensure quality and timely service delivery for children in these three areas.

Deliverables
1. Conduct a review of existing fiscal transfers in the area of education and child care and produce a briefing/information note (5 pages) on general trends (4 days)
2. Critically review UNDPs study on “Financing Equitable Service Delivery for All” (to be provided by UNICEF) and provide a detailed minimum 15- page (8,000 words) report, a 2 page (1500 words) executive summary and a power point presentation of the materials on financing equitable service delivery for children in the three aforementioned areas. (12 days)
3. Participate in discussions, conferences and meetings with government partners, academicians and NGOs in order to: (a) advocate for implementation of proposed fiscal transfer formulas and alternative policy options for improved fiscal transfers from the central to the local levels; (b) provide technical assistance to the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labour and Social Policy in the process of reviewing fiscal transfer formulas and policies in the abovementioned areas, (15 days, ad-hoc throughout last quarter of 2011 and in 2012)

Timeframe
The deadlines for the three deliverables are the following:

Deliverable 1 to be completed by 30 September
Deliverable 2 by 20 October

The advocacy component is estimated to last 15 days and occur on an ad hoc basis throughout the rest of 2011 and 2012.

Payment

The consultancy rate is concomitant with the highest level of experience for international/national consultants. The payment will be executed in installments following the satisfactory completion of the tasks and deliverables outlined in the Terms of Reference.

Location
Home work and Skopje



Qualifications

• Postgraduate degree (Master’s or PhD level) in Economics, Public Finance or other related fields
• Expertise in public finance management and especially decentralised funding and accountability mechanisms, with at least 7 years experience
• An understanding of key issues in the decentralisation of social policy, in particular primary and secondary education, early childhood education, social assistance and child protection;
• Knowledge of children’s rights issues and approach in policy-making
• Experience of working with other development partners, in key UNICEF sectors will be considered an asset
• Strong analytical and writing skills and track record in producing relevant reports and other material
• High level of communication and interpersonal skills and experience in working effectively in a multi cultural environment
• Sensitivity to diverse opinions and difficulties arising from differing social and cultural perceptions
• Fluency in both written and spoken English.

How to apply

All interested candidates should send their CVs and a letter of interest to both:
italev@unicef.org AND
btrimcevska@unicef.org

no later than midnight on September 4, 2011


 


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