In September 2013, BALADI selected 15 Lebanese municipalities and two unions to receive funding for their development projects for the next two years.
A Municipal Capacity Assessment Tool (M-CAT) was adapted by the BALADI Plus team specifically for Lebanese municipalities (View and download > Tool for Municipalities: English – Arabic. Tool for Unions of Municipalities: English – Arabic). With this tool, BALADI Plus conducted a mini-assessment of each municipality’s needs in terms of governance and internal systems, to identify which specific interventions are required and how these interventions can be implemented. At the conclusion of each mini-assessment, tailored action plans for all municipalities that outline specific interventions were developed and finalized in consultation with the municipalities to ensure feedback.
BALADI Plus provides customized technical assistance and training to selected municipalities/unions in technical areas, depending on needs identified during mini-assessments. In many cases, selected municipalities need tailored support from experts – for example, to implement transparent budgeting processes or establish a monitoring mechanism for public procurements. Training is required, but individualized technical assistance, coaching and on-the-job training (OJT) are critical to ensure that knowledge and skills are implemented in a practical sense.
Technical assistance covers two broad essential areas, as follows:
Area 1: Build municipal capacity to respond to citizen demands
In Area 1, the project provides training, coaching, OJT, and technical assistance that strengthen the skills and capacities of selected municipalities/unions to conduct essential public services, be responsive to citizen needs and demands, and perform in an accountable and transparent fashion.
The tailored trainings emphasize and encourage workable mechanisms for the open participation of citizens in local policy- and decision-making processes as well as focus on building and institutionalizing proven best practices and approaches to key local governance functions.
The following major priorities, which will be addressed through trainings, coaching and OJT, have been pointed out during assessment sessions and formulated in action plans:
1. Open and transparent local government, including participatory budgeting: This covers the implementation of various tested techniques, including the posting of local government information, implementation of the Municipal Law’s article 45, and participatory budgeting. Upgrading municipal websites to include such government information promotes transparency and public access to data, therefore, encouraging citizens to constructively send their complaints and recommendations
2. Public Procurement: It focuses on how to strengthen regulations and practices on solid basis to avoid typical problems of kickbacks, bid rigging, the use of front companies, and favoritism.
3. Financial Management and Budgeting: this covers the lifecycle of budget formulation, budget execution, accounting and reporting, and external audit and oversight. Also, it develops the municipal capacities in managing financial resources and enhancing tax collection rates.
4. Internal regulations and bylaws: This improves administrative structures and personnel management through updating existing bylaws following a comprehensive assessment for the existing organizational structure, job descriptions and human resource practices at the municipality. Developing and validating a code of ethics is a main constituent under this section.
5. Archiving system: this includes redesigning and improving the municipal archive to efficiently manage data and keep updated records.
6. Local development planning: this enhances municipal capacities on strategic planning for local development. Support to municipalities may include all or part of the three domains:
- Producing a strategic plan for local development through which the following are crucial to be addressed: comprehensive participatory surveying, data analysis and validation, problematic setting and suggested major interventions and recommendations.
- Designing an accompanying land use plan to feed into the objectives of the development plan. A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a relevant desktop application that helps overseeing, organizing and managing municipal data pertaining to land properties, taxation and infrastructure.
- Designing a municipal contingency plan that is influenced by unique factors and specifications related to a selected municipality. Under this section, BALADI Plus builds the capacity of selected municipalities in the field of emergency preparedness and contingency planning through basic and advanced trainings to be better prepared, should they face a large influx of Syrian refugees or any other disaster cases.
Area 2: Foster civic engagement in municipal life and increase municipal outreach
This area looks at improving the quality of municipalities’ relations and accountability to its constituents. The initial focus emphasizes on civic education and enabling CSOs to act as oversight bodies on municipality action.
Support to CSOs may include part or all of the following:
1. Civic education and awareness programs (TOT) on citizen rights and responsibilities in the municipal context, good governance principles, division of authority and responsibility in government, community mobilization and outreach. BALADI Plus conducts workshops that include discussing strategies to advance citizen understanding of their rights and responsibilities in local governance, and how to keep governments accountable. To that extent, BALADI Plus may also support CSOs to unite their efforts to advocate for the most common citizen demands on the municipal level through engaging them in local advocacy campaigns.
2. Capacity and skill building in participatory local governance, public oversight and the budget process. To participate meaningfully in local governance, including budget planning, monitoring and evaluation, it is important that CSOs acquire knowledge of the functional areas (e.g. budgeting, procurement, decision-making processes, etc.), as well as skills in applying participatory techniques.