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ARCHIVED - Russia Country Program

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Summary

The audit of the Russia Country Program of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Branch was carried out between October 2003 and March 2004, with some additional work completed in May 2004. The audit focussed on three broad areas, as a result of the preliminary survey and risk analysis; strategy, partnerships and operations and was conducted at the level of the Russia Program and accordingly no detailed review or analysis of any financial transactions related to CIDA operations at headquarters or projects in Russia was undertaken. The Russia Program undertakes technical co-operation activities in a variety of sectors. In 2002-2003 disbursements directly through the Russia program budget amounted to $19,549,322 with an additional $2 million disbursed through the CEE Branch Humanitarian Assistance Program for humanitarian assistance to Chechnya.

Strategy

When the CEE programs were transferred to CIDA in the mid-1990s, the Agency prepared a Russia Country Strategy, 1996. The strategy noted that "while predominantly responsive in nature, the Program may also be proactive in initiating certain key projects". The strategy was revised in 2000 and again in 2002. The most recent, the Russia Programming Framework (RPF) was completed in June 2002 with two main thrusts, namely "State" and "People", and a shift to a "more directed, proactive approach". A stable, clear and well understood strategy is critical to the success of the Russia Program but stability seems elusive. This is recognized (in response to a $5 million reduction in funding) by the 2004-05 Work plan; "In last year's Work plan, the Program had forecast that its operational and programming budgets would remain the same until 2008. In FY 2004-2005, the Russia Program will have to adapt to a new programming environment and FY 2004-2005 will therefore be a (another) year of transition for the Russia Program". The uncertainty surrounding the future and the strategy of the Russia Program has significant ramifications for program direction, partnership relations and operations and should be resolved. The CEE Branch Strategic Visioning-the Way forward to 2010 notes that the major principles of Strengthening Aid Effectiveness (SAE), namely, policy coherence, donor co-ordination, stronger partnerships and local ownership are key elements of all programs in the Branch. The Russia Program has shown commitment to the principles, implementing measures to help achieve them.

Partnerships

The Russia Program is a dynamic, evolving challenge requiring the co-operation, integration and harmonization of views and activities of the major partners, specifically the Government of Canada, Canadian Executing Agencies and Russian Partners. Project success and thus ultimately Program success is determined, in large measure, by the quality of the relationship among the partners. Significant effort is made to develop and strengthen CIDA/Russia partnerships and similar efforts for CIDA/CEA or CEA/ Russia partnerships should be encouraged. A clear position statement promoting the development of partnerships, particularly with CEAs, would emphasize the importance of the full involvement of all participants in the Russia Program and would raise awareness about the need to fully engage Canadian partners.

Risk Management

In November 2003, CIDA issued 'Assessing and Managing Risk: A Reference for Bilateral Program Officers' as a guide on risk analysis and risk management, noting that formal risk assessment of external and operational risks at the program level is a responsibility of desk staff. While some efforts at risk management at the program level have been undertaken, the efforts stop at the risk identification stage. The assessment, quantification, monitoring, mitigation and reporting stages are not well developed or articulated and should be improved.

Operations

While the 2002 Russia Programming Framework provided broad strategic parameters for the Russia Program, it did not address the task of implementing the strategy. The latest Annual Work plan, 2004-05 does not articulate specific impacts, outcomes and outputs and how they are to be achieved. It was difficult to determine what steps, if any, had been taken to convert the Country Programming Framework into an operational plan, which would address elements such as programming mix, human resource planning, monitoring and performance measurement. The strengths and weaknesses of each of these elements are addressed in specific sections of this report. Each of the elements could be strengthened through more rigorous planning and reviewing, enhancing their contribution to implementation and helping the Program effectively convert its strategic goals and objectives into operational activities and help ensure the most effective and efficient use of resources.

The issue of registering CIDA projects with the Russian Government and the impact that this may have on their operations needs to be resolved. The situation concerning the benefits of registering a project and the resulting tax implications is, at best, complicated within the Russia Federation.. The CIDA section at the Embassy has been involved in discussions on this subject but there was no evidence of a clearly defined statement or position that has been articulated to assist Canadian organizations and CIDA staff at the Embassy and/or headquarters to provide guidance on this subject.

The audit found both strengths and areas for improvement within the Russia Country Program. Generally speaking, it appears that the areas for improvement, particularly those dealing with strategy and partnerships, are rooted in CIDA`s response the evolving nature of the Russia's political, economic and social development. Overall, the Russia Country Program has been well managed by the staff at both HQ and in the field. There was ample evidence of consultation and collaboration with partners; of concern over maintaining a current and effective strategic approach; of trying align projects within the current framework; and, of an awareness of the need to rethink the framework in light of budgetary changes and challenges to the raison d'etre of the program.


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