The more I looked at the EC's reform of TA - the 2008 Backbone strategy - the more I realised that it is simply saying that everyone just needed to try a bit harder. The document sets out 8 „principles” and 5 „axes” – a sophistication which should raise alarm bells! The principles embody all the right words - flexibility, demand-led, result-orientation, harmonised, country-owned, quality control of companies etc – but the 5 axes are simply the 5 stages of the project management cycle (which remains sacrosanct). And the more I thought about the paper, the more I realised the superficiality of my own 2006 analysis which had focussed on procedural aspects - rather than the issues embodied in my later 5 questions.
Let’s face it - the Court of Auditors consists of accountants. The EC officials who drafted the response are managers. Neither accountants nor public managers are specialists in administrative reform or social science methodology and able to deal properly with the ends-means issue involved in such social interventions as administrative reform. The language of the logframe has them imprisoned in a system which believes in short causal links between activities and outcomes; if the outcomes don’t happen, then it’s the project designers, managers or implementers to blame! It’s that simple! The possibility of a more complex – if not chaotic – world does not occur to them. I’m now trying to explore what the consequences of such a (more plausible) world view might be for Technical Assistance in my field. Of course several websites are already devoted to this alternative view in the general field of development - but not PAR see Aid on the edge of chaos