Security sector reform (SSR) suffers from a number of challenges in post-conflict states, but expenditure management and financial review of SSR processes pose particular challenges that are not present in other sectors, such as health and education. It is these challenges, and the gaps in knowledge and expenditure management, that the World Bank and DCAF sought to address in October 2012 by bringing economists, SSR practitioners, and other experts together in Nairobi. The roundtable concluded that the knowledge, approaches, and tools necessary for SSR expenditure reviews required further development, and that ongoing cooperation was the key to achieving this goal.
The round table workshop provided an opportunity for involved, though often unconnected, actors within the SSR field to discuss common issues and methods to overcome obstacles preventing SSR review processes from having optimal impact. Public expenditure reviews (PER) can provide actors with a better understanding of the financial standing of their respective programs. How much is being spent, its impact, management capacity, cost of reforms and ongoing needs can be assessed with these PER tools and subsequent analysis. SSR expenditure reviews are no different, and both provide for increased accountability, transparency, oversight and sustainability.
Ensuring that the conclusion of reviews actually inform and influence government decision makers comprises a significant portion of the workshop’s report. It notes that there is no standard process for SSR expenditure reviews, but that basic elements such as reviewing existing policies, budget processes, and existing or planned expenditures remain necessary when attempting to conduct them. Also critical is effective follow-up processes that involve the original actors and organizations. Other obstacles raised by the report include high tolerances for inefficient spending, which may have been culturally entrenched and difficulties in getting defense and security establishments to open up to both foreign and domestic review. The low level of engagement by international financial institutions and aversion to financial management by SSR practitioners, who often lack the necessary skill sets, were other challenges presented by the report.
By addressing the challenges presented in SSR expenditure reviews, highlighting potential triggers for such reviews, and assessing the skills necessary to undertake them, the workshop ultimately presents a set of practices and lessons learned to take into account as SSR practitioners move forward. These are: the inclusion of Ministries of Finance in security sector coordination and decision making bodies; approaching International Financial Institutions (who possess the necessary skills and expertise) to assist in reviews; the use of SSR experts and practitioners to provide insight into SSR processes; and the institutionalization of cooperative frameworks to offset the effects of personnel rotations.
Despite the work still required, the workshop is a stepping-stone to greater levels of cooperation between the involved organizations and helps form the building blocks of more effective partnerships. To read the full report, Round Table: Security Sector Expenditure Reviews, please click here.
Sean Jellow is a blog contributor for the Security Governance Group. A recent graduate with a Masters of International Public Policy, Sean’s research focus is on issues of governance and security.