The call to submit proposals, as currently formulated - withvery specific guidance on how proposals should be presented and the issues theyshould focus on - is complex; and is also inconsistent with the Global Fundprinciple of supporting recipient-driven programmes. This indicates a need fora simpler application process, with the emphasis on country-driven proposals.
This is one of the observations in an audit report issued bythe Office of the Inspector General, "The OIG Review of the Global FundGrant Application Process." The audit examined twenty-five proposalsfrom rounds-based applications in order to assess the effectiveness of theproposal form in eliciting proposals; and to identify strengths and weaknessesin the responses to questions in the form (as distinct from strengths andweaknesses in the technical detail of the proposals themselves).
The proposal form
The OIG said that "while it is self-evident that a goodproposal may be fitted into the Global Fund's proposal form, it is by no meansclear that a proposal would be significantly shaped and improved by followingthe form."
According to the OIG, the introduction of evolving policyrequirements into the proposal form and guidelines in a somewhat patchworkfashion, particularly in the early rounds of funding, has complicated the grantapplication process. The OIG added that the Global Fund has not evaluated theresults adequately to be able to conclude whether evolution in the proposalform has actually led to better proposals.
The OIG said that
"emphasison specific areas in the proposal form - for example, on community systemsstrengthening, or dual track implementation by public and private sectorentities - has the objective of eliciting better-performing programmes. Yetthere is little evidence so far that there has been any impact on eitherproposal quality or subsequent programme performance. It may be that greateremphasis in proposals on these issues - and on others such as transparency,social equity and the private sector - will indeed produce better results. Asevidence for this is gathered, there will be stronger justification forrequiring that such issues be addressed in proposals."
The OIG said that although theGlobal Fund's guidelines inform applicants that technical assistance isavailable to help develop and write proposals, no systematic guidance has beenpublished by the Global Fund itself on how to access this help.
Responses in proposal forms
The OIG said that in the proposals it reviewed, responsesfrom applicants to the questions on the proposal form tended to be weak - i.e.,there was either a lack of detail or a lack of relevance - in the followingareas: (a) the competence of CCM members in health systems strengthening ("whereusually no more than a list of members' job titles was provided"); (b) thefinancial and planning cycle; (c) gender and social equity; (d) the potentialfor co-operation with the private sector; (e) equitable and efficientdistribution of national budget resources in-country; (f) explanations of largeitems in the budget; (g) procurement arrangements; and (h) arrangements formitigating unintended consequences.
According to the OIG, in most cases the responses "appearedso limited as to call into question the extent of preliminary scrutiny appliedto them." In addition, the OIG said, this indicates the need for improvedguidance on the level of detail expected in the responses.
The OIG said that on the important aspect of co-operationwith the private sector, which has a strong link to the Global Fund's corporateobjectives, "applicants' responses were thin and almost none had beencosted with any apparent accuracy or conviction."
Concerning procurement, the OIG noted that the applicationprocess does not require much in the way of detail; and that "the responsein almost every proposal reviewed was very weak, with answers normally relyingon references to unspecified 'existing national systems' for procurement,storage and distribution, and relatively little additional detail to supportreliable evaluation of the proposal."
The OIG said that it found little evidence to indicate anyextensive information exchange among potential recipients, despite theavailability of all proposals - whether recommended or rejected - on the GlobalFund website. To address this, the OIG said, existing Global Fund road-showsmight consider working with real examples; and new Global Fund-led workshops tohelp with the writing of live proposals should be considered, particularly incountries that have difficulty producing acceptable proposals.
The OIG said that some of the proposals it examined emergedfrom a process that had started only a month or so before the deadline date forsubmissions. This suggests that the applicants place emphasis on completing thenecessary documentation on time, rather than putting together a programmesystematically over a reasonable period of time. The OIG said that "aftereight years' experience, with annual funding rounds being the norm, mostapplicants could confidently start the process of planning an application wellin advance of the formal call for proposals."
Seealso the previous article, and article 5, in this issue. "The OIGReview of the Global Fund Grant Application Process," April 2010, isavailable at www.theglobalfund.org/en/oig/reports.