The sustainable handover, transfer or ‘transition’ of the Principal Recipient (PR) role from UNDP to national entities can be one of the results of the capacity development process in countries that have a favourable environment. Capacity development activities are given top priority in all countries where UNDP serves as PR, to strengthen capacity of national entities with the aim that one or more of these national entities are eventually ready and capable to take over grant implementation. As part of this capacity development support for prospective PRs, UNDP assists in defining plans to transition or transfer the PR role from UNDP to the prospective PR(s) when the circumstances permit.
While a capacity development plan is owned by the national entity, a transition or transfer plan is jointly owned and managed by both the national entity and UNDP, as both organisations have key responsibilities and tasks to ensure a successful and sustainable handover of the PR role. A transition plan usually has a more defined scope, as it addresses the specific PR functions required to implement Global Fund grants successfully.
The objective of a transfer or transition plan is to provide a staged process to allow for PR functions and responsibilities to increasingly move from UNDP to one (or more) national entities. In this way, the PR role is transitioned in a planned manner with national entities gradually taking over the PR responsibilities. It is clear that any handover must be managed well in order to avoid disruptions to service delivery.
Global Fund Country Allocation
An important event that influences the transition options and the scope and timing of some transitions is the amount of the new Global Fund country allocations. Following the successful 5th Global Fund replenishment in September 2016 country allocations were made. In the allocation list some countries are marked for a move away from being able to access Global Fund support which may trigger the need for a Transition Strategy.
To date, UNDP has experience of transitioning out of 25 countries. In 2015 alone, UNDP transitioned out of seven grants in two countries. UNDP is likely to continue as PR in other countries due to particularly difficult or special circumstances.
The linkages between a capacity development plan and a transition or transfer plan include certain dependencies, in that transition activities cannot be completed unless certain activities or objectives of the capacity development plan are achieved.
The completion of a transition or transfer plan is then dependent on a recommendation by the CCM for the national entity to assume the role of the PR, and an assessment by the Global Fund, who is responsible for approving that national entity in the role of the PR. It should be clearly understood that completion of the transition or transfer plan and capacity development plan are not a guarantee of success in gaining approval from the Global Fund for a national entity to assume the role of PR.
A transition or transfer plan should also include a [risk assessment], identifying risks and risk mitigation strategies associated with transitioning from one PR to another. The management of these risks should be monitored and controlled by the group overseeing the implementation of the capacity development and transition programme.
As with all capacity development the focus should be on the comprehensive development of national systems as opposed to stand alone Global Fund systems.
A series of audits and capacity assessments undertaken by the Global Fund, other donors, the Local Fund Agent and UNDP in 2010 identified a number of significant gaps in national capacity to optimally manage Global Fund and other external resources. After these capacity gaps were identified UNDP was designated as the interim Principal Recipient in December 2010. To address this UNDP and the Ministry of Health jointly developed the ‘Capacity Development and Transition Plan for the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Zambia’ with the overall goal of bringing about sustained, resilient change in the Ministry of Health and the Government of Zambia’s ability to carry out grant management and donor funds coordination. UNDP and the Ministry of Health were jointly responsible for the plan’s implementation.
The Capacity Development and Transition Plan contained a series of capacity development actions and results to strengthen national systems for health, to improve grant performance and help prepare for the transitioning the Global Fund Principal Recipient Role to the Ministry of Health (subject to meeting the Global Fund requirements) with inputs from other cooperating partners in the country. This high-level plan was supplemented by an implementation plan, the Capacity Development and Transition Action Plan 2012-2014, which set out detailed deliverables, timelines and transition benchmarks.
The measurable benchmarks ensured it was possible to assess the progress of the Ministry of Health towards readiness for transition or handover to the Principal Recipient role. They included implementation of standard operating procedures, adequate training and skills development, meeting programmatic and financial targets, timely submission of data by heath facilities and timely submission by the Ministry of Health of quarterly progress reports.
The completion of the comprehensive Capacity Development and Transition Plan enabled $234 million of new grants to be awarded to the Ministry of Health in Zambia as Principal Recipient in January 2015.
The following factors contributed to achieving transition in Zambia:
“UNDP has played an important role in ensuring continuity of the funding and commodities for the national HIV, TB, and malaria programmes in Zambia [and] in the capacity development of the Ministry of Health through the establishment and support to the Programme Management Unit. It is exciting to see the Ministry of Health nominated as a Principal Recipient under The Global Fund’s New Funding Model”. – PEPFAR Coordination Office