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To help Iraq move along the path toward a modern federal system, the Government of Iraq, with the assistance of the IOG, is undertaking a pilot project to devolve policy and program authorities from Baghdad to the provincial capitals as prescribed in the Constitution.
Under the pilot project, a few governorates will be accountable for delivering programs efficiently and effectively within a framework of national standards and oversight.For its part, the federal government will provide stable, predictable funding to facilitate the transfer of program authorities.
The governors of these provinces will be granted additional authorities to manage their budgets and staff for all programs and submit their spending plans to the elected Provincial Council for approval.Importantly, they will have some flexibility to allocate resources in the best interests of their province and reallocated funds across program boundaries as priorities change.
Federal ministries taking part in the pilot projects include Health, Education, Construction, Housing and Municipalities, Labour and Social Affairs, Agriculture, and Youth and Sports.Importantly, the ministries of Finance and Planning will also be deeply involved in planning and executing the decentralization process.
Several of these ministries have already decentralized some of their operations under existing transfers.With the pilot project, decentralization will proceed through a clearer, more streamlined process offering greater flexibility to the governorates.
The inspiration for the pilot projects came from senior Iraqi officials taking part in the IOG's Cohort Program. Following a discussion of federal-provincial relations challenges, participants in Cohort 2 raised the concept of testing the practices of decentralization in real life.They became advocates for the concept and through their efforts the idea of running pilot projects gained currency in Baghdad and the provincial capitals.
Workshops are one of the IOGs favoured tools for testing ideas and moving projects forward in Iraq.With the pilot projects and other initiatives, we have found that putting the right people in a room with the right agenda and facilitator can lead to very useful outcomes.For instance, the workshops in Bagdad and Erbil brought together representatives from the federal ministries and the governorates involved along with experts from the IOG.The experts added value by pointing out ways in which Canada and other federations have dealt with difficult challenges in federal-provincial relations.
This inspires Iraqi participants to come up with solutions that will work in their country.
The formal launch of the pilot projects will take place once the draft federal-provincial agreement has been approved by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers.
The IOG has hired staff in Baghdad and the provinces to support the pilot projects over their three-year life span.We also expect that Iraq's widely-respected Board of Supreme Audit will add further support by assisting the provinces in developing internal controls and training officials in the fundamentals of expenditure management.
There is a lot at stake in the pilot projects.If their approach proves successful, they can serve as a model for federal-provincial relations and decentralization throughout Iraq.