During fiscal 2000-06, the Bank spent nearly $1 billion on ESW and TA, slightly more than one-quarter of its spending on country services. Although it is not possible to quantify the impact of this spending, this evaluation found that in the aggregate, Bank ESW and TA met their objectives to at least an average extent. Furthermore, Bank clients find these products useful; clients in MICs find them more useful than lending.
In light of these findings, IEG has several recommendations to help the Bank obtain better results for ESW and TA. These recommendations will also help support the Bank's six strategic directions, as knowledge is important for all of them.
Reinvigorate the mandate—which underpinned the fiscal 1999 ESW reforms—for country teams to maintain a strong knowledge base on countries and sectors where the Bank is providing or planning to provide funds. Bank country strategies and lending activities need to continue to be supported by requisite analysis, although a return to strictly defined “core diagnostic” ESW is unnecessary.
Ensure that ESW tasks in IDA countries are adequately resourced, even if it means fewer ESW in some countries. This will help to address the lower level of resources for individual ESW tasks in IDA countries than in IBRD countries and is supported by the findings that cost matters for quality and quality matters for effectiveness. Greater selectivity will also help reduce the burden on limited government capacity in some IDA countries and will free resources for more collaboration and follow-up needed to enhance the effectiveness of ESW. Selectivity could be enhanced by giving priority to ESW that informs Bank lending and strategy or that is clearly desired and needed by the client.
Enhance the institutional arrangements for undertaking ESW and TA. To the extent allowed by budget, ensure substantive task team presence in country offices, particularly in countries with low institutional capacity. This will facilitate closer collaboration with clients from task initiation through follow-up. In addition, formulate a dissemination and implementation strategy for ESW and TA at the concept paper stage. Such a strategy should identify the target audience, the mode of dissemination, and the follow-up arrangements after dissemination. All of these should be explicitly budgeted for as integral to the ESW.
Recognize and build on client preferences, whether for nonlending versus lending services or for TA versus ESW. Institute a mechanism to obtain client feedback on a periodic basis on delivered ESW products. Such feedback should include clients’ views on collaboration, follow-up, and usefulness of the tasks (including specifics of how the tasks were used). The client feedback should be requested at a set period (for instance, around one year) after the delivery of the task to the client to allow time for follow-up, and it should be the last milestone for ESW and TA. Obtaining client feedback would encourage a stronger results focus for ESW and TA and would help counterbalance current Bank incentives for lending over nonlending and for ESW over TA.
Take the results tracking framework seriously, including by incorporating systematic client feedback as noted in the above recommendations.