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Strengthening sub-national governance in Pakistan

Stephen Akroyd

SNG David Hoole Faisal Rashid Fasieh Mehta Fayyaz Mohammad Julian King Kiran Tariq Martin Rimmer Mujib Khan Nick Travis Rizwan Mehboob Stephen Akroyd

The Sub-National Governance (SNG) Programme aims to improve public services in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan, through a combination of strengthened local governance and the promotion of innovative service delivery approaches. Previous top-down initiatives have failed to provide long-term, sustainable solutions to address widespread social, economic and security issues in Pakistan.

The SNG programme is adopting a sub-national approach, working with provincial and district authorities to identify local needs, and encourage community participation in decision-making. Our team are working within the changing institutional landscapes in each province, and alongside other reform programmes, to provide technical assistance, build government capacity, and promote service delivery innovation through a Challenge Fund mechanism. Social development perspectives will be incorporated into the programme design at all stages to promote equity and inclusion. The overarching goal of the project is to develop a model for the innovative delivery of services that can be scaled-up and replicated in districts across Pakistan.


Pakistan faces significant social, economic, and security challenges. Provision of basic services such as health and education falls far short of international norms, and many groups, especially women, are excluded from access to services. As a result, over a third of the population remains poor, under-educated, and vulnerable to the influence of radical extremists.

Effective governance is restricted by weak planning, poor performance management, and a lack of accountability across all levels of government. Past experience highlights that top-down governance reforms alone are failing to address these issues and produce tangible improvements in basic services. This project will therefore focus on improving local level governance in two provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

Following the recent introduction of Local Government Acts, arrangements for the delivery of local services are being devolved to lower levels of government in both provinces. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, this is likely to mean a full reversion to district level governance while in Punjab, district-level health and education authorities are being established, allowing some local representation in these sectors.

This project aims to improve public service delivery in both provinces by building the capacity of sub-national governments to make policy-decisions based on robust evidence and to deliver basic services that are responsive to people’s needs. It will complement existing development programmes including UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) support to the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial reforms programme, strengthening public sector management through the introduction of a Medium Term Budgetary Framework (MTBF).

Our approach

This project is being implemented in an iterative, collaborative way that encourages participation and feedback from a range of stakeholders to help achieve outcomes that are local, relevant, and effective.

We have established project teams in both provinces. These teams are working with the local authorities to implement a programme of work to strengthen governance within six districts in each province. The project teams are overseen by steering committees consisting of local government officials from each province, as well as representatives from DFID.

We are focusing on designing demand-driven solutions that are relevant to the different provincial contexts. A range of methodologies are being used to assess need, understand key political influences and set service delivery priorities. Project teams are providing technical assistance in the following areas to help district governments to plan, budget and target services:

  • Conducting district-level needs assessments for identifying community priorities in both provinces
  • Establishing ‘District Delivery Challenge Funds’ to promote innovative approaches to service delivery in both provinces
  • Developing Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to strengthen service delivery monitoring and evidence-based planning. This will include identifying pilot districts in each province, recommending software and hardware and establishing training programmes
  • Strengthening public financial management in each province by supporting the move towards a Medium Term Fiscal Framework with improved linkages between policy, planning and budgets at district level
  • Supporting the extension of Output-Based Budgeting (OBB) at district level in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  • Supporting a pilot application of the Open Budget Index (OBI) methodology in both provinces to promote transparency and provide a baseline for measuring progress against
  • Improving government processes and procedures, for example streamlining fund transfers between provinces, districts and service delivery units and coordinating the current conditional grants programme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Social development is a key theme in the design of all approaches, for example, needs assessments will be undertaken to capture the priorities of marginalised groups.

A key element of the project is the establishment of a Challenge Fund mechanism for trialling innovative and experimental solutions with the potential to provide rapid improvements in service delivery. Challenge Fund working groups will be established in each province and will be responsible for the operation of the fund including setting themes, eligibility and scoring criteria.

The project teams are also working closely with other programmes operating at sub-national levels in each province to complement existing initiatives, especially in the health and education sectors.


This project is supporting the move towards a model of sub-national governance that encourages transparent planning and budgeting for the efficient delivery of public services that meet the needs of local communities. This will include:

  • The preparation of district budgets based on robust evidence of people’s needs
  • The evaluation of service improvement pilots and the subsequent adoption of successful pilots through the Challenge Fund
  • The use of GIS to monitor service delivery at the district level
  • Strengthened public financial management and the adoption of performance-orientated planning at both provincial and district levels
  • Efficiency savings and greater coordination resulting in increased revenue for the financing of public services

In the longer term, this project aims to provide an approach to sub-national governance that can be replicated more widely across the rest of the country.

Pakistan Sub-National Governance website 
Citizens' Budget 2014-15 (Punjab) 
Citizens' Budget 2014-15 (Punjab) on Facebook 
Citizens' Budget 2014-15 (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)