A major milestone reached by the SADC Secretariat in the last few years is qualifying for the European Union’s Four Pillar Assessment, i.e. accounts, procurement, internal audit and internal controls. This qualified the Secretariat for the signing of Contribution Agreements (CAs) with the EU. One of the first CAs to be signed is the Regional Economic Integration Support Programme (REIS), signed in March 2013 and whose implementation started on 1st April 2013. Since the REIS programme implementation has just started, it is important that staff members involved should fully understand how a CA is implemented and for this purpose, an information workshop was held on October 15, 2013 in Gaborone and nearly all the REIS staff attended.
The purpose of the workshop was to provide information to SADC and dedicated project staff working with EU Contribution Agreements, focusing on areas that affect implementation of the desired programmes. The workshop provided, not only clarification where required on the Specific and General Conditions of Contribution Agreements but also explained the SADC regulations that are expected to impact on the timely implementation of the planned activities. This included procurement, Human Resources (HR), Administration (Including fixed assets) financial management and accountability, budgeting (virement of funds), technical reporting (M & E) and project implementation.
How will REIS benefit from the workshop?
The workshop came at an opportune time for REIS because it has started full implementation of its activities, including organising training workshops, carrying out studies and awareness campaigns. The programme staff benefited significantly from presentations and discussions made on specific procurement needs, including procurement of airline tickets, conference services, hotel accommodation and recruitment of Technical Assistance. Procurement of these services is part of REIS’s daily work.In the past few months, the REIS programme organised several events, including: workshop for the:
•Tax Agreements Working Group Workshop, 23-24 July 2013;
•Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Technical
SADC Contribution AgreementsCommittees’ and SPS Coordination Committee Meeting, 23 – 26 July 2013;
•SADC Technical Regulations Liaison Committee (SADCTRLC) Work group meeting, 19-20 August 2013;
•SADC Standardization (SADCSTAN) Management Meeting, 21-22 August 2013; and
•Regional EPA negotiation meetings between the SADC EPA Group and the European Commission (EC), 19 – 27 September 2013.
During the organisation of the above-stated meetings and workshops, a few challenges arose, especially regarding how to efficiently procure goods and services while avoiding ineligible expenditure. The REIS staff was able to deal with the challenges but it was felt that more information is needed to empower the staff to effectively and efficiently implement REIS activities in future. This is important considering that more meetings, workshops and events are planned, as follows:
•REIS review workshop; 15 October 2013;
•Tax Agreements workshop; 4 - 8 November 2013;
•Value-Added Tax (VAT) Guidelines Seminar; 11 – 15 November, 2013;
•Regional workshop on Food Safety, Plant Health and Animal Health; 19 - 22 November 2013;
•Joint EC - SADC-EPA Group Senior Officials meeting, to be preceded by internal technical and senior officials preparatory meetings; 8 – 13 November 2013;
•Standardisation, Quality assurance Accreditation and Metrology (SQAM) awareness creation workshop; 2 - 6 December 2013.