Assessing the quality of external assistance
Office Quality Support Groups (oQSGs) perform peer reviews during the preparation phases of external assistance measures managed by EuropeAid. They are part of the broader quality-assurance mechanism through which the European Commission improves the quality of development co-operation policies and practices.
Office Quality Support Groups
The Commission reformed the management of external assistance, via its Communication of 16 May 2000, to improve radically the speed, quality and profile of EU external assistance. Given that good preparation is vital for an intervention to be implemented successfully, particular focus was placed on the ex-ante aspect (programming, identification and formulation) as well as on outputs, outcomes and impact of external aid measures.
Against this background, EuropeAid put in place its Office Quality Support Groups (oQSGs) mechanism to help improve the design of external aid measures at the identification and formulation stage, building on in-house expertise, as well as on best practice from previous and ongoing measures.
The oQSGs intervene at two points in the process:
- at the end of the identification stage, when the oQSGs support quality by giving guidance for further preparatory work
- at the end of the formulation stage, when the oQSGs assess the quality of the key documents before a financing decision is made
In both steps, quality is assessed by means of checklists that are completed by experts before an oQSG meeting. These checklists are based on the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s criteria and help to assess quality in a structured and systematic way.
Proposed measures found to meet these requirements at the end of the preparatory process are considered to be of good quality. These checklists take into account the three types of aid approach ( project, sector, or budget).
Focus of work
The primary focus of these concerted bodies is to support the capacity of task managers to identify and formulate high-quality measures; undertake systematic assessments of the design quality; identify improvements that need to be made. They also seek to ensure reporting on and dissemination of conclusions and recommendations, transfer of good practices and statistical processing of the results of the oQSG-proceedings.
The functioning and logistics of oQSG meetings are handled by an independent secretariat in EuropeAid. The core members of each oQSG are EuropeAid staff based in Brussels and in EU Delegations. They are responsible for the geographical aspects of the action, its quality from a thematic perspective and its conformity with contractual and financial rules and practices. Colleagues from other Directorates-General can also participate in oQSG meetings, as well as colleagues from the European Union delegations to partner countries. Meetings are chaired by the director of the geographical or thematic directorate concerned.
The chairperson takes a decision on each measure reviewed, based on the issues raised and advice provided by other group members and participants. The primary responsibility of each member is to provide useful advice which will help to ensure that the proposed action is of high quality.
With management responsibilities having been devolved to the delegations in partner countries, the oQSGs also create an efficient exchange of information between Brussels and the delegations on the preparation of the planned measures. This provides useful backup for the delegations.
Based on the same criteria as the Results Oriented Monitoring (ROM) system and evaluations, this approach guarantees consistency and transparency throughout the project cycle.