Start date
10 months
Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Additional Members
Peter Heijkoop
Graham Teskey

Timor-Leste: Governance for Development Review

In 2019, TPP led a comprehensive, independent evaluation of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) Governance for Development (GfD) programme in Timor-Leste. GfD was the main programme with which DFAT engaged central ministries and agencies of the Government of Timor-Leste. The review examined GfD’s relevance, effectiveness and efficiency, and provided recommendations for the current programme and the design of any future Australian governance investments. It comprised a review of 230 documents and a context analysis in July-August 2012; interviews with 124 people before and during fieldwork in Timor-Leste in September-October 2019; two workshops to test preliminary findings with the steering committee and GoTL officials, and a return trip to Timor-Leste after finalisation in February 2020 to ensure that the findings could be discussed properly and incorporated into future planning.

The review covered: Public Financial Management (PFM); Public Administration; Economic Development; and support for Other Voices in decision making processes, with a focus on gender and disability. TPP fielded a team of experts, including Laure-Hélène Piron as team leader, Neil McCulloch as economist, and Aderito Soares as political adviser.

GfD's End of Program Objectives were to encourage the Government of Timor-Leste to make evidence-based decisions and policy; and to improve implementation of policy and service delivery. In each area the team considered the relevance of the work towards the End of Program Objectives; its effectiveness – that is, the extent to which progress was made towards those objectives; and the efficiency (or value-for-money) with which it undertook its activities. 

Given the complex and constantly shifting political context, the review was undertaken with a political economy lens. In particular, the review explored the extent to which GfD tried to think and work politically and provided a set of recommendations about how it might do so more effectively. For example, the difficult negotiations between the Government of Australian and Timor-Leste regarding the maritime boundary made engagement in some areas of economic development impossible. However, some other areas which represent binding constraints to growth in the country were not explored while significant efforts were expended on less critical issues. Our knowledge of the political economy of the country, matched with a good understanding of the constraints to growth, allowed the team to understand why the programme was less effective in some areas than in others and to identify technically sensible programme adaptations which were more likely to be politically feasible.

Similarly, our understanding of the political economy of policy formulation and implementation in a politically divided civil service enabled us to provide a more nuanced review of the reasons for success and failure in public administration interventions. PFM interventions were also challenging due to political differences between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance. Our review pointed out how this had reduced the effectiveness of some activities and identified a pathway through which PFM interventions could have a greater impact.

Our recommendations applied to both the implementation of the programme by the contractor, as well as DFAT’s operations itself. Drawing on our knowledge of programme design, implementation, and evaluation, we were able to frame constructive and feasible recommendations for adoption by DFAT, which accepted our report in full.