Recently SPEED project supported two of its staff to undertake study visits on Grant Management. Competency in grants management is key for effective and seamless project implementation. In most cases, many African countries are not given opportunities to lead grants but for the SPEED project, Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) based in Africa was given the opportunity by EU to lead this five-year grant involving five partners, some of them based in Europe.
The project has not only developed capacities of researchers at the MakSPH and partner institutions but has also strengthened the capacity of administrators for managing grants and partner engagement. Ms Stella Kakeeto and Ms Enid Kemari both administrators on the SPEED project recently visited and interacted with counterparts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM), Antwerp, respectively. The visits are expected to contribute to better management of the SPEED grant as well as build the capacity of the MakSPH in this area, for the long term.
Stella (third, extreme right)- interacting with LSHTM team
Stella who went to London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) from 13th -16th March 2019, got exposure to grants monitoring and compliance, cost-sharing on projects and how to manage grant close-out processes. This sharing involved experienced participants who have managed grants for many years with experience from different funders and implementation partners. These included Professor Joy Lawn, the Director for the LSTMH-MARCH Center who lived and worked in many African countries including Uganda. Other members included Claudia da Silva- Project Manager at LSHTM. The learning exchange exposed Stella to different dynamics of managing grants without much difficulty. Key among the lessons she picked include;
- Effective monitoring of grants across the lifespan is best done with the assistance of a dedicated grants management system and support software which auto-generates periodic reminders, provides real-time analytics, allows for multiple users and instant data retrieval.
- An effective grant close-out involves continuous sharing, communication and feedback with the funder. There is high importance in keeping funders engaged on a regular basis since in most cases at this time, there are many issues that might need clarity.These may include ownership of assets, settling of accounts, keeping of records, intellectual property, among others.
In the same way, from 13th -17th May 2019, the SPEED Administrator for Engagements, Ms. Enid Kemari had a working visit at ITM. The purpose of her visit was to exchange experiences and learn from the colleagues at ITM how they manage EU grants and to understand the coordination and management of the Masters of Public Health (MPH) program at ITM. Enid is also a Manager on the MPH programme at Makerere University.
During this 5-day working visit, Enid had the opportunity to visit the following different offices within the Department of Public Health: Education Office, MPH Secretariat, office in charge of Alumni, Project administrators and Project Management team at central level that manages all grants.
Enid (second, right) with some of the ITM team at the end of a Grants capacity building session
Key among the lessons she learnt include;
- Establishment and implementation of well-streamlined application processes for a travel fund are crucial in ensuring compliance to travel requirements, including insurance and other requirements.
- The Department of Public Health has a dedicated person in charge of visa applications, there are pre-qualified travel agents (contracted for 5 years) so all the papers are submitted to the Departmental staff who does the submission and follow-up with the travel agency. This ensures that processes are done without delays since there is institutional memory.
- All requisitions are recorded before they are sent to bookkeeping office/finance. Information recorded includes the Bank, payment, account, who worked on it, amount, currency, reason, and the project where the funds are being drawn.
- Grant guidelines need to be followed carefully as provided, and this is applicable to every grant irrespective of the sponsor. This is in addition to internal guidelines that are implemented alongside the donor’s guidelines. Staff are encouraged to produce reports after undertaking activities together with accountability as this demonstrates value for money.
Ms Enid Kamari and An Lelegems- Administrator SPEED project at ITM during one of the discussions
Both Enid and Stella concur that this was a great learning opportunity whose benefits will go beyond the SPEED Project lifespan.