By Clifford Kamara

The Sustainable Immunization Financing Program of the Sabin Vaccine Institute had another opportunity to share experiences during the WHO/ AFRO Annual Regional Conference on Immunization in Ouagadougou 6th – 8th December, 2010. Peter Sam-Kpakra, Senior Assistant Secretary for Donor-funded Projects in Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, presented a paper outlining the lessons learnt when he and Bernard Jappah of Liberia’s Ministry of Finance conducted a Peer Exchange visit to Uganda, another SIF program country. Uganda is recognized as a country with best practices as far as budget reforms are concerned; these include performance based monitoring of immunization and other health programs.

Hosted by the government of Uganda, Peter and Bernard familiarized themselves with innovative financial management practices during a two day visit to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health of Uganda. Lessons learnt include the benefits of signing performance-based contracts, with the disbursement of subsequent allocations based on satisfactory program execution/ performance. The government of Uganda also front loads program in the event of delayed donor funding, thereby averting the delays in the implementation of planned activities. As opposed to Liberia and Sierra Leone, the budget monitoring process is formalized, and is the responsibility of a well established unit staffed by relevant specialists.

Peter described how on return to Liberia and Sierra Leone, he and Bernard are currently applying the lessons learnt in their respective Ministries of Finance. In Liberia, Bernard is introducing health sector budgeting, as compared to ministerial budgeting; in Sierra Leone, Peter is strengthening the recently introduced performance-based financing in the Reproductive and Child Health Program, where immunization coverage is the main indicator for monitoring performance.

Clearly, it was agreed that Peer Exchanges on topical issues can play a vital role in sharing experiences and learning between SIF program countries. Whilst monitoring the introduction and implementation of the best practices seen in Uganda by Peter and Bernard, the SIF will continue to organize other Peer Exchange visits between program countries, with the firm belief that this is a fast method of introducing innovative practices that can contribute meaningfully towards achieving the overall goal of sustainable immunization financing.