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Cablegate: First Year Wrap Up: Opa's Quick Response Fund Helps Prts

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHGB #3749/01 3340918
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290918Z NOV 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0599

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 003749

NEA FOR SCHMIERER, SALOOM
NEA/I/ASSIST FOR MOSER

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SOCI PREL ECON IZ
SUBJECT: FIRST YEAR WRAP UP: OPA'S QUICK RESPONSE FUND HELPS PRTS
ENGAGE IRAQI COMMUNITIES

1. SUMMARY: Embassy Baghdad's Office of Provincial Affairs (OPA)
recently concluded the first year of its $135 million Quick Response
Fund (QRF) program. QRF was created to finance Provincial
Reconstruction Team (PRT) projects designed to promote
socio-economic development and stability throughout Iraq. During FY
2008, $35 million was used to provide a rapid turn around on nearly
2,100 project requests ranging in size from under $1,000 to
$500,000. The other $100 million was re-allotted to USAID to be
used specifically to fund OPA's PRT-driven grant proposals. While
concentrating much of its effort on women's issues, community and
economic development and promoting the rule of law, the QRF program
also funded micro-finance loan programs that will assist more than
4,000 people over the next year. QRF enters its second year funded
to the level of $74 million, and poised to build on the
accomplishments of its first year. END SUMMARY.

BACKGROUND
-----------
2. In September 2007, OPA launched the QRF program as a flexible
mechanism to fund PRT/ePRT projects in support of various Iraqi
provincial government and non-government institutions. More than 20
PRTs/ePRTs participated in the initial stages of the program and
this number quickly grew to 29. Sub-cashiers were appointed at each
PRT/ePRT and provided with an operating advance of up to $200,000.


QRF INSTRUMENTS AND FY 2008 SPENDING
--------------------------------------------- ----
3. Micro-Procurements (MPs) - NEA authorized the QRF program to
execute procurements of locally-sourced goods and services for up to
$25,000 per procurement, waiving the standard competitive bid
requirements. PRT/ePRT members, upon completion of training
provided by OPA, received limited procurement warrants for up to
$25,000 per project/proposal. The PRTS/ePRTS used this
Micro-Procurement authority to execute over 1500 projects totaling
$18.8 million.

4. Direct Procurements (DP) and Grants - Where PRT sponsored
projects involved procurements in excess of $25,000 or when the
goods could not be sourced locally, procurements were handled as
Direct Procurements using standard contracting procedures. The DP
mechanism uses both Embassy Baghdad contracting and Joint
Contracting Command-Iraq (JCC-I) services. Over 100 projects were
executed through DPs for a total of $14.1 million. In addition,
grants were used to fund projects valued at $2.1 million.

5. Large Value Grants through DAI - The remaining $76 million ($100
million less fees of $24 million) was reallocated by NEA to USAID
for implementation of larger-value grants through its contractor
Development Alternatives Inc (DAI). In FY 2008, 230 grant proposals
totaling $37 million were authorized for implementation through DAI.
The remaining $39 million will carry forward into FY 2009.

QRF PROJECTS
------------
6. Examples of successful and sustainable projects funded through
the QRF program include:

a) Women's Initiatives: QRF supported the opening of a woman's
health clinic to provide medical treatment, child care, education on
sexual and domestic abuse, and a location where women could meet and
associate freely. Another QRF initiative targeted war widows and
female-headed households, provided bee-farm starter kits and
maintenance training to this vulnerable group. This highly
successful program was replicated among other PRTS/ePRTS and now,
hundreds of widows are beekeepers operating self-sustaining farms.

b) Economic Development through micro finance: OPA agreed to fill a
funding gap in USAID's micro finance program through the use of QRF
Qfunding gap in USAID's micro finance program through the use of QRF
program funds. By the end of FY 2008, QRF had approved over $10
million in grants supporting the micro finance sector -- standing up
satellite micro finance offices, training loan officers and infusing
loan capital into urban and rural sectors of Iraq. These
initiatives have quickly provided thousands of Iraqis small loans of
up to $3,000, to support family businesses, expand existing
operations and rebuild war ravaged homes, among other activities.
The payback rate exceeds 95 percent.

c) Rule of law and legal reforms: In several governorates,
internally displaced persons (IDPs) needed legal services to help
them return home. QRF supports a project in Baghdad to provide
legal and administrative services to IDPs. QRF program funding also
supported rule of law projects such as legal representation and
protection of due process rights. One such project in Najaf helped
provide legal representation to defendants who cannot afford, or do
not have access to, counsel.


LOOKING AHEAD TO FY 2009
------------------------

7. OPA's QRF program begins its second year of operations well
prepared, with the vital financial systems established and an
adequately sized staff, to manage the funding of $74 million that is
available to the program in FY 2009. This level of funding is
almost identical to the value of the projects that were executed and
implemented in FY 2008.
CROCKER

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