When the Beninese authorities announced the first case of coronavirus on their territory, I sat down with the entire World Bank team to think about how we could best help the country cope with this crisis. Given the dramatic situation in some developed countries, we feared the worst, despite the fact that Benin’s health system was considered well prepared and more resilient than those of most African countries. We had to act swiftly and well to deal with the emergency and thus limit the spread of a possible epidemic in Benin. Above all, we had to immediately assist the government in mobilizing technical and financial resources to finance the national preparedness and response plan.
The political will was there, and the World Bank management announced that it would spare no effort, particularly financial effort, in the face of this global public health emergency. However, one of the stumbling blocks in our projects has been the difficulty of overcoming bureaucratic delays in the disbursement of funds. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a need to be more imaginative and flexible in order to make the necessary resources available quickly.
We realized early on that our colleagues who are responsible for fiduciary matters were part of the solution. The approach we tried was to train the government team in charge of managing COVID-19 pandemic projects in simplified fiduciary measures. By ensuring that everyone involved in the disbursement process was on board, we were able to implement support activities more rapidly.