The Pacific Regional Policing Initiative (PRPI) program team, consisting of contracted advisers based out of Suva, are to be commended for achieving a great deal in two and a half years. The Mid-Term Review Team (MTRT) considers that for the most part the program has delivered an effective and appropriate collection of services that are meeting real needs in the different jurisdictions across the region. This has been done in the absence of any broad strategy for policing in the region. The MTRT does not think it is the job of PRPI to drive such a strategy; this should be done by the regional police chiefs.
PRPI has operated in the absence of a clear or effective governance framework: the Key Stakeholder Group hasn’t worked. The question of governance of Australian and New Zealand support to policing in the region is much broader than PRPI and is beyond the scope of this review. However, the MTRT believes there is a need for a new governance structure for all Australian and New Zealand police programs in the Pacific that also ensures guidance from the PICP. The matters of governance should be resolved by governments as a matter of urgency.
There are very mixed messages being delivered across the Pacific about policing priorities. Most Forum Island Countries (FICs) will never be in a position to have the sophistication of policing to address regional and global transnational crime problems. The primary focus of support for capacity development is at the basic functions of community policing: Pacific government budgets are unlikely to afford anything more. Other arrangements are necessary to ensure FIC access to other specialist police services when they are required.
The MTRT has been impressed by the significant level of in-kind support from the Government of Fiji, principally through the Fiji Police Force. This has contributed substantially to the success of PRPI and has helped ensure that its services are relevant to the region. The greater the use of Fijian and other Pacific islanders in the delivery of services, the better they have been received.
It is too early to tell whether PRPI has contributed to a safer, more secure and stable environment in FICs. However, it has built a solid foundation to that end and the MTRT believes that sustained support to basic policing should see some real movement to higher standards over time. This will need to be monitored carefully. The absence of agreed performance standards for Pacific policing and an associated region-wide review system will make any form of assessment of progress very difficult.
Feedback from all stakeholders about the progress and conduct of PRPI highlighted many areas that have been particularly effective and relevant. Many suggestions were made for improvements, and these have contributed to the MTRT’s fourteen recommendations. The five-year time frame and somewhat arbitrary budget framework has tended to cause PRPI implementation to be at a pace and complexity that is not ideal. The MTRT believes that the work program for the next couple of years should be simplified and greater attention paid to re-enforcing learning and basic skills on the job within jurisdictions.
The MTRT is concerned that the management fees under the contract may provide incentives to the contractor to engage foreign advisers rather than developing the capacity of Pacific staff or exploring the possibility of making greater use of existing resources within police agencies. While the MTRT believes that for the most part donors are getting value for money for some good on-the-ground outcomes, it is not convinced donors are receiving value for money for the overall spend on Technical Assistance and management fees.