When the Global Fund announced its Rolling Continuation Channel method for continuing the funding of existing grants a couple years ago there was hope that finally the the grant making process might become more simplified, offering a straightforward way to address the longer term disease control programming needs to countries. Again, it was hoped that the RCC might make it possible for countries to avoid the annual, time consuming and laborious circus of producing proposals for the next funding round.
These proposal development processes can distract national control programs from their duties for 3-4 months, and if they hire consultants to help so they can keep doing their normal jobs, they may be handicapped in the implementation process by not always understanding what the consultants produced.
In reality the RCC has become a super proposal development mechanism that has all the distracting qualities of the ‘normal’ procedures plus the added tension of knowing that if one fails to get an RCC grant, one must jump quickly back into the fray of applying for the regular funding cycles in order not to experience gaps in service provision. The statistics highlighted in the Global Fund Observer (GFO) prove the frustrations.
First it must be noted that, “The Rolling Continuation Channel is an invitation-only proposal process, for qualified Applicants with strong performing, existing Global Fund grants.” So here is what GFO reported about the first 5 waves of RCC funding –
- 139 expiring grants were eligible for consideration
- 33% or 46 grants (i.e. CCMs) were invited to submit a proposal
- 29% or 41 actually submitted a proposal
- 22% or 30 managed to make it through a screening by the TRP more intense than given to regular grants
- 11 of the 30 lucky ones were malaria grants, 12 were HIV and 7 were TB
Of course the ‘blame’ cannot really fall on the TRP in totality.Â A major weakness of GFATM grants from the beginning has been high levels of technical assistance during the proposal writing period, followed by a dearth of guidance after the grants are awarded.Â Subsequently grant performance – on which RCC invitations are based – falters.
When the RCC was first announced there had been a glimmer of hope that more attention would be paid to thinking how to support national disease control policies and strategies rather than judging specific proposals.Â The TRP did note that a positive aspect of the most recent wave of proposals were in alignment with their national policies: “Proposed interventions fit within the countryâ€™s overall health policy, development framework and are consistent with international guidelines and best practice.” But this was not enough to save most of the invitees.Â As mentioned later, RCC was obviously not inended to be the mechanism for building on national strategies.
The weaknesses identified by the TRP centered primarily around the grantees not providing enough DETAIL. Whether intended or not, the RCC has become just another grant proposal and application process – not a mechanism to ensure the continuation of disease control services to those in need.
At the last GFATM Board meeting (18th) the Board referred back to discussions at the 15th Board meeting regarding National Strategy Applications (NSAs).Â “To learn lessons with regard to other aspects of the NSA procedure, the Board authorizes the Secretariat to bring it into operation through a phased roll-out, which shall begin with a first wave of NSAs (‘the First Learning Wave’) in a limited number of countries. The First Learning Wave shall be aimed at drawing policy and operational lessons to inform a broader roll-out of the NSA procedure.”
Maybe NSAs will become the wave of the future, and hopefully not another disappointment for those who want to eliminate malaria, HIV and TB.