Because ColaLife is new and has no ‘track record’ as an international NGO, DfID Zambia is unable to give their funding directly to us to run the Zambia trial. Instead it will be given to an ‘accountable body’, whose job it is to ensure the money is spent correctly and provide the financial reports required by DfID. The need for an accountable body was anticipated in our planning but we had not identified one at the time the DfID support was agreed.
Generally speaking accountable bodies don’t come cheap. Some will charge up to 17% of the project’s budget to act as an accountable body and, in addition, they may add another layer of treacle-like bureaucracy to a project.
Ideally we’d want an accountable body which is really enthusiastic about what we are doing, wouldn’t charge too much and which adds value to the project in some way.
I’m pleased to say we have found an accountable body that does all of this and a lot more.
The accountable body for the ColaLife Operational Trial Zambia (COTZ), to give it its full title, will be COMESA – The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. COMESA already has accountable body status with DfID and through COMESA, DfID already funds the Trademark Southern Africa (TMSA) Programme.
COTZ will be managed as a project of TMSA who will provide the accountancy services at no cost to COTZ. In addition, TMSA will provide COTZ with office space and office support services free of charge.
Finally, TMSA will be contributing an additional £101,000 over the next two years to cover the costs of following up the interest in ColaLife in other African countries. This work will run in parallel with the trial once the trial set-up phase is complete. TMSA are doing this because they are interested in the ColaLife concept, particularly in the supply chain and public-private partnership aspects of the project.
And as if that isn’t enough, COMESA will be giving Jane and I contracts to run COTZ under the umbrella of TMSA. This provides us with appropriate legal status and means that we do not have to set up ColaLife in Zambia – this is totally consistent with our desire to keep our institutional footprint as small as possible and work though local organisations.
So, our period as full-time volunteers is over for the time being. It lasted 18 months and was probably the most rewarding 18 months of my life (so far) although our bank manager would have a different view.
We are very grateful to TMSA, COMESA and DfID for proposing these arrangements and working so hard to get them in place especially given that the whole administration section of COMESA HQ was lost in a fire last weekend.