Dear JF fellow members, i have an opinion, that we should stop paying per diems to government employees due to the following reasons: 1. Determining work plan and strategy based on per diem maximisation Some people exploit the system. They may decide to hold a meeting or training programme in a distant location, so that all attendees have to travel to the meeting and can therefore get per diem. They justify this by arguing that people can focus more if the meeting is off‑site, but does location really improve quality or outcomes of meetings? Some evidence suggests that residential training programmes are no more effective than non‑residential programmes, yet residential programmes may cost a lot more due to the expenses of accommodation and allowances. One study in Zambia showed that residential training in Integrated Management of Childhood Illness cost twice as much as non‑residential training, yet skills and knowledge of participants tested at three and six months after training were about equal (Mukuka 2004). 2. Going to the field or a meeting, even if theres no need Per diems provide a positive incentive to go to the field, especially if payments are in hard currency. People might even go to the field when it isnt necessary. In many cases, it is clear that the travel is inspired by the desire to gain income, as personnel even forego meals in order to save their per diem money. One international consultant described such a situation: The local research institution pays very low salaries, and the only way the local team can make any money is through the per diems. They need the per diems so badly that they wont use them on food or wont eat adequately, so I ended up using our project funds to provide meals for them most days (focus group participant). 3. Sending the wrong people for training Opportunities to gain per diem, especially within hierarchical organisations, create incentives not to delegate appropriately. Whilst a junior staff member might be the ideal person to attend a skill‑based training, her supervisor may choose to attend the training instead. The person who could have used the training is denied the opportunity to improve her skills, whilst the person who doeattend may not contribute to or benefit from the experience because she lacks the right prerequisites. Ultimately, programmes could fail because of ineffective training. 4. Slowing down government operations Just as per diems encourage senior managers to attend trainings instead of sending their subordinates, the lure of per diem revenue encourages high level government officials to attend meetings and conferences rather than fulfilling administrative tasks which would require time at their desks. As the senior officials attend meetings to gain per diem, tasks such as approving budgets, signing contracts, or supervising personnel are delayed or neglected. An official in Ethiopia claimed that donor organisations were out‑bidding each other, paying higher and higher per diems and drawing staff away from their jobs (Grepin 2009). As one official from an international charity remarked, It was impossible to set ambitious targets [for work] as staff were on modest salaries that could only be improved with per diems paid for each official trip and meeting (Jack 2009). 5. Changing norms and decreasing intrinsic motivation Another problem with per diems is that beneficiaries start to demand to be paid for any type of training or meetings, regardless of whether the employee incurred expenses. A Tanzanian doctor reported being paid an allowance to attend a meeting which was only a short walk from her office because the organisers believed no one would attend the meeting if they were not paid (Jack 2009). The need to pay per diems to ensure attendance at meetings or trainings can especially disadvantage smaller non‑governmental organisations which cannot afford to do more than reimburse actual expenses. One organisation working in Southern Sudan encountered negative reactions from participants who demanded per diems. A focus group participant explained: It reached a point where in the evaluation form space for How do you think we can improve the course? all people would say is We need sitting allowance. It is unfair to bring us all this way; we have left our families and no sitting allowance. Intrinsic motivation falls, and people are increasingly motivated financially. They may feel envious, or unfairly treated, when they see what others are earning in per diems. One international consultant has seen this happen in her work, stating I found that we had a hard time getting local researchers to focus on the work. They were much more interested in their per diems. I left thinking they were not very interested in the study at all. Related is the issue of the use of top ups to reward staff for performing tasks outside their daily work. Willingness to include top‑up payments as an incentive in projects has increased in many countries, due to the inability of wages to keep pace with inflation and pressure from competing donor agencies eager to achieve results and willing to pay to get them. 6. Favouring certain types of work over others Given a choice, many people will apply for assignments for which there are per diems involved, and especially those tasks with the highest per diems. One example is National Immunisation Days in Nigeria, where health personnel at all levels tried to become involved because they would be able to gain from per diems. These pressures can result in more human resources being committed to the task than can be used effectively and efficiently. 7. Fostering dependence As government workers seek more revenue from allowances, they may favour programmes directed by external agencies, which sometimes pay higher rates than government. Even where donors set rates that do not exceed government rates, the revenue from allowances still fosters dependence. As a result, civil servants have less incentive to advocate for a living wage or fairer compensation package from their own government. 8. Creating pressure and opportunities for fraud The enticement of per diem also creates pressure for fraud and kickbacks of per diem revenue. In some cases, people falsify records or receipts in order to gain more per diem. They may claim more days of travel than they actually incurred as in the case of a government official in Malawi who reportedly collected over 1,000 days of per diem allowance in one year. Participants in a U4 anti‑corruption workshop in Malawi also described other examples of per diem scam: for example a government official who did not even bother to attend the trainings at all, instead sending his driver to collect per diems and sign on his behalf. Other participants noted that some managers who select staff to attend international trainings expect the staff member to share or kickback a portion of the per diem. A third type of fraud mentioned was where attendance lists are falsified and allowances skimmed. Participants are asked to sign a statement that they received their allowance, but the amount is not listed on the form when it is being signed. This allows the training organiser to pay the participant less than the official amount. For example, participants may be paid $30 in per diem, but the amount written in later is $40, allowing the organiser to skim $10 per participant. Sometimes whole workshops are faked, as happened in Malawi. The workshop never occurred, but the government official tried to charge training expenses to the budget. The scam unravelled when some personnel in the office refused to sign a sheet certifying that they had received per diem. Stories such as these abound, but it is not clear to what extent such practices are viewed as justified. 9. Institutional capture Policies and procedures of government agencies may be affected by the incentives of per diems. On the one hand, the influence of per diems can result in policies which increase costs without benefits. For example, the National AIDS Committee (NAC) in Cameroon created a policy requiring sub‑grantee organisations to invite NAC experts to all trainings and pay them generous honoraria and per diems. This allowed the NAC experts to gain personally from the donor funding they were asked to administer. On the other hand, government decisions meant to curb negative effects of per diems may also have unintended consequences. For example, the government of Lesotho was concerned that officials were abusing travel budgets for private gain. To control these abuses, the government made drastic cuts to budget requests (with the rationale that if you do not have a budget you cannot abuse it). Donors will undoubtedly step in to finance trainings and attendance at meetings, since participating agencies now cannot afford to pay from their own budgets. The result could be less government ownership of priority‑setting and human resource development, with little change in the frequency of the abusive practices themselves.