Our project ends in nine more weeks.
It's not a terribly big project, as these things go -- about $8 million over four years, and just ten employees. Still, shutting it down is a moderately complex little dance of management. You have to follow all the local laws, which can be baroquely complex -- we have to give each employee one day off per week to look for a new job (even if they've already found one), and there's a complex system of severance pay (which we're arguing with USAID about, because they're choosing to view some payments as "gratuities"). You have to dispose, and explain the disposition of, every single item that the project owns; it's the property of the US taxpayer, after all. Our office equipment, from desks and lamps to laptops and fax machines, gets donated to deserving charities and local NGOs. Other USAID projects occasionally put a claim in -- another Chief of Party wants all my conference room furniture, and our PowerPoint projector, and our camera. (There's a big argument over the camera. Don't ask.)
If we give away computer equipment, of course we have to scrub it clean first; there might be sensitive information there, either for the US government or my employer. So before the project can end, the IT guy must fly out from the home office. When he's done, that's it for the project -- we can't do much without working computers. He's basically the angel of death. So we have to make sure that he comes near the very end, and is there to deliver the death stroke after the very last invoice is paid.
Meanwhile we have the Final Report and, even bigger, the Final Event. That happens in early December and, good gracious, it's a thing. Who do we invite, who do we not, who flies out from the home office. Speeches, how many? Video, how long? USAID restricts what we can spend on catering (there's a schedule, of course); do we go over budget in order to put on a nicer spread? But that comes out of my employer's pocket -- it's the dreaded NB (non-billable). Getting NB approval is its own mini-game.
Anyway. After the project is done, at some point in the future there may be a follow-on project. Nobody knows when that might happen, though. No RFP -- "request for proposals" -- has yet been released. I suspect there'll be one around the turn of the year. But then a month will have to pass while the different companies submit bids, and then another couple of months -- at least -- before USAID makes an award. So, we won't see the follow-on project before spring.
We probably won't be here for it, I'm sorry to say. By that time, we'll probably have moved on to the next thing. (Seriously, we'd better have. If I'm still available for work in March... well, I'd rather not be.) So we have just a few weeks left in Moldova, and then it's all over.
In retrospect, I probably should have blogged more. Eh, sometimes one just doesn't feel like blogging.
Anyway. The project seems to be ending well. Moldova jumped a whopping 18 ranks in the World Bank's Doing Business rankings this year, from 99th to 81st. (If you're keeping score, that's just behind 80th place Croatia and well ahead of 87th place Italy.) I have a few bones -- okay, a lot of bones -- to pick with the Doing Business rankings and their methodology. But, hey, we'll take the win. (We've been the only USAID project working on this stuff for a while now. Another, now defunct project did some of the work that's responsible for the recent jump.) The US Ambassador asked to see a presentation of our main deliverable, some middlin' awesome software; he liked it. (Turns out the Ambassador comes from the Foreign Sevice's management cone, and is a big old administrative process nerd. He was engaging with our IT guy about string lengths for field inputs.) Local counterparts seem happy. The home office seems happy. USAID never seems happy -- if you tell contractors they're doing well, they may get ideas above their station -- but they seem content enough.
Well or badly, it ends in December.