John D. McKenzie

Barrister and

Consulting & ADR Services


Experience and Philosophy

It has been estimated that as much as two thirds of development aid money is currently being spent on foreign based consultants and not providing direct material benefits to the local people or economies of the countries where the consultants are providing services. When only government funded projects are considered, this figure goes up. In my opinion, consultants are often working on projects that are not geared to sustainable improvements in the developing countries, and often are working on projects that have little chance of positively influencing the lives of ordinary people. Anyone who has lived for any extended period in a developing country can point to a laundry list of foreign aid projects that were started, cost a lot of money, and after a few years petered out without ever making any long term difference.

I know, from my experience working in the Federated States of Micronesia, that, all too commonly, consultants coming to the FSM were not necessarily bringing with them a skill set that really matched the needs of a particular project. They often had limited experience working in the developing world and frequently allowed their "first world" experiences and attitudes to so influence their understanding of what was really going on, and what should be done about it, that they were ultimately ineffective. 

Anyone experienced through living and working in a developing nation will tell you that being able to see the scope of a problem and to have a vision of what should happen, is almost useless without an understanding of the cultural impediments to change, and a realistic and sustainable plan to bring about long term change. Single project, large scale changes and reforms are rarely as effective as incremental and culturally compatible changes over a reasonable time period.

As someone who has lived and worked in the developing world for several years, my observations have formed and influenced my philosophy as a consultant. I believe that I am effective as a consultant in the legislative strengthening and improvement of governance areas because I have actual experience working in those capacities as well as the real world experience of different cultural norms and situations. This helps me to analyze a situation I am presented with and then lets me develop meaningful strategies and processes for incremental and sustainable change or improvement. If, at the end of a consultancy, the local people simply revert back to the old way of doing things, then I often feel that the consultant has failed.

Some recent consulting projects successfully completed:

 March 2010 - Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia

Governance improvement - Consulted with the Office of the Attorney General improving governance project by providing technical assistance in the review and revision of the Kosrae State Code; drafted amending legislation and made recommendations for substantive changes to laws and processes.

March 2011 - Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia

Legislative strengthening consultancy. Managed learning and professional development for new members of Legislature; created and published Legislature’s web site; set up networked computer system and provided targeted, practical training in legal writing, document management and file handling for legislative staff. Carried out recruitment of professional staff including conducting interviews and drafting required contracts.

July 2011  -   Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia

Governance improvement - Follow up to the 2010 Kosrae State Code review consultancy by drafting more than 35 new measures to give effect to the recommendations for substantive changes to the law that were adopted by the Attorney General’s Office. Provided explanatory materials for each measure and testimony during legislative committee process.

September 2014 - 
Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia

U.S. Government O.I.A. funded project to completely review and overhaul the Kosrae State Public Service System. This was a three month project requiring extensive consultation with stakeholders and government employees before writing a new Title in the Kosrae State Code to provide the legal framework for the future Public Service System as well as drafting new Regulations, incorporating an innovative dispute resolution and grievance process; and establish a "best practices" system of evaluation for new hire hires and promotions that requires a cost benefit analysis to be completed prior to action.

March 2015 - Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia
Also a U.S. Government O.I.A. funded project to work with the Kosrae State Tax Office to increase collections in Kosrae of state taxes by a minimum 30%. This has required careful analysis to determine new areas of potential revenue collection - without having a negative impact on the economy - as well as improving the actual processes for collection of tax. A significant change has been to provide much greater incentives for voluntary compliance by taxpayers, through civil penalties for defaults and non-compliance, coupled with more efficient enforcement of existing laws through improved procedures and training.






© John McKenzie 2015