Supporting transparency; country pilots
Now that the high profile Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness and all the buzz that surrounded it is over, you’d be forgiven for thinking that things had quietened down a bit here since, but you’d be wrong. For several months now, members of the aidinfo team have been working with the International Aid Transparency Initiative* (IATI) to test how IATI will work in developing countries through a series of country pilots. The first stage of these pilots is now underway and we’ll be updating you on their progress here.
In 2011 several donors began publishing their aid information in line with the IATI standard. Working in-country, we are now testing how IATI data can improve the management and accountability of aid at national level.
What’s the need?
Those seeking aid information in partner countries have many different needs, but there is also a lot of overlap in what they want to learn from aid data. Highest on this list is the need for timely and forward-looking data, followed by the need for information not just on where aid has been allocated, but on how it’s going to be spent.
Where are we working?
In three countries, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Colombia, we are working with the government to see how IATI can improve and support the following processes for gathering aid data and information:
- Through automatic data exchange into government’s own aid information management systems.
- Through alignment of aid information with budgets and budget planning frameworks.
- Through information sharing between new and emerging donors in the south, known as South-South Cooperation (SSC).
Our work in DRC
Each pilot will work with their host governments in different ways and our activities are driven by the needs outlined by stakeholders in each country.
In the DRC, where aid accounts for around 50% of the national budget, the government is monitoring aid flows into the country through three different ministries, and they face difficulties in that a lot of the information they gather is inconsistent and incomplete. Their aim is that all aid information should eventually flow through their aid information management system, to allow for consistent and centralised access to aid data that can be incorporated into their public financial management systems.
The work we are doing in DRC through the IATI pilot tests how the data that donors provide in line with IATI can be used to complement and improve the existing and planned systems for aid management. We are doing this through:
- Testing the viability of an automatic exchange of data from donors publishing IATI-compliant information and the DRC’s own aid information management system.
- Testing how well aid data fits into the national budget.
Colombia differs vastly from DRC in terms of its aid income, with aid making up just 0.4% of their national budget. They are keen to establish where aid money goes in the country and the impact that it has on the communities that receive it. There is a strong commitment from both the Colombian government and from Colombian CSOs to monitor and publish details on aid so that they are accessible by the public. They do this through their aid information management system, which is publically accessible and user-friendly, and also through a CSO-managed database that combines data collected from the government system and directly from donors.
Whilst Colombia’s system is more comprehensive and useful than many countries’ systems for collecting and collating aid data, they still face issues in this area. Firstly, while they collect a broad range of information, there are still gaps in the data which mean they cannot get a full picture of what is really being delivered to them, or for what purpose. Secondly, the nature of collecting data is inefficient, resource intensive and time-consuming. The IATI pilot in Colombia is working to establish whether collecting IATI-compliant data automatically through the government’s aid information management system can improve the quality and content of aid information gathered.
Colombia is also a provider and a recipient of aid with other new and emerging donors in the south (known as South South Cooperation – SSC). Data on SSC provided by Colombia to its partners is already collected. However, work still needs to be done in order to quantify and qualify SSC information in the region.
This pilot aims to understand the feasibility of collecting SSC data in the Colombian aid information management system and other information reporting systems in a format compliant with the IATI standard. The aim of this part of the pilot, aside from the ambition to capture SSC data in this way, is to understand how reporting SSC data might be different from reporting data from traditional donors.
In Rwanda, where 20% of the national budget comes from aid, the government experiences several problems in the collection of data. Namely, that the data received is inconsistent, unreliable and untimely as well as being incomplete. As a result, the government is unable to include aid figures in their budget plans or aid project plans, and so they can’t plan their national budgets or aid programmes effectively.
The IATI pilot in Rwanda seeks to address these issues by offering the Rwandan government data that is automatically exchanged between their aid information management system and donor’s reporting systems. The focus is to ensure that quality data can be published regularly and fed into existing aid information management systems and processes, to improve the budgeting and planning process. Published in line with the IATI standard, this will mean both up to date and forward-looking data that can be aligned with budgetary plans. Data will also be more comprehensive, comparable and of better quality.
An initial pilot study in 2010 hosted by the Rwandan government looked at the viability of implementing the IATI standard with the government’s aid information management system. The 2012 pilot, now underway, is building on this work to establish whether data generated from IATI is timelier, of improved quality and if it makes capturing and publishing data more efficient. It will also allow us to understand whether it is possible to take data published in the IATI format (including forward looking financial information) and better incorporate it into their integrated financial management system to make the government’s planning more effective.
Isabel and Simon from the aidinfo team have travelled out to Rwanda this week to scope the pilot with our partners in Synergy iNternational Systems and the Rwandan Ministry of Economic Planning and Finance; we’ll have more on their progress here when they get back, so watch this space…
*IATI is a multi-stakeholder initiative that works to make aid information more transparent, accessible and comparable. Through consultation with partner countries who receive aid, it has developed a standard to which donors and aid providers can publish their aid information. Designed with the intention of benefitting partner country stakeholders, the long-term benefits of publishing to a standard are that aid providers, donors and recipient country governments are more accountable, service delivery is improved and the effectiveness of aid increases. If you are new to IATI and would like to learn more you can visit their website or download this overview leaflet, supporting transparency.