In the second of our 2020 Index launch blogs, Henry Asor Nkang of the Nigerian Government writes about his experience of aid data, how it is being used and its role in building trust.
I work for the Government of Nigeria as the Development Assistance Database (DAD) Manager. The DAD is an automated aid information management system that is used by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to improve coordination and efficiency of donor’s activities in the country. In 2013, I began a data mobilization strategy that led to an increase in the number of donors publishing data in the DAD from 20 to 43, and the number of projects published therein from 27 to over 980.
It may sound simplistic to reason that an increase in the publishing of aid data by development partners could translate to an increase in transparency and mutual accountability. Nevertheless, the availability of quality data is essential for governments and development partners to build trust and engage in effective and results-driven partnerships. Providing accurate, timely and disaggregated data that shows how much is disbursed, by whom, to what sector and location are key requirements that will no doubt build trust between the supply and demand sides of the aid data ecosystem.
Here in Nigeria I’ve witnessed a growing demand for aid data by government agencies, parliament, civil society organisations and other stakeholders who use the data for various purposes ranging from apprising policy decisions, to holding donor projects to account. For instance, I’ve recently met with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who use data on external inflows that is provided by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning for the computation of quarterly balance of payment reports. Similarly, I’ve been in touch with the Budget Office of the Federation who use the same data as an input to their medium term expenditure framework. Both of these of course are fundamental reporting and planning activities for any nation
I’m optimistic that as the quantity, quality and accessibility of aid data improves we’ll see more examples where it is used to hold donors and indeed our own government to account. One example of where this is already happening is in the work of the civil society organisation known as Connected Development (CODE). They use aid data from a number of sources, including donor’s own portals, to enable end-to-end traceability of activities and impact, as well as holding various actors involved in the activities to account. Led by the data they find, they will physically visit project locations to evaluate progress and consult with communities on their satisfaction with donor interventions – feeding back their insights to donors who can then remedy any problems. When I met with them in December I heard evidence of how their efforts have led to the acceleration of development projects. They gave one specific example whereby a health facility was opened on the day of a return visit of one of the CODE team just in time to see the first patient, a young baby, receive life-saving treatment. There are several others who get in touch with my office with their own distinctive needs, examples include: media organisations researching stories, researchers and academia evaluating the policies and practises of donors, and parliament and sub-national governments planning how to invest their own resources to improve the lives of their people. While requests for aid data by various stakeholders are increasing, it remains that overall information from development partners contained in the DAD is incomplete, due to non-compliance with the standard operating procedures given by government.
In spite of the hitches in meeting the needs of the various stakeholders, there are optimisms and opportunities, as the Ministry is taking necessary steps to ensure data availability, while organisations like Publish What You Fund continue to exert pressure on the development partners through the global ranking of aid transparency. In addition, the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) has provided and maintains an open data standard that has enabled development and humanitarian aid data to become ubiquitous, which can then be used or integrated with countries’ own aid information management systems across the globe.
Going forward, providing quality and easy to use aid data that will meet the growing demand, not only serves as a foundation for greater transparency and accountability to stakeholders in Nigeria and elsewhere, but improves harmonisation of development partners to properly align with national priorities, with helpful impact on value for money by making development cooperation more effective, reliable and transparent.
Henry Asor Nkang is a data manager and policy specialist with over 13 years of consistent work on aid data, development cooperation, transparency initiatives, business analytics, research, and process improvement in private and public sectors in United Kingdom and Nigeria respectively. He currently works at the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Abuja, as Development Assistance Database (DAD Nigeria) Manager. His role involves engaging regularly with development partners and the government at both national and sub-national levels, as well as other relevant stakeholders to ensure effective utilisation of the DAD Nigeria system. He also currently serves as Alternate Vice Chair of the Governing Board of International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).