Data for Accountability: Reflections from 2023

The Data for Accountability Project’s (DAP II) work with the Parliament of Ghana to use data to monitor the country’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) continued apace in 2023. The relationship between GSS and Parliament has gone from strength to strength, and we have  seen examples of MPs using the skills they have learnt through the project to use data to make a difference for their constituents.

As we prapere for 2024, the DAP II team from ACEPA, GSS and OTT have come together to reflect on the 2023’s successes and challenges.

Expanding access to data with the GSS StatsBank

GSS has worked throughout 2023 to ensure maximum access to all the statistical products it produces, and 2023 saw the launch of its StatsBank. This new platform which provides an opportunity to access all the 2021 Population and Housing Census data as well as macro-economic indicators for Ghana, ensures access to and uptake of data for inclusive development. Data from the StatsBank can be used to develop products such as reports, policy briefs and graphics with geospatial functionalities.

To support the use of the StatsBank, DAP II facilitated training for staff from the Research Department and Committees of the Parliament of Ghana on how to access, analyse and use data from the StatsBank and other data sources to produce evidence products for individual MPs and Committees. 

Staff said of the training:

A key learning from the training has been “…how to source data from StatsBank, make sense of it and putting it in a brief”.

“I have learnt another source of accessing quality data that will assist me in my work as a research officer. I have also learnt how to apply data to my research.”

Members of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Committee were trained on using the StatsBank as well, to help them embed the use of data in their oversight work and effective representation of their constituents, based on evidence. Even though MPs rely on staff for information support, the StatsBank allows them to quickly find relevant information on the go and most importantly, they can do so while sitting in plenary and participating in debates.  It helps them in buttressing their arguments with real data and evidence. Nine of the 14 MPs on the Committee cited the introduction to and use of the StatsBank as a major learning from that training.

MPs said of the training:

“The essence of data has never been clearer.”

“I am impressed with the guidance on how to pull information online on the MPI and from the StatsBank, especially on my mobile phone.”

Increased use of local-level data for decision-making

One of GSS’s core aims is to strengthen local-level data collection and use. To support this, DAP II held a training session for members of the Poverty Reduction Stategy Committee to enable them to understand how the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) conducted by the GSS, helps identify the poorest groups and specific areas of deprivation within their districts and how this disaggregated data can be used to ensure that policies are targeted and for monitoring programme implementation.

One MP said:

“The new knowledge will help with the allocation of resources to the various sectors in the district, having taken note of the values provided in the Multi-dimensional Poverty Index and the District League Table.”

GSS conducted an MPI Pilot Project in 30 districts. The success of the pilot and demand from MPs led GSS to produce factsheets for all 261 districts in Ghana – this increase in MPs’ appreciation for data for decision-making and oversight is a key outcome for DAP II, which has made an effort to share these factsheets with members of all three Committees the project works with. Hopefully, the information from these factsheets will filter through discussions, budget planning and decision-making. GSS has also seen great progress in the submission of local level administrative data, with about 70% overall completion in the compilation of administrative data from 2015 to 2022 for all 261 districts.

Applying the Community Score Card tool to education

DAP II conducted training on the Community Score Card tool for members of the Education Committee to build the knowledge and skills needed to apply the tool to monitor and assess progress on SDG 4 – Quality Education, and to get local level data. The Community Score Card is a social accountability tool that increases participation, accountability, and transparency between service users, providers, and decision-makers, with the ultimate goal of influencing the quality, efficiency, and accountability of the services that are provided.

The success of the initial two-day training, followed by a refresher session in 2023 has paved way for an upcoming practical session using the scorecard to monitor education service delivery in selected districts in 2024. Once applied and institutionalised, the Community Score Card tool will be key for MPs to have oversight of the actions and services of public officials and the executive.

One MP reflected: “Having learnt how to get to the ground, interact with stakeholders to pick information and how to translate the data to information, I would say it is an opportunity that on my own as a member of parliament, it will help boost my research work.”

Training that makes a difference

DAP has conducted several trainings since it started.  The DAP team recently had the opportunity to be “guests” during a  committee hearing of the   the Local Government and Rural Committee in August 2023. During the hearing, we observed first hand, how  MPs are using the knowledge they have  gained from the project  to ask critical questions and hold district officials accountable, using data and evidence.

In addition, we have also been able to design a number of new tools for parliamentary employees aimed at  making data useable and useful for policymakers.

One MP who had benefited from training under  DAP II noticed through data that child mortality rates for her district (Tempane District) were high, leading her to investigate why. She found that pregnant women in her constituency were not able to access maternity care quickly enough while they were in labour. She designed and implemented ‘tricycle ambulances’ initiative to meet this need and take women to hospital quicker. This is just one example of how DAP II  is making a difference in Ghanaian lives.   

Despite these gains, the recent wave of recruitment into the Parliamentary Service has underscored the  need for continuous capacity building for new staff particularly those in the Research department on simple topics, such as the basics of understanding and using statistical data, as well as other more complex topics related to evidence generation and use. This is in keeping with the principle  that capacity building is not an event but a continuous process of building the capability of institutions and systems operated by people. One challenge for 2024 will be keeping pace, reaching new employees with our training, and upskilling those we have  already worked with. We plan to complement in-person and big-group training with remote coaching and technical support for smaller groups and individuals to boost engagement and applicability.  

Sharing knowledge and contributing to global discussions

Strengthening data use in parliaments is a global necessity. DAP II has produced a number of outputs that contribute to broader debates within the evidence ecosystem. In Data Use in Parliaments, GSS statisticians share tips from what they have  learned about communicating data to parliamentary audiences and the relationship between GSS and Parliament is explored in detail in Parliament and GSS: a growing relationship for evidence use in Ghana. ACEPA’s Agnes Titriku shares insights from Ghana on strengthening parliaments for SDG implementation in this Think Piece, and you can listen to her interviewing Dr Abraham Ibn Zackaria in this podcast on supporting evidence use in the Parliament of Ghana. More publications are planned for 2024, so watch this space.

DAP II is also one of a community of partners who have been exploring data use in policymaking. For example, the evaluation of the Hewlett Foundation’s evidence-informed policymaking strategy highlighted the importance of building relationships with governments to better respond to policymaker needs, priorities and requests through a variety of models – something DAP has been championing throughout the project.

DAP II partners are also proud to note that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country office has acknowledged the 2024 Budget for Ghana as focusing on meeting some SDGs targets. The 2024 budget proposals on tax waivers on raw materials for locally produced sanitary pads, allocation of funds for agriculture and youth job creation, and policies aimed at private sector growth are positive developments that will help achieve the SDGs, particularly 1, 2, 5, 8 and 9. As part of DAP, we have, over the years, drawn attention to the importance of having the SDGs reflected in the budget and how MPs can play a role in that. We are pleased that these initiatives and advocacy from ACEPA and its partners as well as many actors in the space are leading to results.