UNICEF advocates for evidence based planning and budgeting for results
TAMALE, Ghana, November 28 2013 - IN the Northern Region, one of the poorest regions in Ghana, political leaders have to do more with less.
UNICEF and the Northern Region Coordinating Council came together this week to lobby government leaders to create strategies that prioritize children and families who are missing out on services, under the theme: Strengthening Decentralised Monitoring and Partnerships for evidence based Planning and Budgeting to Deliver Results for Children with Equity.
The advocacy forum brought together District Chief Executives (DCEs) from the 26 districts who are responsible for creating District Medium Term Development Plans which outline priority areas from 2014-2017.
The Regional Minister Hon. Bede Anwataasumo encouraged DCEs to prioritise proper planning and good data, and said that improving the lives of people was the defining evaluation of achievement, not infrastructure.
“It is your responsibility to address all the problems in your district,” the Hon. Minister urged the DCEs. “In dealing with limited resources, you have to prioritise. You have the legal, political and administrative authority to address the issues in your district.
“Concentrating on physical infrastructure may be good but this is only so when it is supported by evidence. You may have to digress a little from over concentration on physical infrastructure to supporting the software component of development that would yield the needed result in the future.”
UNICEF Chief of Tamale Field Office Clara Dube advocated strongly for routine data collection to strengthen monitoring at decentralised levels, and to ensure that support is reaching the intended beneficiaries and achieving the desired impacts. Ms Dube presented regional and district-specific data on selected key indicators for children in the Northern Region.
Some trends were worrying, including dramatically falling pass rates in the national Basic Education Certificate Examination held at the end of Junior High School. Pass rates in maths, English and science have fallen by on average 25% between 2007 and 2011 (from an average of 70% to 45%). (MICS)
There were also wide disparities between districts on key indicators. For example, skilled attendance at delivery in East Gonja District is 45% as against Tolon-Kumbungu District at 3.6%. (LQAS, 2012)
The same disparities were seen in birth registration, where the best performing district recorded 98% coverage, against the worst performing at 24%. (Birth Registration Bottleneck Analysis, 2012)
“There is a need to establish your own mechanisms for collection and collation of data at the district level, and to identify the real reasons why development is slowing or not happening,” Ms Dube said.
District Chief Executives took part in field visits to three communities Yong, Kpalkori and Namdu-Gbulahi which had achieved open defecation free status after community members built their own toilets by hand.
DCEs asked what the most important development interventions in the communities had been, and how these were supported by community members.
Wulensi District Chief Executive Alhaji Seidu Amidu said the field visits showed the “realities facing us when we go back” and the importance of involving community members in planning and implementing changes using a bottom-up approach.
Inspired by the ‘self-help sprit’ seen in these communities, the DCEs prioritized stronger links between the District Assemblies and community members (particularly women) to encourage development from an equity and gender perspective.
The DCEs will now return to their districts and lead the development process of the District Medium Term Development Plans to ensure key issues are prioritized, effective strategies adopted and the process is participatory, involving children, women and traditional leaders, civil society, the private sector and development partners.
With a renewed focus on decentralized monitoring, the DCEs will decide on key indicators which will be monitored regularly, and by which performance will be measured. The DCEs will reconvene in January next year for another review and planning meeting and to take stock of the progress towards finalizing the DMTDPs. The advocacy forum will be held twice per year, and will expand to involve other key Development Partners.
“We are the frontline advocates for our districts and we need to ensure that all we invest leads to results,” Alhaji Amidu said. “The district figures we’ve seen remind us of the unacceptable situation. But the field visits showed us what is possible in communities.”