IATI and Donor Reporting Requirments

(Brent Phillips) #1

How is IATI being used in the M&E space?

Large grant-makers like the UK’s Department of International Development and the Dutch Foreign Ministry are newly requiring grantees to use IATI to publish information about their aid activities. Does this mean that these entities or other large grant-makers like the Gates Foundation, which publishes data in compliance with IATI, are, have considered or might be willing to allow NGOs to use their IATI data to meet donor reporting requirements, reducing the reporting burden on NGOs?

An NGO just asked me how IATI is being used for M&E and they’d like to see an example. Any thoughts, templates or links?

(Bill Anderson) #2

I think IATI’s win-win role (for donor and recipient alike) in reducing duplication of efforts in donor reporting is a huge opportunity. We have discussed this on a number of occasions over the past couple of years but have never managed to build sufficient momentum. Is the TAG an opportunity to get this off the ground?

I think there are three issues:

  1. Data reported to IATI should be used by donors and not requested separately.
  2. Donors should standardise their reporting requirements
  3. Could IATI (if 2. became a reality) be extended to cover more data specifically required by donors

I have heard anecdotal evidence of the huge amount of resource involved for organisations reporting to multiple donors. Is there proper published evidence that can be used to prove this case?

(Rolf Kleef) #3

Hi Brent,

In the case of The Netherlands, the data replaces narrative progress reporting: you’re supposed to update your data at least every three months, and provide a yearly narrative report of max. 8 pages and a financial accountability statement. So yes, it is intended to reduce the reporting burden (after the initial set-up burden of becoming able to publish IATI data).

As far as I know, there are talks with several other European donors to adopt the same guidelines and approach.

You can see the dashboard-under-development of the Ministry at http://bit.ly/IATIVizBZ

If you select for instance an organisation in the top list, then hover over the name, a pop-up menu should appear, where you can choose to go to the results overview. In the right-hand column, there’s a “Progress” bar (hover over it to see more details about that indicator).

At the moment, most NGOs are still working on including their indicators, so there’s not much substance to see yet, but that should change in the coming months. It’s not really possible to reflect M&E logic in IATI, it’s just the list of all indicators, per activity, without aggregation.

Hope this helps a bit?

(Michael O'Donnell) #4

Hi Brent

In the UK, DFID does require their grantees to publish data on their DFID funding. It is not currently used as a replacement for reporting, and the requirements do not extend to using the Results module. I think DFID are interested in the idea of it being used to reduce reporting burdens, but my sense is that there are a lot of practicalities to work out before that could become a reality. For example, financial reporting on most DFID grants is more detailed than their IATI requirements, and the quantitative nature of the results module in IATI is at odds with a trend in M&E thinking and practice towards greater recognition and use of qualitative information on results (for example in relation to influencing and accountability work). Bond’s paper on the Results module discusses some of the challenges in making it fit-for-purpose in that regard.

(Herman van Loon) #5

Hi Brent, Michael, Bill and Rolf

Yes we are using IATI as a means to report progress. But we at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs do not use IATI for financial reporting. I agree with Michael that the IATI standard is not designed for financial accountability.

The big challenge using the IATI data for progress monitoring is the data quality. Especially the use of valid IATI identifiers when referencing other publishers activities needs to be much better than it is right now.

(Brent Phillips) #6

Thanks Bill, Rolf and Michael for the really useful input and links. It’s great to see work underway on addressing M&E. Out of curiosity, what set of new information fields would be needed to facilitate M&E?

Brent

(Bill Anderson) #7

Michael what we aspire to is comparable, and therefore structured, data which is not necessarily quantitative. There is no reason why M&E sectoral experts can’t agree on qualitative machine readable indicators, is there?

(Bill Anderson) #8

Herman I assume you mean something more nuanced than this. IATI surely delivers at least part of what you as a donor require in terms of financial reporting?

(Michael O'Donnell) #9

I may be lacking in imagination on this one, but I think that only a subset of qualitative indicators could be standardised. Every advocacy intervention, for example, tries to achieve a different thing, contributing to a specific change (influencing the content of a policy, or a budget amount, or the capacity of civil society to advocate for change…). And in a world of problems with complex causal pathways and requiring systems change, the interventions of individual actors are best captured by increasingly specific contributions, rather than high-level changes. Standardisation and comparability is great when it is feasible, but there is a bad history of artificially standardising outcome indicators, which produces information that is not terribly useful, while also sometimes creating perverse incentives. This topic would benefit from a more in-depth conversation…

(Herman van Loon) #10

Yes, IATI does indeed provide a part of our financial reporting requirements. IATI does not however fulfill financial accounting requirements such as (but not limited to):

  • having detailed activity budget lines
  • having the option to map individual activity budget lines to specific results
  • account for the use of activity prepayments

Should we have the ambition to use IATI for financial accountability? It would add a lot of complexity to the standard and distract from the use of IATI for M&E purposes.

(Bill Anderson) #11

@Michael.ODonnell I agree totally that there is a bad history of artificially standardising outcome indicators. For that very reason I remain unconvinced that IATI can ever be a great M&E tool.

M&E is all about outcomes and impact and as an activity-based reporting standard IATI is in most instances totally unsuited to this task. Impacts are generally the result of many activities executed by many organisations in environments influenced by many factors. IATI cannot do justice to this complex interaction. Donors would do development a great service by investing part of their M&E budgets into the development of local statistical capacity in the areas in which they work. (See my argument for this here.)

IATI’s greatest strength is that it provides comparable, machine-readable, structured data through the lens of activities and transactions. As such I think we should in the first instance really push for widespread use of the results element to deliver structured data on activity outputs.

More generally I remain unconvinced that the IATI standard is the most suitable vehicle for exchanging loads of unstructured free text.

(Yohanna Loucheur) #12

yes

And this may not be nearly as simple as it sounds. Getting this reasonably well would already be a big step forward.