I think we might also get some clarity by asking why this hasn't happened already? I think that a large part of the answer is that there is often not sufficient benefit, to overcome the effort/change inertia of doing it.
Things like IATI, work done by AIMS providers and technical assistance (notably all paid for by donors), all seek to reduce the difficulty of this work, but where very little attention is placed (as @josn notes), is the demand side. As @Joshua_Powell has found elsewhere, and @bill_anderson says, the rest of the Ministry of Finance in Sierra Leone were not interested in the AIMS data. Why is that?
- Most aid in Sierra Leone (and therefore in the AIMS) is off-budget. The rest of the Ministry of Finace therefore has little interest in it – they have severely limited capacity, and it is not priority given that they are not funds that they can influence the spending of, and typically are not even consulted.
- Compounding this, data in the AIMS is too difficult to export it in a format useful to the rest of the MoF, because of the poor export tools, and because the AIMS does not collect the fields needed by the rest of the MoF e.g. full CoA breakdowns, more exact conversions between currencies etc.
- Where the MoF in Sierra Leone does use aid data, in debt management, in capturing budget support and other on-budget flows, and during the strategic phase of the budget process the AIMS is not the easiest source of data, and the aid management unit (and their AIMS) are left out of the loop.
- Sierra Leone has several times requested an IATI module for the DAD – nobody would bat an eyebrow if this was funded (costing hundreds of thousands!) but based on the above, this would probably be a waste at this stage.
What does this means for IATI:
I think IATI has great potential to lower some of the capacity requirements/difficulty of getting hold of aid data – the latest generation of IATI import modules are a big step forward but based on the above, I have very little belief that it would improve anything beyond making it easier for the donor data entry staff.
As it stands, IATI data cannot meet many of the requirements to carry data needed for FMIS integration, strategic budget integration, or debt systems integration. Hence e.g. why I push for per transaction exchange rates. However, the fact that I am pushing for this suggests to me that the current upgrade process is a bit broken. We currently mainly have piecemeal upgrades suggested (and discussed) almost 100% by people who are not primarily data users. Perhaps the IATI community need to pick a use case each 6 months and work out what needs to change to make it happen e.g. for the next 6 months (as well as the piecemeal bits) IATI are working on meeting the needs of debt management systems – with the end result being a raft of changes so that we could be more sure that this use case was catered for.
IATI data quality is still paramount e.g. I don’t think there is a measure on the data quality screen for the percentage of projects that use the national language of the recipient? Perhaps the data quality tests need to say % of activities meeting the IATi standard for ‘Debt Management using IATI data’, or for ‘Transparency to the public’. Each would require different fields.
IATI need to engage with systems beyond AIMS (see later, most AIMS are broken) e.g. FMIS providers (SAP, Oracle, Freebalance), and e.g. debt systems providers, and we should definitely maintain a list of successful integrations so that best practice gets shared and does not need relearning. E.g. FB have an aid module, has anyone ever used it? Similarly, can Josh share anything from how DG integrated the AIMS with DFMAS? However, rather than a DG API and a Synergy API.......perhaps we should also standardise these so that any FMIS can suck from any AIMS.
More generally, we should only be installing AIMS where they would assist in a process that is already taking place, via excel sheets, or on paper, not using AIMS as an excuse to impose new processes without sufficient priority or demand. See this (http://aisel.aisnet.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1334&context=hicss-50) paper, especially the last page. Homegrown systems are far far more successful (44% of homegrown systems are successful, compared to 12% of COTS AIMS). Why is this, not because they are better quality systems (for the most part) but I think that ‘homegrown’ is a proxy for a much stronger demand for an AIMS as opposed to an externally imposed solution.
Perhaps also, homegrown AIMS have over 3 times the success rate because they better reflect the demands of other PFM processes, instead of the current situation where AIMS mainly cater for producing an annual aid report. This is also why I agree with @bill_anderson hat it is imperative that IATI moves beyond AIMS….they have a terrible success rate outside of a fairly fixed set of parameters e.g. higher capacity countries, with homegrown AIMS, and higher functioning PFM surroundings demanding the data. To see this another way, how about we start by looking at where aid-FMIS integration does work and work backwards from that……..think about local authorities in the UK who integrate EU structural funds into their budgets/FMIS’s/processes (please let me know if anyone wants to fund a study into this!). But I suspect this again supports the idea that what often works well is that aid data gets integrated into existing systems without an AIMS.
Always happy to chat more,