In the last four years, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD- Ghana) has released the District League Table (DLT) as part of efforts to increase social accountability for development across the country.
Over the period, the table has supported government in better understanding and monitoring development across the country and support citizen's access to information and knowledge in sectors, including education, sanitation, rural water, health, security and governance.
In an interview with Sarah Hague, Head of Policy Team for UNICEF Ghana, DAILY GUIDE explores various issues regarding the release of the 2017 DTL, which saw Tema Metropolitan Assembly ranking the highest.
Jamila: Why DLT?
Sarah: UNICEF came up with an idea for the district league table four years ago. At that time, we realised that if you want to know if Ghana is developing, there was no tool in the country or tracking mechanism that you can quickly go to and look at it and say yes Ghana is improving and the indicators are getting better, especially if you are at the local level you can't see. So we discussed with a number of partners and the Centre for Democratic Development that has a lot of experience in the area of governance and designed the DTL and put it out in 2014.
Jamila: What is the DLT?
Sarah: Basically, it is a simple tool. It is an index like the human development index, so we take a small number of indicators that are important to people so things like education, health, water, sanitation and security and then we put all of them together and strike an average for each district. So with that average for each district, you can then rank all of the districts from first place all the way down.
Jamila: What are the DLT results for this year?
Sarah: As we saw, there have been a few changes in the rankings. At the top is Tema Metropolitan with a score of 80 out of a 100 percent which is the target.
Eighty is not bad and it is the highest score that we have ever had in the league table but there is still somewhere to go from 80 to 100, so there is still room to improve.
And also they were the top district two years ago so they have been there and they are coming back. Last year was La Nkwantanang-Madina; they went down to second place so these two districts are sharing the top spots for the past three years.
As you saw in the 216th position is the Krachi East in the Volta Region, which scored 50 out of a 100 percent. They are really far from Tema and far from the top and there is a big gap between the top and the bottom.
Jamila: Are there any trends in the rankings?
Sarah: That is a good question because over the four years you should definitely be able to see that we are making progress. So the average score for the whole country has improved a very small amount. For the past four years the improvement seemed marginal, I was a bit surprised I thought it will be a bit more than what we are seeing so I think that has to be a notice, something that needs to be flagged up to government and all partners that in four years, which is not a very long period of time, but we are not really seeing that much progress.
Jamila: Why the choice of the six indicators?
Sarah: We try to choose things that we thought was important, so we have a lot of consultations and discussions going backwards and forth in the beginning in 2014 and then we more or less repeat these every year to ensure we have the right indicators. People always agree health is important, education is important but people have other ideas about the different sectors which could be included.
But in Ghana, we do not have the data so things like agriculture, reproductive health, child marriage, teenage pregnancy, we don't have a database which is produced nationally to show these indicators every year at the district level, we don't have it if something important comes up and the data gets produced in the future, we could include it.
Jamila: So the choice of the indicators was based on the data available to you?
Sarah: Well, it is data that was available nationally, so we looked at all the databases we have nationally to see what the best indicators are. But we have a huge challenge getting hold of the data but it should be public data, it should be on the website and everyone should be able to get it and see how your district is doing in education and in health, it should not be hard to get it, in that respect Ghana has to improve accessibility in data.
Jamila: What has improved in the indicators?
Sarah: So some of the indicators have improved so we use to have a lot of gaps in the water data given to us by the Community Water & Sanitation Agency and we went back to show them that they had a lot of gaps so they went and did a verification exercise at their district level the year after so now we do not have gaps.
Jamila: What kind of gaps were they having?
Sarah: Well, they were not able to tell us what the coverage of water was in certain districts so that district will not have a score for that indicator but they have improved.
Jamila: Has there been improvement in data collection?
Sarah: It is certainly better now, we have every one's phone number and we know the right people to call, so for us, maybe, it is a bit better but for anybody else maybe it is a bit difficult and it should not be like that so even district officials in their own district find it difficult to know what their own indicators are and they are the ones planning how to spend their allocation in the coming year.
The DLT is, at least, something to start with so we want to make sure this is freely available and all the data behind it is freely available on our website www.unicef.org/ghana and you can download that information.
We will talk to the government and the Ghana Statistical Service and see if they could put it up on their website as well.
Jamila: What was the most surprising result this year?
Sarah: Maybe two things, one we looked at whether resources were being allocated well at the district level so whether those districts which were least developed were actually getting more resources to support them. So those districts at the bottom that have the biggest challenges and are deprived they are not getting more resources for development. So we are now discussing with government how they can use the DLT to better allocate their resources.
The other thing was some districts in the north of the country, which often we think is poor and deprived part of the country are actually doing pretty well. So districts in the Upper West Region and Upper East have some of the highest indicators now.
So when we look at the average score for all the different regions, Upper West was at the top and people were surprised about that because we think the north is poor and under-developed but those district like Lawra and Nandom and Wa East and West of some of the indicators are actually not bad and they had a big boost by getting communities to certify as free from open defecation.
Jamila: How do the DLT translate to the country's attainment of the SDGs?
Sarah: In the SDGs, there are lots of different indicators and Ghana does not collect all of the indicator so we need to see how we can support GSS and all the ministries to start collecting all of the different indicators that we currently don't have so I think the DLT with a small number of indicators is somewhere we can start but we still need better coordination in Ghana on data and no one is leading. I know that we have to come together and coordinate and I know that NDPC and GSS they are currently leading on the assessment of the data system and how to strengthen it so that is very important so we are supporting them in that.
If we see progress in the DLT, then it means we will see some progress in the SDGs. The DLT is more relevant to Ghana as it is broken down by the district level.
Jamila: Were there differences in the scores this year?
Sarah: So quite a few districts managed to improve their score but it was partly because we introduced a new indicator on health and that was what pushed up some of the districts but in 26 districts things actually got worse so we have to look for why that was for those districts and it is worrying that overall Ghana is not progressing evenly so on average we are a little bit better but there are districts that things are going backwards.
Jamila: Is there any collaboration with the DCEs to improve their indicators?
Sarah: We found out that people are increasingly aware of the DLT but getting information out is really difficult that is why we rely mostly on the media to do that for us. We found that most people are aware of it and seven out of 10 people we interviewed said they are using the league table to better target resources but districts are really not in full control of their own development because most of their resources are allocated from Accra.
It is very much about central government, it is about parliamentarians and the national ministries supporting the districts and others, it is less about district assemblies themselves.
Jamila: Are there any success stories from the DLT?
Sarah: When we ask people about it, there is a sense of anticipation, we do this every single year and we are going to keep doing it and people tell us we know it is coming there is a pressure to do something and at the district when we talk to them they give us stories that they have organise activities to improve their indicators. But we really don't have a very good sense of whether the DLT is driving this improvement or development because we really need to see this better allocation of resources from the centre out to the districts and that is the most important thing.
Until that changes and parliament says we cannot give everyone the same that will be a big success story.
Jamila: What is government's response to the DLT?
Sarah: We discuss it in parliament each year so we should be having discussion with some of the select committees in the coming weeks. They seem very happy that the information is there and they have this tool that they can now use but I think they are more at the district level so I think we need to get them to think about this issue of allocation of resources from the centre.
The NDPC is looking at how they can use it to guide their planning and the vice president's office is also very interested so we will also go there to discuss it.
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri