The absence of a robust national data ecosystem has affected the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC’s) quest to comprehensively report on the progress made in achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The United Nations (UN) requires all countries to do an annual progress report on the SDGs using reliable data that conform to international standards.
However, according to the Director of Development Policy at the NDPC, Dr Felix Addo-Yobo, the country currently lacked a data quality assurance framework that would guarantee that the pockets of data that were used for reporting on the SDGs conformed to international standards.
Dr Addo-Yobo made this disclosure when the leadership of Alliance for WASH Advocacy (A4WA), a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector, paid a courtesy call on the NDPC last Thursday.
The alliance was at the NDPC to present its assessment of the 2020 national SDG Six baseline draft report by the NDPC.
SDG Six seeks to “Ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.”
The alliance pointed out that after assessing the 2020 SDGs report, it realised that five out of the 12 SDG Six indicators were reported on by the NDPC, leaving seven unreported.
Dr Addo-Yobo added that although the NDPC relied on administrative data from ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs), most of those agencies were not visible in terms of providing reliable data.
Additionally, he said data from civil society organisations (CSOs) were not nationally representative because the sampling, methodology and analysis of the research by those entities could also not be trusted.
He commended A4WA for critically analysing portions of the 2020 SDG baseline report that were related to SDG Six.
Dr Addo-Yobo admitted that the NDPC was not able to report on seven of the 12 SDG Six indicators because there were no reliable data on those indicators.
“Regarding the seven unreported SDG Six indicators, we struggled to get nationally representative data that meets the standards. There are pockets of data but they are either limited to a water basin or a region, and not nationally representative,” he said.
The NDPC policy director said although the commission was open to using data from CSOs, the data must conform to acceptable research standards.
He said steps were being taken by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) to roll out a data quality assurance framework.
A4WA SDG Six assessment
For his part, Dr Ibrahim Musah, who presented the SDG Six review report by the A4WA, said the SDG Six indicators that were reported on by the NDPC included 6.1.1, which is the proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services; 6.2.1, that is the proportion of population using safely managed sanitation services; 6.3.2, which is the proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality; 6.4.2, which is the level of water stress, that is freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources. and 6.5.1, that is the degree of IWRM implementation.
He added that the seven SDG indicators that the NDPC had not reported on were 6.3.1, which is the proportion of wastewater safely treated; 6.4.1, change in water use efficiency overtime; 6.2.1 b: basic handwashing services; and 6.5.2, proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation.
The rest are 6.6.1, change in the extent of water-related ecosystems overtime; 6. a.1, amount of water and sanitation related ODA that is part of the government's co-ordinated spending plan; and 6.b.1, proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management.
Dr Ibrahim said reporting on all the 12 SDG Six indicators was critical because the indicators were “inter-linked, inter-related and inter-dependent.”
For instance, he added that indicator 6.1.1 was linked with the indicator on water use efficiency overtime (6.4.1) as well as the indicator on water-related ecosystems.
Dr Ibrahim underscored the need for pragmatic steps to be taken to improve on the country’s data ecosystem to boost SDGs reporting.