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The Ghanaian government has incorporated transparency measures into their new legislation to better manage petroleum revenues. This study evaluates the effectiveness of engagement of the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), an independent watchdog, on citizens’ knowledge, their attitudes on revenue derived from natural resources, and their demand for better transparency and accountability, in a randomised field experiment covering 120 districts in Ghana.
In 2007, oil and gas reserves were discovered in commercial quantities in off-shore Ghana. The government enacted the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) in 2011 to provide a framework for the collection, allocation and management of petroleum revenue in a responsible, transparent and accountable manner for the benefit of its citizens. One of its main pillars was the creation of PIAC with a mandate to monitor the government’s compliance with the Act; as well as provide a platform for public debate on spending prospects, and management and use of petroleum revenues. However, there is very little evidence available on the effectiveness of engaging citizens for better transparency and accountability in Ghana and other similar contexts.
This study evaluated:
- The impact of receiving the basic information dissemination as part of one of the treatments—duty-bearers participating directly in the meetings, or as members of the general population through an ICT platform—on the knowledge, attitude toward natural resources revenue and their demand for better transparency and accountability.
- The expected changes in feelings of entitlement (“attitude”) with respect to oil and gas revenues that occurred among the treated population at all levels.
- PIAC’s engagement with duty-bearers, PIAC’s information dissemination and feedback provided in the citizen engagement platform, whether PIAC engagement increases duty-bearers’ efforts to create more transparency and other ways in which treatment affects the behaviour of duty-bearers.
The study evaluated the effectiveness of information dissemination and engagement efforts in a randomised field experiment covering 120 districts throughout Ghana. PIAC ran the following three interventions in a 2x2 factorial design with one control group:
- District-level meetings attended by local District Assembly Members and representatives of the district’s Unit Committees (UC) and other local stakeholders (Treatment 1 – T1);
- District-level ICT platform for citizen information and engagement (CIEP); (Treatment 2 – T2); and
- District-level meetings, and district-level ICT citizen information and engagement platform (Joint Treatment – T1T2).
Theory of change
The theory of change (TOC) postulates that PIAC’s information dissemination and engagement activities will lead to short-term outcomes (transparency), intermediate outcomes (e.g. participation and accountability) and ultimately to long-term outcomes (e.g. social and developmental gains). The TOC is based on the overall assumption that making information about revenue flows more transparent and providing a platform for better engagement, would enable citizens and other stakeholders to use the information to hold the government accountable.
The impact evaluation study employed a 2x2 factorial randomised design with three interventions. The 120 districts selected to participate in the study were randomly assigned in groups of 30 to each of the 4 study arms. A maximum of 30 respondents picked from a total of 5 electoral areas were interviewed in each of the 120 districts. A total of 3,600 assembly members, unit committee members, traditional authorities and ordinary citizens were included.
The study finds that the PIAC Leaders’ Forum (T1) had a positive effect on the knowledge and awareness levels of both District Assembly Members and Unit Committee Members, but not on common citizens, which supports the theory of lengthy or perhaps imperfect trickle-down of information from local officials to the citizens. The ICT platform for citizen information and engagement (T2) had a positive effect on all knowledge and awareness levels as well as on the demand for accountability. However, surprisingly, there is no indication of positive reinforcement of the effects of the joint treatment (T1T2) for willingness to demand transparency at all the three levels.
One of the key recommendations of the report to the implementing agency is that a decentralised ICT-based engagement platform may be scaled up given that the CIEP emerged more cost-effective than the in-person meetings conducted at the district level. However, the in-person PIAC Leaders’ Forum, though more expensive, may complement the ICT-based intervention where the access and capacity to use ICT is limited.