This project has supported the move towards a national social assistance information system in Lesotho.
Marta Marzi, Ludovico Carraro
Previously, the country’s social protection sector was characterised by fragmentation with different programmes being coordinated by different ministries and a lack of communication resulting in duplications and inefficiencies. In this context, the government piloted a new national database – the National Information System for Social Assistance (NISSA) – to act as a single registry for all social protection programmes, which could potentially serve as an integrated system for more effective targeting of beneficiaries.
Our team were invited to review the pilot stage of NISSA, help identify a more effective targeting system, and develop alternative costed models to support an expansion of the pilot on a national scale.
Despite a relatively high expenditure on social safety net programmes in Lesotho (around 9% of GDP), only a small percentage of poor households were being reached by these social protection initiatives. This can largely be attributed to a high level of fragmentation in the sector, with different programmes being implemented by different ministries and a lack of planning and coordination resulting in duplication and overlap. In some cases, certain households became the beneficiaries of multiple programmes, while equally poor households received no benefits.
Our team took a two-pronged approach, leading on complementary workstreams to support the effective reform and expansion of NISSA. On the one hand, we reviewed the targeting system applied in the pilot stage and developed an evidence-based proposal for a revised system. On the other hand, we assessed the quality of data within NISSA and, more broadly, the level of statistical and data collection capacity within the NISSA unit, the Bureau of Statistics, and other Lesotho-based survey companies.
We analysed data from nationally representative household surveys to assess the effectiveness of the proxy means testing (PMT) targeting approach adopted in the pilot stage. We also conducted a small-scale qualitative study to gain a deeper understanding of how the community-based targeting (CBT) element of the targeting worked in the pilot phase. We drew on our results from these analyses to develop a revised targeting methodology incorporating both PMT and CBT elements.
Our statistical capacity assessment was based on a series of key informant interviews with stakeholders at each of the organisations being assessed - complemented by reviews of a number of secondary data sources. Based on this assessment, we developed a number of budgeted data collection options for the planned scale up of NISSA.
This project has supported the move towards a fully integrated, comprehensive national social assistance information system in Lesotho. Our proposals for a revised targeting mechanism – based on CBT but using PMT results as a screening tool – should support more effective identification of beneficiaries, while our recommendations for improving statistical capacity should result in more efficient and effective national data collection and data management exercises and improved communication between the ministries and donors responsible for different programmes.
Overall, our recommendations should help make Lesotho’s national social protection system more effective and efficient, reaching more of those in need in the most cost-effective way and, ultimately, having a greater impact.