User’s Guide to the Nutrition Budget Analysis Tool

The Budget Analysis Process

SPRING’s seven-step process (Figure 5) is described below. This process should be viewed as a team effort, owned by the government and to benefit government efforts to improve nutrition. While the team conducting the analysis may include external agencies and/or consultants, it should not be viewed as any one individual’s or external group’s activity.

Step 1: Define the scope with colleagues: The team analyzing the numbers will need to determine what the focus will be: internal ministry planning for nutrition? cross-ministry accounting? national or global advocacy? Each optionisvalid, but will influence the scope of your work as well as the financial and human resources required to complete the work.

Withintheteamyouneed individuals with experience in budget analysis, as well as individuals with relationships or the ability to build relationships with representatives from the sector, ministry, department, or unit of focus. These individuals will need to help validate the data included in your analysis. Interview skills can also be a valuable resource for the team.

STEP 2: Meet with stakeholders: Because budget analysis can be difficult to comprehend, it is important to identify potential data users and determine early on their particular needs and priorities. When your analysis is complete, who else will you want to share it with? Ideally, anyone who will use your data and findings should be fully aware of the process and comfortable with the methodology before you begin. The objective of this preliminary meeting is to gain agreement on the following:

STEP 3: Gather documents: The level of detail in the documents you choose will affect your analysis. Each budget line will need to be categorized based on whether it is nutrition-specific or nutrition-sensitive, as well as by type of activity and relevant nutrition goals. Using more detailed documents at this stage will simplify the process of data validation and help you to generate more robust findings. It is important to note that your ministry may be receiving government and donor funding to do its nutrition work. Follow directions in the tool to properly document this “non-budget” donor funding so that you can disaggregatebyfunder. Although you should seek feedback from your stakeholder meeting to identify documents to use, two main sources of documents include:

  • Budgeted workplans: Theseareideal, since they include detail on program implementation; however, these may not always be available.
  • Sector or ministry budgets: These are usually public documents and can also be used, but you will need to meet with your colleagues to tease out details from line items that involve multiple activities.

STEP 4: Extract Data: It is with this step that you begin to use the Budget Analysis Tool. The first thing to do is to identify the nutritionrelated actions (or activities, interventions, strategies). If there is a national nutrition plan (or multiple nutrition plans or strategies for multiple ministries) that defines nutrition actions, you should use those plan objective codes and keywords to guide the extraction process. If such a plan does not exist or does not include specific actions for nutrition, you will need to work with stakeholders to develop a list of key words to identify nutrition-related actions that will be counted in the budget analysis exercise. Annex B of the SUN Movement’s Budget Analysis for Nutrition: A Guidance Note for Countries (Update 2017) and their Methodology and Guidance Note to Track Global Investments in Nutrition provide lists of actions that could be used (Fracassi 2017; SUN 2013b). You can keep track of your keywords in the “Keywords” tab of the Budget Analysis Tool, which will automaticallycreatedrop-down list of those plan reference codes or keywords for standardized use inthedata sheet and summary sheet.

Nextyouwill need to review all budget documents for any line items that include the nutrition-related actions mentioned in the plan(s) or keywords you have identified. For all such line items, complete “Section A (green columns)” found on the “Data Sheet” tab of the Budget Analysis Tool. Additional information on how to complete enter this information into tool can be found in the section titled “Using the Budget Analysis Tool” of this guide.

STEP 5: Validate Data: You may or may not be familiar enough with nutrition-relevant line items identified through the data extraction to complete the final categorizationandweighting on your own. Inviting your colleagues from the ministry you are analyzing to validate the data you collect allows stakeholders to verify the information from your data extraction and provide contextual details that are not available in the budget documents. Reach out to people who are familiar with your ministry’s nutrition portfolio and budget, which may require speaking with contacts from both technical and planning/budgeting units. Through discussions with these contacts, fill out or update Section B (blue columns in the Budget Analysis Tool) of the “Data Sheet” tab for each nutrition line item. Suggested steps include:

  • Before the meeting, provide your contact person(s) with the data you extracted in Step 4 so they have time to prepare and gather any additional required information.
  • If they are not familiar with this activity, begin your discussion with an overview of the activity goals, a description of the methodology, and some examples of how you plan to use the data.
  • Using the “Data Sheet” tab from Step 4, verify each column of data for each line item. Fill in and/or revise Section B, explaining any changes in the notes section and updating the data sources as needed.
  • Make sure to take detailed notes during your discussions, since the information they giveyouascontextto the information included in the Budget Analysis Tool may be useful as you explain your final results.
  • Ask your contact(s) if there are any line items missing from your data extraction that need to be included in the final data analysis.
  • Encourage your contact(s) to get in touch with you to share any additional information, questions, or concerns.

To help guide validation discussions, SPRING has developed validation interview questionnaires for both government and donor sources. Use these example questionnaires as a starting point for developing your own specific validation interview questions.

Validation Interview Questionnaire (Government) (DOC, 48.5 KB)

Validation Interview Questionnaire (Donor) (DOC, 57.5 KB)

STEP 6: Finalize Results: The Budget Analysis Tool will help you to generate some basic results. The “Summary Sheet” includes budget allocations by source, sensitivity, and keyword or nutrition plan reference. Depending on your comfort level with Excel, you can go even further to create additional figures, graphs, and tables based on the exact needs of your audience. See Figure 3 for examples of what analysisbydonor (top graph) and analysis by allocation and expenditure (bottom graph) might look like.

STEP 7: Share and Use Results: Once you have the results, they can be used to improve decision making regarding funding allocations and expenditures for nutrition. There are three complementary ways in which findings from nutrition budget and expenditure analysis can be used (Figure 4).

To do this, reach out to the stakeholders you met with in Step 2 to share your findings directly. You can gather to present results, discuss findings, or advocate for additional nutrition funding. Such meetings will also give you an opportunity to address questions stakeholders have about the results or methods, empowering them to become active users of the data and conclusions.

Look for other ways to share your findings, including presentations to civil society or advocacy groups that may also be interested in the results. In addition to sharing the quantitative output of this tool, think about including qualitative information gathered during the budget data validation phase. For example, information about perceived barriers to nutrition work or about preferences for working in a particular area of nutrition may help explain some of your findings. Such information can help people understand what they are seeing and better appreciate how to use your findings to advocate for increased nutrition financing.

Figure 3: Example outputfrombudgetanalysis

Figure 3: Example output from budget analysis

Figure 4: Three Ways to Use Findings from Nutrition Budget and Expenditure Analysis

Figure 4: Ways to use the Budget Analysis Tool

Figure 5: Steps of the Budget Analysis Process

Figure 5: List of the 7 steps.

Box 6. Want to keep going?

This tool and process for budget analysis are only the beginning of what you can do to track nutrition financing. Once you feel comfortable with the analysis outlined above, consider reaching out to nutrition stakeholders for ideas of additional analyses that may be helpful to them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Track actual expenditures for those budget allocations identified in this activity. While expenditure data can be difficult to track, knowing how much of allocated money is spent on nutrition is a natural next step to this exercise.
  • If you have a costed plan for nutrition within the ministry whose budget you are analyzing, compare the available resources to the resources needed to implement the plan. How do they compare?
  • Track nutrition budgets at the subnational level. Are certain districts, states, or regions interested in knowing more about their local spending? With some changes to the budget documents you use for data extraction, this methodology can help address those questions.
  • Compare nutrition budget allocations over time. Stakeholders may be interested in knowing how budget allocations change from year to year. Remember to take inflation into account when you are comparing data over time. This Guide to Understanding and Using Inflation (link is external) can help you get started.

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