Reporting Clarity. A good report is one that is clear, complete and unambiguous.
Financial reports are able to report a lot about corporate performance in very few numbers ... a few pages to report performance of an organization with more than 100,000 staff is impressive. In order for this to be reliable, there have to be sensible rules and the strict application of good principles of financial reporting.
Though there have been serious problems with financial reporting in recent years ... notably Enron, financial sector institutions, and a number of corrupt enterprises, the basic principles of accountancy applied to financial reporting are very powerful.
There are many ways in which reports are prepared in ways that misinform. Often the best way to misinform ... or half inform ... is to report using graphs.
Progress ... but at what cost? The data presented in the following examples are unclear and only tell part of the story. They are constructed in a way that provides misinformation. The data must be organized so that this type of analysis is easy.
Example 1 ... Experience from the Marathon Oil, Bioko Island
In this example, the graphic clearly shows change over three years. The left three year series shows the prevalence of malaria infected mosquitoes down by 95%. The right hand series shows the prevalence of malaria parasites in children down 44%. But there is no indication of how much this cost. There is no indication about the population involved, and the size of the program in terms of area.
The graphic does show progress ... but at what cost?
Distorted graphics Thee following is an example of distorted graphics. It should be noted that this appeared in a report that was prepared by a well known consulting firm ... McKinsey and Company ... and distributed at a very high profile international forum ... the World Economic Forum ... by a group that was skilled in PR but maybe not as good on responsible reporting ... Malaria No More.
The good new is that they achieved in great measure what they set out to do ... Malaria No More helped to mobilize a lot of money for malaria control activities and in this regard their work was magnificent. But they also set the stage for the money raised to be used very badly and for the results to be puny compared to what might otherwise have been possible
Example 2 ... Experience in Zanzibar 2000-2006
In this example morbidity has declined by 77% according to the report and the graph, and this is a good outcome. But is it the whole story. This relates to measures at the clinic ... less malarial incidence results in less attendance at the clinic ... but what about those that do not have access to clinics. Mortality is down by 75% according to reports ... but this is mortality among the young children subset.
The question about cost is not addressed. Is this the most cost effective way to reduce the malaria impact. Maybe it is, but the information is not presented. The main interventions were bednets and free delivery of ACT medication.
Cause and effect
The cause and effect at very important pieces of information. It is difficult sometimes to “prove” causality, but good management and decision making makes it very important to have data that facilitate good judgment and supports not only the making of a decision, but validating the quality of the decision as quickly and as reliably as possible.
Example 3 ... Experience in Eritrea 2000-2006
The morbidity was reduced based on the number of visits to clinics by 63%. The mortality was reduced by 85%. A small survey of 2,300 households suggests that bednet distribution has reached 67% of the population in Eritrea.
This example is a simplification that shows progress, but does not explain why or at what cost. At the national level there is progress but regionally within Eritrea there were areas that progressed well and areas that did not improve very much. Why was this? Was it because they were already malaria free, or was it because the interventions were ineffective ... important questions that should be guiding policy and program. There is no cost information included that shows cost effectiveness.