DFID rated “very good”, FCO “poor”, in aid transparency index

19 June 2018

Bond members Publish What You Fund have today published their “Aid Transparency Index”.

The index is the only independent measure of aid transparency among the world’s major development agencies. The index ensures donors disclose information on how they use aid, enabling the public to hold them to account for making good on their aid commitments, and encourages progress where it is needed. 

In the latest index, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) was rated as “very good”, scoring 90.9 out of 100 meaning it ranked 3rd out of 45 global donors.

The Foreign and Commonwealth office (FCO), however, was rated as “poor” and ranked 40th out of 45 donors, scoring just 34.3 out of 100. The “poor” rating represents no change in status from the previous index in 2014.

The index is referenced in the UK government’s Aid Strategy from 2015, which commits all aid spending departments to achieving either a “good” or “very good” rating.

The strategy also makes a commitment that by 2020 30% of the total aid budget will be spent by departments other than DFID. The government is on course to meet this target, with DFID spending 72.5% of the aid budget in 2017, down from 74% in 2016. The FCO spent a total of 4.0% of the budget, up from 3.8% in 2016.

Commenting on the report, Sarah Johns, transparency manager at Bond and vice chair of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), said:

“If Bond’s smallest member organisations are able to meet global transparency standards I do not understand why the FCO is still lagging far behind. What we are seeing here is a lack of political will from the FCO to match DFID's commitment, as well as that of other international donors and the entire development and aid sector, on agreed transparency and accountability standards. In the eyes of the British public, FCO failures to meet DFID’s high levels of project impact, transparency and accountability, risk tarring all aid spending with the same brush.”

Key points from the report - DFID

  • DFID remains in the “very good” category, as it has been every year since the index began, scoring 90.9 out of 100 and ranking 3rd out of 45 global donors. DFID publishes information on at least a monthly basis
  • DFID ranks first overall in the organisational planning and commitments component as all information is provided and made available in an open and comparable format on the IATI Registry
  • DFID also makes all financial and budgetary information available on IATI, although the index outlined “room for improvement” in the provision of project level budgets and disaggregated budgets.

The index recommended that DFID:

  • prioritises the publication of sub-national locations to the IATI Registry
  • makes further improvements to its publication of contracts and tenders, as well as results
  • promotes the use of the data published by the department to demonstrate the impact of transparency on development work (internally, to promote coordination and effectiveness; and externally, to explore online and in-person feedback loops, including at country-level).

Key points from the report - FCO

  • The FCO is in the “poor” category, the same rating as in the 2014 index
  • The FCO publishes less than quarterly
  • The FCO only publishes 53% of the indicators in the comparable IATI format and missing information tends not to be published in other formats either
  • The FCO provides information for all project attributes indicators in the IATI format, except for sub-national location data, which is not published at all
  • Four out of the seven indicators for joining-up development data are published in the IATI format, namely aid type, flow type, finance type and tied aid status. However, conditions, tenders and contracts are not published at all.

The index recommended that the FCO: 

  • aims for quarterly, if not monthly, publication
  • makes further improvements to data published, including further details on its budgets and finances
  • starts publishing performance-related information, from objectives-to-results
  • demonstrates the impact of transparency on development work by taking responsibility to promote the use of the data they publish (internally, to promote coordination and effectiveness, and externally, to explore online and in-person feedback loops, including at country-level).