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Food supplied by UK aid for people affected by Hurricane Irma is distributed in East End, Tortola, BVI - DFID

Aid spending outside DFID lacks transparency, says NAO report

20 June 2019

The National Audit Office (NAO) today published its latest report on how the UK government is managing and spending UK aid, also known as Official Development Assistance (ODA).

The report evaluates the effectiveness of UK ODA, including how aid programmes are managed and how their performance is assessed. Although the Department for International Development (DFID) has spent the most aid, the NAO highlights concerns around the impact and transparency of aid spent by other government departments and funds.

Less aid is spent by DFID

DFID spent the highest proportion of UK aid. However, DFID oversaw less of the total ODA spent having only overseen 72% in 2017 (dropping from 89% in 2013).

ODA spending by other government departments (such as the FCO) and cross-government joint funds, such as the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and the Prosperity Fund, rose significantly.

The report states that while the UK met its commitment to spend 0.7% of its GNI on development assistance, it’s unclear if spending is helping achieve the objectives set out in the 2015 UK Aid Strategy and other cross-government strategies.

Not enough transparency from other departments

The NAO finds that the government insufficiently demonstrated the effectiveness of ODA expenditure and its contribution towards achieving the UK’s aid policy objectives. The previous Spending Review expanded the amount of aid delivered through other government departments without a detailed consideration of aims or a structure for assessing its effectiveness.

The report recognised DFID’s status as the most transparent ODA-spending department and stated that it currently has a well-developed approach to assessing project progress . While there is evidence that many programmes funded by UK aid are achieving positive impacts, there is insufficient evidence to be confident that all aid spending is securing value for money.

The report also highlights a lack of progress in improving transparency, a key objective of the aid strategy. Many other ODA-spending government departments don’t meet the same standards as DFID’s comprehensive and detailed programme information.

The report recommends that HM Treasury and DFID set out steps they will take to meet the UK’s 0.7% commitment in the light of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. Departments and funds spending ODA must also improve the transparency and consistency of their programme reporting and performance management.