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Highlights from DFID’s annual report and accounts 2020

The Department for International Development’s (DFID) Annual Report and Accounts for 2019-20 was recently released, and provides a snapshot of the UK’s main aid-spending department prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the decision to merge DFID into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The report, released along with DFID’s partially updated Results Estimates to March 2020 and its 2019-20 Annual Procurement and Commercial Report, describes the department’s performance against its five strategic objectives, which are peace, planet, prosperity, people and partnership.

It also looks at DFID’s approach to working with partners, explains their response to key challenges and issues in 2019-20, including Covid-19 and Brexit, and sets out its programme spending in 2019-20 and planned spending for 2020-21.

Total expenditure and staff turnover

In 2019-20, DFID’s total expenditure was £10,830 million, the majority of which was spent on programmes. Of total programme expenditure, 63% was spent on bilateral programmes (including bilateral programmes delivered through multilateral organisations) and 37% on multilateral programmes. In 2019 DFID spent £324 million, or 3% of its total spend, on operating costs (down from £326 million in 2018-19)

DFID’s overall workforce decreased during the year by 151 staff, or 4%, to 3,412 in March 2020. Home civil servant numbers decreased during the year by 5% (from 2,762 to 2,628) while the numbers of staff appointed in-country decreased by 3% (from 796 in March 2019 to 773 in March 2020).

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Including UK staff and staff appointed in-country, total country programme staff decreased by 8%, falling from 1,709 in 2018-19 to 1,570 in 2019-20. In 2019-20 169 members of staff were also seconded to support the preparations for Brexit in other government departments.

Leadership changes

The annual report details the leadership upheaval that the department experienced in the year to April 2020, with Penny Mordaunt serving as secretary of state until April 2019, to be replaced by Rory Stewart until July 2019, who was then replaced by Alok Sharma until February 2020, before he was replaced by current secretary of state for international development Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

A total of eleven junior ministers also served in the department during the financial year, including in joint roles with other departments. And permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft was also replaced in March 2020 by acting permanent secretary Nick Dyer.

Merging DFID into the FCO

In June 2020, the prime minister announced that, from September 2020, DFID and the FCO would be merged into a single department to be called the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). The annual report states that it was “not possible at this stage to make an accurate estimate of the financial effect of the creation of the FCDO”.

It also states that, rather than issuing a new estimate for the merged department to allow parliamentary and public scrutiny of its planned budget within the current calendar year, any budget adjustments are “expected to be addressed through the Supplementary Estimates process” – implying that the new department’s revised spending plans for the current financial year would not be published until February 2021.

Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

Although the annual report contains planned departmental programme allocations for 2020-21, it states that these reflect draft plans prepared prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic which have not received ministerial approval, and that it was unlikely that these spending profiles will be realised as spend during 2020/21, which will be significantly altered in response to Covid-19.


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