Green: Risks of the Rising 'Audit Culture' in Aid Industry

    The growing trend to focus more funding on projects that deliver easily measurable results, especially within the European development community, puts “aid flow at risk,” an aid expert notes.

    Duncan Green, head of research at Oxfam GB, shares that the shift to results-based programs is due in part to pressure on donors to prove that they are not wasting money on aid.

    But Green warns: “A move to an audit culture could very easily end up with the only accountability that matters being that to the providers of the funds, rather than to the people the funds are trying to benefit.

    He shares some suggestions he gathered during a recent meeting of 70 development experts on how donors can better address their stakeholders’ demands to see results without losing accountability to their beneficiaries:

    - “Build counter-narratives of development and change that stress the significance of history, challenge the primacy of numbers and emphasize accountability to those who international aid exists for.

    - Communicate to the general public in more innovative ways the complex nature of development by facilitating debates and expanding spaces for voices from the South, while building up our knowledge of how the public in the North understands development.

    - Building on already available methods, develop different methods of reporting, so that the requirement for aggregated numbers at Northern policy level does not distort the character of programming in complex development contexts.

    - Collaborate with people inside donor agencies who are equally dissatisfied with the prevailing ‘audit culture.’

    - Re-claim ‘value for money’ by communicating to donors and the public that some aspects of development work are valuable even though irreducible to numbers.”

    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.