Parliamentary group to examine the effectiveness of UK aid

DFID staff at work. Photo by: DFID / CC BY

LONDON — The U.K. Parliament’s aid watchdog is launching a wide-ranging investigation into the impact of U.K. aid and the Department for International Development.

The “Effectiveness of UK Aid” inquiry will be run by the newly selected International Development Committee and will contribute to the government’s integrated review of security, defense, development, and foreign policy. It will be open to submissions of evidence until the end of April, and the results are set to publish in June.

“It is absolutely right that scrutiny bodies such as the IDC take a closer look at how U.K. aid is being spent.”

— Stephanie Draper, chief executive, Bond

The review comes during troubled times for DFID, which has seen long-running threats that it could be merged with another department. The integrated review, touted as the U.K.’s biggest foreign policy overhaul since the Cold War, is viewed by some as a chance for the Conservative government to push a merger through.

The IDC inquiry will examine five key areas: the definition and administration of U.K. official development assistance; the effectiveness of ODA spent by DFID compared with other government departments and cross-government funds; how the national interest should be defined in relation to aid; how ODA is defined elsewhere in the world; and accountability of government systems and structures, in line with the broader aims of the integrated review.

Member of Parliament Sarah Champion — elected as IDC chair just weeks ago — said the U.K. government’s development strength was the “envy of many” around the world.

“But we cannot ignore the controversy that has surrounded UK aid for some years, with reports of wasteful spending and a lack of transparency on certain projects. … We must show global leadership here and reassure British taxpayers that their money is being well spent, and that the system established to help some of the world’s poorest people is delivering,” she said in a statement.

Stephanie Draper, chief executive of the U.K. NGO network Bond, said: “This is an important opportunity to fully understand the impact and effectiveness of U.K. aid ahead of the integrated review this summer. It is absolutely right that scrutiny bodies such as the IDC take a closer look at how U.K. aid is being spent and whether it is continuing to work for the world’s poorest, which should be the sole objective of any investment in development.

“We hope the IDC take the opportunity to look at how the rise in competing priorities in U.K. aid spending is undermining our commitment to the very poorest and recognize that it is impossible to spend aid effectively if it is not done transparently.”

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process.