PricewaterhouseCoopers offices in London, U.K. Photo by: Nathan O'Nions / CC BY

The U.K. Department for International Development is one of a handful of bilateral donors that have increased their aid spending of late. The Cameron administration, in fact, has ring-fenced the development assistance budget despite protests from some sections of British society.

DfID plans to spend 8.1 billion pounds ($13.3 billion) for overseas aid efforts in 2011-12 and increase the volume to 11.5 billion pounds by 2014-15. The funds include multilateral assistance, budget support and direct funding for contracts and grants.

DfID contracts can be in the thousands or millions of pounds. The biggest are won by the most established U.K. firms such as the Mott MacDonald Group and Crown Agents.

But DfID does not restrict the competition of its procurements to domestic organizations. The agency actually is one of just four bilateral donors that have succeeded in untying all its aid, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. However, the number of non-U.K. firms that have been awarded DfID contracts remain small compared with their British counterparts.

Here are the 20 companies that won the most DfID funding for consultancy, technical and advisory services since Andrew Mitchell took office as secretary of state for international development and DfID chief on May 12, 2010 to June 30, 2011. In that period, DfID disbursed 436.1 million pounds for these services, or around 7.2 percent of the agency’s total spending worth 6.1 billion pounds, according to agency documents.

1. Mott MacDonald Group

Founded: 1989Headquarters: LondonManaging director: Richard Williams Awarded DfID funding: 54 million pounds (including member companies such as BMB Mott MacDonald, Cambridge Education and HLSP)

Mott MacDonald is a multiawarded management, engineering and development consultancy. It is one of the world’s largest employee-owned companies, with more than 14,000 staff around the world. It has projects in 140 countries and operates principal offices in 50 nations.

2. Crown Agents

Founded: 1749Headquarters: LondonCEO: Terence Jagger Awarded DfID funding: 43.2 million pounds (including country offices and member companies)

Crown Agents has been exclusively contracted by the agency’s Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department to provide 24/7 emergency response capability. Its other areas of specialization: governance and public expenditure management, public financial management, procurement, international banking and payment services, and legal advice. It has worked in more than 100 countries.

The company is also one of only three firms DfID contracted to purchase goods and equipment on behalf of the agency, both at headquarters and overseas. It also handles the agency’s budget support and debt relief payments.

3. GRM International

Founded: 1968Managing director: Kim BredhauerHeadquarters: Brisbane, AustraliaAwarded DfID funding: 30.6 million pounds

GRM has managed more than 700 projects in at least 120 countries worldwide. It offers development project planning, design and management services, and performs feasibility studies for its clients that include bilateral and multilateral funding agencies, governments and corporations. It has 1,200 experts and support staff around the globe.

4. Adam Smith International

Founded: 1992Managing director: William MorrisonHeadquarters: LondonAwarded DfID funding: 27.3 million pounds

ASI is an advisory firm specializing in economic and government reform. It has subsidiaries in New Delhi and Nairobi, and operates project offices worldwide.

5. Abt Associates

Founded: 1965President and CEO: Kathleen L. FlanaganHeadquarters: Cambridge, Mass., USAAwarded DfID funding: 20.2 million pounds

Abt is a leading research firm and was cited in the 2011 Honomichl Top 50 list, an annual compilation of the leading revenue-generating marketing research companies operating in the United States. It was also named a Devex Top 40 Development Innovator. Its services include technical assistance, policy and economic analyses, data collection, strategy planning and management of projects in the areas of health, education, housing, environment, international development and business.

6. PricewaterhouseCoopers

Founded: 1998Chairman of the board, president and CEO: Bob McDonaldHeadquarters: LondonAwarded DfID funding: 16.2 million pounds (including country offices)

PwC is an auditing giant, with a worldwide staff of 161,000 and offices in 154 countries. It has won multiple awards, including one of the Opportunity Now Global Awards in 2009 for the work and achievements of its Gender Advisory Council. The council comprises senior male and female leaders from around the globe who seek to improve the representation of PwC women in the workplace.


Founded: 1953Managing director: Christopher LockettHeadquarters: Hemel HempsteadAwarded DfID funding: 14.1 million pounds

HTSPE is a wholly employee-owned development and program management consultancy. Its areas of expertise include monitoring and evaluation, governance and democracy, institutional reform, social protection, private sector development and climate change.

8. WSP

Founded: 1973CEO: Chris ColeHeadquarters: LondonAwarded DfID funding: 13.3 million pounds

WSP is a is a global design engineering and management consultancy, with 9,000 staff worldwide. It specializes in property, transport and Infrastructure, industry and environment projects. It won the 2011 International Consultant of the Year Award given by the New Civil Engineer Magazine and Association of Consulting Engineers in the United Kingdom.

9. Options Consultancy Services

Founded: 1992Managing director: Todd PetersenHeadquarters: LondonAwarded DfID funding: 8.1 million pounds

Options is a consultancy that focuses on the health and social sectors. It has technical expertise related to maternal, newborn and child health, sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, health systems development, social development, results for research, program design, management, monitoring and evaluation, policy development and participatory research.

10. KPMG

Founded: 1987Headquarters: Amstelveen, NetherlandsKPMG International chairman: Timothy P. FlynnAwarded DfID funding: 6.7 million pounds

This Swiss cooperative is one of the so-called big four auditors, a group that also includes Deloitte, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers. KPMG is also one of the world’s largest consultancies, employing nearly 138,000 people. The company had revenues totaling $20.6 billion during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010. In a statement on Dec. 16, 2010, KPMG International Chairman Timothy P. Flynn said the company’s growth plans would entail recruitment of around 250,000 people through 2015.

11. Health Partners International

Headquarters: East SussexAwarded DfID funding: 6.7 million pounds

12. Maxwell Stamp

Headquarters: LondonAwarded DfID funding: 6.6 million pounds

13. Coffey International Development

Headquarters: Canberra, AustraliaAwarded DfID funding: 6.5 million pounds

14. Triple Line Consulting

Headquarters: LondonAwarded DfID funding: 6.5 million pounds

15. Atos Consulting

Headquarters: LondonAwarded DfID funding: 5.5 million pounds

16. Oxford Policy Management

Headquarters: OxfordAwarded DfID funding: 4.7 million pounds

17. Chemonics

Headquarters (Global): Washington, D.C., USAAwarded DfID funding: 3.4 million pounds 

18 Tribal Helm Corp. (acquired by Capita International Development)

Headquarters: Moira, Northern Ireland Awarded DfID funding: 3.2 million pounds

19. Liverpool Associates in Tropical Health

Headquarters: LiverpoolAwarded DfID funding: 3.1 million pounds

20. DAI Europe Limited

Headquarters: LondonAwarded DfID funding: 3.1 million pounds 

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About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.