Top DfID private sector implementers: A primer

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Implementers and consultants from the private sector accounted for 9 percent of the U.K. Department for International Development’s aid expenditure in 2011-2012, according to the independent body responsible for scrutinizing U.K. aid.

In its May 2013 report, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact gave DfID’s use of consulting and implementing partners from the private sector a green-amber rating, which means the program performed relatively well against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money, but that some improvements should be made.

The roles of these partners included procuring equipment, providing technical advice and delivering programs. Case studies examined by ICAI dealing with program delivery partners revealed that private sector implementers are an effective option for delivering aid, especially with DfID earmarking 30 percent of its official development assistance for fragile and conflict-affected states. Private companies were found to have the ability to design complex programs and source and manage local implementers that have access to staff who are prepared to work in circumstances that involve high personal risk, making them effective delivery partners in these contexts.

Nonetheless, DfID was encouraged to increase efforts to capture learning from private sector implementers to inform future programming and to apply more strategic planning to deploy the right partners, including major, niche and innovative entrant organizations. DfID does not restrict its aid contracts to domestic suppliers and has untied all its aid, but U.K. firms still dominate contract wins.

These recommendations have garnered more public attention after Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne pledged that Britain will maintain its aid target of 0.7 percent of gross national income until fiscal year 2015- 2016 despite domestic austerity measures. Should this target be achieved, Britain will be the first G-8 member country to meet the decades-old promise. British aid is expected to grow an average 11.7 percent annually from 2013 to 2015; with an estimated DfID budget of 10.7 billion pounds ($15.9 billion) this year and 11.1 billion pounds next year.

Here are the 20 companies that were awarded the most DfID funding for technical and advisory services from January to December 2012, based on data published on DfID’s website. In that period, DfID disbursed approximately 502.3  million pounds for these services. Independent consultants — individuals, as opposed to firms — were paid about 5.1 million pounds. No supplier names were provided for contracts amounting to 44.8 million pounds.

1. Mott MacDonald Group

Founded: 1989
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Managing director: Richard Williams
Awarded DfID funding: 52.8 million pounds (including member companies such as BMB Mott MacDonald, Cambridge Education and HLSP)

Mott-MacDonald is an employee-owned management, engineering and development consultancy. The firm has a staff exceeding 14,000 in around 150 company, site and associate offices in more than 120 countries.

2. Adam Smith International

Founded: 1992
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Managing director: William Morrison
Awarded DfID funding: 42.7 million pounds

Adam Smith International focuses on economic and government reform. Based in London, the firm has subsidiaries in Delhi and Nairobi, and project offices throughout South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and East Europe.

3. PricewaterhouseCoopers

Founded: 1998
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Chairman: Dennis Nally
Awarded DfID funding: 33.3 million pounds

PricewaterhouseCoopers employs more than 180,000 people across 159 countries. PwC is the world’s largest professional services company and the largest accountancy firm based on 2012 revenues.

4. Abt Associates

Founded: 1965
Headquarters: Massachusetts, USA
Managing director: Kathleen Flanagan
Awarded DfID funding: 21.5 million pounds

With a staff comprising 2,700 full-time employees, Abt Associates has five corporate offices in the United States and program offices in more than 40 countries. The company’s international client base spans Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. More than 90 percent of Abt Associates’ in-country personnel are from the local country or region.

5. GRM International

Founded: 1965 (as Gunn Rural Management)
Headquarters: Brisbane, Australia
Managing director: Kim Bredhauer
Awarded DfID funding: 19.2 million pounds

GRM International’s 1,100 employees have managed more than 700 projects in at least 120 countries worldwide. The firm offers development project planning, design and management services, and performs feasibility studies for its clients.

6. Maxwell Stamp

Founded: 1959
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 15.7 million pounds

Maxwell Stamp is a leading economics consultancy with experience in more than 165 countries and territories and a strong track record in transition and developing countries. The firm also has a permanent office in Bangladesh and project offices around the world.


Founded: 1953
Headquarters: Hemel Hempstead, U.K.
Managing director: Christopher Lockett
Awarded DfID funding: 15.1 million pounds

HTSPE is an employee-owned development and program management consultancy specializing in monitoring and evaluation, governance and democracy, institutional reform, social protection, private sector development, and climate change. The firm has 50 full-time staff members who manage up to 150 projects and programs at any one time across Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom.

8. IMC Worldwide

Founded: 2011
Headquarters: Redhill, U.K.
Managing director: Gavin English
Awarded DfID funding: 12.9 million pounds

IMC Worldwide has its roots in the planning, design and management of global infrastructure projects and has worked in more than 80 countries and territories. The firm’s team of 150 permanent and contract staff delivers more than 70 projects and programs worldwide. The company was owned by the WSP Group until June 2011.

9. DAI

Founded: 1970
Headquarters: London, U.K.
President and CEO: James Boomgard
Awarded DfID funding: 12.5 million pounds

DAI is an employee-owned company that has worked in 160 countries. The firm tackles social and economic development problems caused by inefficient markets, ineffective governance and instability.

10. Options Consultancy Services

Founded: 1992
Headquarters: London, U.K.
Managing director: Jo Elms
Awarded DfID funding: 11.3 million pounds

Options’ work focuses on providing expertise in sexual and reproductive health, maternal newborn and child health, HIV and AIDS, citizen voice and accountability, gender, social inclusion, and equity to strengthen pro-poor health systems.

11. KPMG

Headquarters: Amstelveen, the Netherlands
Awarded DfID funding: 10.1 million pounds

12. Atos Consulting

Headquarters: London, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 9 million pounds

13. Coffey International Development

Headquarters: Canberra, Australia
Awarded DfID funding: 8.8 million pounds

14. Crown Agents

Headquarters: London, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 8.3 million pounds

15. Oxford Policy Management

Headquarters: Oxford, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 8.1 million pounds

16. Health Partners International

Headquarters: East Sussex, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 5.7 million pounds

17. Charles Kendall and Partners

Headquarters: London, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 5.6 million pounds

18. Mennonite Economic Development Associates of Canada

Headquarters: Ontario, Canada
Awarded DfID funding: 3.9 million pounds

19. Deloitte

Headquarters: New York, USA
Awarded DfID funding: 3.3 million pounds

20. Ernst & Young

Headquarters: London, U.K.
Awarded DfID funding: 2.8 million pounds

Read more:

Top DfID NGO partners: A primer
DfID’s contractor, CSO relations need improvement — aid watchdog
No sustainable development without private sector — DfID chief
Assessing DfID reforms
Top global development organizations: The Devex lists

See our 2011 ranking of DfID’s top contractors. Check out more funding trends analyses online, and sign up as an Executive Member to receive the information you need for your organization to thrive.

About the author

  • Sharmila Parmanand

    Sharmila is currently an instructor at the University of Vermont. She has a master’s degree in gender and development and has supervised and conducted research projects on human trafficking and related issues. She has also worked as a debate and public-speaking consultant in more than 20 countries.