UK Taps 'Traffic Light' Approach for Reviewing Aid Projects

Under the proposed traffic light approach, U.K.-funded projects labeled "red" will get axed, according to Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell. Photo by: Bahi P / CC BY-NC-SA Bahi PCC BY-NC-SA

The U.K. government will use a “traffic light” approach to determine which projects by the Department for International Devolopment may likely be axed.

According to U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell, the system involves four “traffic light” signals. Red means “this has gone terribly wrong,” and such projects are likely to be cut. Red-yellow indicates “very serious negatives here.” Yellow-green signifies there are “some matters that are not well here, but on the whole very good and successful.” Green denotes that the project “is absolutely first-class.”

The proposed independent watchdog will use the approach to evaluate DfID, Mitchell told The Independent. The watchdog, which will have its own director and secretariat, will not report to DfID officials but to the International Development Select Committee in the House of Commons, he said. DfID officials, Mitchell added, will not be allowed to comment on evaluation reports before they are published.

The new warning system and an independent aid watchdog are seen to cause alarm among DfID officials, who have so far been subject only to internally commissioned evaluations. They have been also free to comment on, delay and revise evaluations before publication, The Independent reports.

Last year, DfID drew flak for adopting “an unduly defensive attitude” toward evaluation. Civil servants allegedly rewrote portions of the drafts, took out some critical comments and replaced them with more positive statements and comments that were “sometimes strident and very directive,” The Independent writes.

Consulting U.K. aid beneficiaries is also a priority for Mitchell. He said investigators need “to talk to the people who are the recipients, and empowering them is absolutely central to our approach to development.”

He added: “We must be able to take it on the chin when we get it wrong, and then put it right. And we must be self-confident enough to accept independent evaluation, because that it what is coming.”

Despite cuts in government spending, U.K. aid is projected to increase to an estimated 10 billion pounds (USD15 billion) by 2013 to help reach the United Nations target of allocating 0.7 percent of the gross national income to official development assistance.

Mitchell said there would have to be an increase in managers to administer a bigger aid program.

“It is ridiculous that with a rising budget we are seeking to administer it with less people,” he said.

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.