UK urged once again to re-evaluate direct aid programs

A U.K. parliamentary committee commended the Department for International Development’s direct aid programs, but was “surprised” the agency has not increased its use of direct cash transfers.

“We are surprised that the use of transfer programmes has not increased more in light of the evidence of positive outcomes,” the public accounts committee of the U.K. House of Commons said, noting that the approach has been effective in “ensuring the money goes directly to the poorest and most vulnerable people.”

The committee released Feb. 3 a report about U.K. aid transfers based on evidence provided by DfID and the testimony of Mark Lowcock, the agency’s permanent secretary. Lowcock appeared before the committee on Dec. 7 and explained at the time why DfID has yet to scale up its cash transfer initiatives.

“I am open to being advised that we should grow these programmes faster,” Lowcock said. “But I am also alert to the need to ensure … that we focus on quality, results, evidence generation and value. I am wary of expanding so fast that we make too many mistakes and reduce confidence.”

In its report, the committee recommended ways to scale up the program while getting the most value for U.K. money through direct cash transfers. For one, it urged DfID to develop a “clear strategy for the use of transfers” and “develop a framework to ensure decisions about their use in each priority country are taken on a consistent basis.”

Also needed are clear expectations on how to sustain cash transfers in the long term and better tools to monitor and evaluate whether the benefits are sustainable beyond the program, the committee said. The report also urges DfID to compare cost-effectiveness data across its portfolio and to routinely assess its programs in different countries to determine best practices and evidence.

These recommendations are similar to those the National Accountability Office offered in November 2011, when it released a report on U.K. cash transfers. 

>> Report: UK direct aid approach has immediate benefits but needs improvement

The United Kingdom allocated 192 million pounds ($303 million) for social protection programs, which include cash transfers, in 2010-2011. It plans to employ such programs in at least 18 of its 28 priority countries.

Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

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.