Skip to main content

Effectiveness of UK Aid inquiry launched

12 March 2020

The International Development Committee is holding an inquiry into the effectiveness of UK Aid.

Summary

The International Development Committee is launching an inquiry into the Effectiveness of UK Aid and the work of the Department for International Development (DFID), against the backdrop of the Government's Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

The UK's foreign aid programme has been criticised in recent years with questions over the legitimacy of projects receiving aid and whether it is delivering a lasting impact for developing countries. The Government has made a commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on UK aid, which amounted to £14.6 billion in 2018 split between individual Government departments and cross-Government schemes.

DFID's annual aid budget is the biggest spender of Official Development Assistance (ODA), spending almost £11 billion in 2018. However, in recent years, it has been Government policy to redistribute the aid budget among other departments. At present there is heightened speculation that DFID could be folded into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in order to align aid spending better with UK foreign policy goals and national interests. This issue will be a key area for the Government's Integrated Review.

During the inquiry, the Committee will consider how effective UK aid is and the work of DFID, looking at accountability, transparency and whether it is delivering real impact. It will also draw comparisons with other countries' models for delivering ODA.

Chair's comments

Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP said:

“The UK is second only to the US in the amount it spends on aid, and as one of the few Governments around the world that has an independent department of experts with the sole function of delivering aid to those who need it most, it is rightly the envy of many internationally.

“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.

“During this inquiry, the Committee will hear from experts on how DFID delivers aid and what – if any – are the implications in eroding its independent status. Our report will be published in June and will form the Committee's contribution to the Government's Integrated Review.”

The announcement of the inquiry follows correspondence sent by the Chairs of the International Development, Foreign Affairs and Defence Committees seeking further information from the Prime Minister on the terms of reference of the “deepest” review of UK international policy since the end of the Cold War. Within the letter, they express their readiness to engage with the Government on the Review and question the Prime Minister on the Review's scope, output, timing, ministerial oversight and external engagement.

Scope of the inquiry

  • The definition and administration of UK aid – who should be responsible, and accountable, for targeting and spending aid?
  • How effective and transparent is the UK aid spent by the Department for International Development (DFID) compared to aid allocated to other Government departments and to the cross-Government funds?
  • How should the national interest be defined, and what weight should it be given, in relation to targeting UK aid?
  • How is official development assistance defined, administered and targeted elsewhere in the world?
  • Accountability of the ‘Government systems and structures' recommended by the Integrated Review (including arrangements for parliamentary scrutiny)

In order to contribute to the Government's Integrated Review effectively, the Committee will not be able to invite written evidence to the usual timetable. The Committee therefore is open to short written submissions which tackle all or part of the issues set out above and will endeavour to take account of all relevant material received by the end of April. Oral evidence sessions will be announced in due course.

Further information

Image: Department for International Development