ICAI reports on India, East Africa and Budget Support

18 May 2012

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact has today published three reports, covering three of the Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) programmes:

Together, the three reports provide a new perspective on a range of UK aid programmes in Africa and Asia. They examine the effectiveness of DFID’s programmes, as well as the impact those programmes are having on the lives of the poor.

In India, DFID has made a positive contribution to improvements in health and education, supporting changes that are backed by strong local political commitment. Many more births take place in health centres and there has been a reduction in the infant mortality rate. More children are in school and learning achievements have seen improvements.

DFID has contributed to improvements in both quality of education in India and access to it. ICAI finds that this is in contrast to East Africa. Here, through a substantial multi-year investment, DFID succeed at boosting enrolment substantially and expanding access to basic education. There has been, however, a lack of attention to learning outcomes and the trade-off between increasing access and ensuring quality. As a result, whilst numbers have risen, the quality of education provided is low and a large majority of children are failing to achieve basic literacy and numeracy.

ICAI concludes that the practical value of budget support varies substantially depending on the country context and the dynamics of the partnership. The report on Education in East Africa highlights some advantages as well as risks to this approach of direct funding. Budget support has, for example, enabled DFID to support an increase in education spending from around 3% of GNP in 2000 to over 5% today in all three countries examined by ICAI. It has, however, meant more of a focus on the broad questions of budgetary and financial management, rather than impact, such as the links between inputs, outputs and learning outcomes.

DFID’s Support for Health and Education in India

The report looks at the UK’s support for health and education in Bihar State and concludes that it has made a positive contribution to improvements in these areas. DFID’s decision to work in Bihar is well judged and it has a good view of the challenges at all levels.

  • Overall rating – Green-Amber
  • DFID has a clear theory of change and aims to improve educational and health outcomes by strengthening oversight, increasing access and improving the quality of services.
  • DFID’s objectives are clearly aligned with the Indian national and state level administrations. The UK’s support is valued for more than its technical capacities, with particular contributions through its knowledge and skills.
  • DFID has yet to clarify its forward plans for work in India after 2014-15. This lack of clarity may hamper future success and sustainability.

DFID’s Education Programmes in Three East African Countries

Between 2005 and 2015 DFID will spend over £1billion of bilateral aid on education in three East African countries: Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania. In these countries the UK has succeeded in boosting enrolment substantially but ICAI raises concerns that the quality of education being provided is so low that it detracts from the development impact.

  • Overall rating – Amber-Red
  • Improving the quality of education must be the priority for the coming period. Learning outcomes must be at the heart of education support. There is insufficient evidence that DFID has designed its programmes to minimise the negative impact of rapid expansion in enrolment on education quality. There has been inadequate attention given to basic factors affecting pupil’s opportunity to learn, including on pupil attendance and teacher effectiveness.
  • DFID should expand its support for communities to enable them to monitor education and promote accountability.

The Management of UK Budget Support Operations

Budget support, aid given directly to a recipient government, represents 15% of the UK’s bilateral aid budget – £643m in 2010-11. The ICAI report concludes that, in the right conditions, budget support is an effective way of providing development assistance but its practical value varies according to the country context.

  • Overall rating – Green-Amber
  • DFID should explore new ways of combining budget support with other aid instruments so as to increase the value of its overall assistance. This may indicate a need for a more hands-on approach to accompany budget support.
  • While this approach of direct funding helps to increase recipient government accountability it is important not to get locked in to providing large volumes of budget support where that value is not clear.

Graham Ward, ICAI Chief Commissioner, said: “these reports show that some of DFID’s work is having a real impact on the lives of the poorest people, particularly in India, which has seen considerable improvements in health and education. They also show, however, that there is more to do to get the most out of budget support and to make sure that education programmes in East Africa build on progress in enrolment to focus on ensuring a good education.”

Notes to editors:

For further information please contact Clare Robathan on 020 7270 6734 or c-robathan@icai.independent.gov.uk.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) is the independent body responsible for scrutinising UKaid. We focus on maximising the effectiveness of the UKaid budget for intended beneficiaries and on delivering value for money for UKtaxpayers. For further details on ICAI, the workplan and for links to each report please visit www.independent.gov.uk/icai.

ICAI’s Chief Commissioner isGraham WardCBE. The three other Commissioners are: Mark Foster, John Githongo and Diana Good. Their biographies can be found on the ICAI website.

These reports were prepared by ICAI with the assistance of KPMG LLP, Agulhas Applied Knowledge,Center ofEvaluationfor Global Action (CEGA) and the Swedish Institute for Public Administration (SIPU International).

ICAI reports are written to be accessible to a general readership and we use a simple ‘traffic light’ system to report our judgement on each programme or topic we review, as follows:

  • Green: The programme meets all or almost all of the criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Very few minor improvements are needed.
  • Green-Amber: The programme meets most of the criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Some improvements should be made.
  • Amber-Red: The programme meets some of the criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Significant improvements should be made.
  • Red: The programme meets few of the criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Immediate and major changes need to be made.