Independent Commission for Aid Impact publishes report on DFID’s Empowerment and Accountability Programming in Ghana and Malawi

11 Oct 2013

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) has published a report today on the DFID’s Empowerment and Accountability Programming in Ghana and Malawi. The overall rating for the programmes we examined is Green-Amber.


DFID has made a strong commitment to promoting development through the empowerment of citizens. It has pledged to support 40 million people to have more control over their own development and to hold their governments to account. Currently, it has empowerment and accountability programmes in twelve African and five Asian countries. ICAI assessed three programmes that aim to strengthen citizen engagement with government.


ICAI examined twenty two projects in Ghana and Malawi at different stages of development: two grant-making funds for civil society organisations (CSOs) and a project that supports community monitoring of local services. With a combined budget of £41 million, these programmes support a wide range of activities, from helping local communities to become more engaged in the running of local schools to civil society campaigns on the management of the oil and gas sector in Ghana.


Graham Ward, ICAI Chief Commissioner, said: “The social accountability programmes that we examined are achieving some promising results by empowering communities to engage, constructively, with government to resolve problems with the delivery of public services and development programmes. By contrast, support for advocacy by Civil Society Organisations at the national level has had more limited impact and seems unlikely to generate significant improvements in government accountability.


ICAI found that the social accountability programmes we examined were helping to address obstacles to the delivery of public services and development programmes.

The support for CSO advocacy produced more limited results. We are concerned that, when designing its programmes, DFID tends to default to CSO grant-making, which is not always the most strategic option.

Lead Commissioner for the report, Diana Good, added: “We endorse DFID’s new focus on empowering people. We found that the most successful initiatives involved helping communities to build on existing capacities to find solutions which benefited both the community and the government service provider. Clearer and more realistic goals, with stronger criteria for delivery decisions, would help to maximise results.”


ICAI recommends that:

  • Promoting constructive community engagement with government around the delivery of public services and development programmes should be the principal focus of DFID’s social accountability programmes and a shared goal with its sector programmes. When scaling up successful social accountability initiatives, direct grants to national CSOs to work with local communities are likely to be more effective than competitive grant-making.
  • DFID’s support for CSO advocacy and influencing at the national level should be more targeted, with smaller portfolios, longer partnerships and more tailored capacity-building support.
  • Future social accountability programmes should be designed with the flexibility to test different approaches and scale up successful initiatives. DFID’s central policy team should guide this process of structured learning and ensure the continuous sharing of lessons among country offices and managing contractors and with relevant sector programmes.


Notes to editors:


– For further information please contact Sam Harrison on 020 7270 6742 or The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) is the independent body responsible for scrutinising UK aid. We focus on maximising the effectiveness of the UK aid budget for intended beneficiaries and on delivering value for money for UK taxpayers. For further details on ICAI, the workplan and for links to each report please visit

– ICAI’s Chief Commissioner is Graham Ward CBE. 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 of Evaluation for 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:

I.          Green: The programme performs well overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Some improvements are needed.

II.         Green-Amber: The programme performs relatively well overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Improvements should be made.

III.        Amber-Red: The programme performs relatively poorly overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Significant improvements should be made.

IV.        Red: The programme performs poorly overall against ICAI’s criteria for effectiveness and value for money. Immediate and major changes need to be made.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive notifications of our latest news and reports

ICAI will use your personal data only to contact you about our work via email(Required)
You can find more information in our Privacy notice. Please check your Junk folder for a verification email to confirm your subscription.