Government confirms role for ICAI ahead of DFID-FCO merger

29 Aug 2020

The government has confirmed the continued role of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) ahead of the merger of the Department for International Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said that ICAI will continue to scrutinise UK aid across all aid-spending departments when the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office launches in September. He also confirmed that a review of ICAI’s remit, focus and methods would begin this autumn, with the findings expected to be published at the end of the year.

ICAI Chief Commissioner Dr Tamsyn Barton said: “Robust, independent scrutiny helps to ensure that aid reaches those who need it most, and that UK taxpayers – who contribute a substantial amount towards the aid budget each year – get maximum value for their money.

“We are committed to the rigorous use of evidence in our reviews, and our recommendations have directly led to improvements in the way government spends aid. This strong track record means we are well-placed to drive forward further improvements in the aid programme, and to enable continued accountability as the landscape changes.”

ICAI was established in 2011 to carry out reviews of different aspects of UK aid spending, whichever department it is spent by. Typically, the review process involves interviews with government officials and sector stakeholders, field research, citizen consultation, literature reviews and fact checking, before recommendations are made to government. A standard review takes about one year. ICAI’s findings, and the government response to them, are also scrutinised by Parliament.

As part of the accountability process, ICAI carries out an annual follow-up exercise, assessing the government’s progress against its recommendations from previous reviews. Internal research for the most recent follow-up review found that government had positively acted upon 80% of ICAI’s recommendations, with ICAI’s work having led to improvements including:

  • more accurate measurement of success in the government’s maternal health work, and more emphasis on good quality care for women and their babies;
  • improved levels of competition and transparency – open-book accounting – with suppliers;
  • stronger governance and assurance for the BEIS Global Challenges Research Fund.

Although reviews typically identify areas for improvement, ICAI has also highlighted many areas of strength, such as the cases where government uses evidence of “what works” to inform programming decisions, its international leadership in innovative partnerships to reduce the cost of life-saving vaccinations, and best practice in humanitarian aid delivery.

Over the next year, ICAI’s planned work includes a rapid review of how the government manages the 0.7% aid spending target, a full review of the UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme, a report looking at the adequacy of measures to protect the aid programme from fraud, and a review of UK aid’s work on tackling deforestation and promoting biodiversity to address climate change. Further planned reviews will be added to ICAI’s future workplan in due course.

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