ICAI Annual Report 2019-2020

10 Jul 2020

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) has today published its Annual Report which reflects on the work of the aid watchdog during a period of significant external change.

The report covers the period from July 2019 to March 2020, coinciding with the start of ICAI’s third four-year phase, and with Sir Hugh Bayley and Tarek Rouchdy starting in their roles as ICAI Commissioners, supporting Chief Commissioner Dr Tamsyn Barton.

Despite a number of external challenges impacting on ICAI’s work – including the redeployment of civil servants in preparation for the UK’s exit from the EU, the December 2019 general election and the Covid-19 pandemic – the report notes that over the past year, ICAI has made improvements to its review processes, in order to strengthen its scrutiny of UK aid. It also published five new reviews, including its first country portfolio review, on Ghana, and a rapid review of How UK Aid Learns, which mapped aid spending across all government departments and funds. The report highlights common themes identified across ICAI’s work, including the complexities of cross-government work, and the need to sustain momentum when tackling long-term development challenges.

Chief commissioner Dr Tamsyn Barton said: “As we explain in the annual report, ICAI has had to adapt to a rapidly-changing and sometimes unpredictable external landscape during the past year.

“Although this has been challenging at times, we have continued to scrutinise and hold government to account, helping to drive forward improvements that will ultimately ensure UK aid is spent effectively for the people who need it most, while delivering value for money for the taxpayer.”

ICAI’s new review processes – implemented in response to stakeholder feedback following a public consultation in early 2019 – include introducing new review products such as results reviews and country portfolio reviews, publishing literature reviews to contribute to the evidence base of a subject, scoring its forthcoming annual follow-up reports, increasing focus on the voices of those expected to benefit from aid, and using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as ICAI’s framework for selecting review topics.

During the period covered by the annual report, ICAI published five reviews and reports: How UK aid learns, covering all 18 aid spending government departments; The UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI), which awarded the flagship government programme an amber-red score; The changing nature of UK aid to Ghana, ICAI’s first country portfolio review; and The use of UK aid to enhance mutual prosperity and Mapping the UK’s approach to tackling corruption and illicit financial flows, two information notes designed to support the International Development Committee in its scrutiny role.

The report highlights that a common theme emerging from ICAI’s reviews this year was the complexities of cross-government partnerships due to the increase in Official Development Assistance (ODA) being spent by departments other than the Department for International Development (DFID).

The need to consult with people expected to benefit from UK aid programmes, the importance of sustaining development interventions for long enough to achieve meaningful results, and whether UK aid is able to deliver and monitor transformative results were also highlighted by ICAI as important themes to have emerged from its 2019-2020 reviews.

The Annual Report also includes information on ICAI’s functions and structure, corporate governance and key performance indicators, and a financial summary. This year’s report covers only nine months in order to bring it in line with the financial year for the first time, and is therefore not comparable with previous reports that covered a July to June reporting year.

Read ICAI’s annual report here: ICAI Annual Report 2019-2020

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