ICAI follow-up review of 2018-19 reports

ICAI’s follow-up review looks at how well DFID and other government departments have responded to the recommendations made in our 2018-19 reviews.

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23 Jul 2020
Lead commissioner
Tamsyn Barton
Civil Society, Cross-cutting, Development finance, Health, Humanitarian, Research and innovation, Sustainability and climate change

Each year we conduct a follow-up assessment of ICAI reviews from the previous year. This process is an important step in the chain of accountability, providing the International Development Committee (IDC) and wider development stakeholders with evidence on whether the government has taken appropriate action in response to ICAI’s recommendations.

For the first time ICAI has rated the progress made in each review, scoring them as either “adequate” or “inadequate”, with an inadequate rating resulting from a combination of too little being done to address ICAI’s recommendations, the response not being sufficiently relevant, and/or the implementation being too slow.

The 2018-19 follow-up summarises our findings for the following nine reviews:

We also looked again at three outstanding issues from our 2017-18 follow-up:

Areas of progress

The past year has provided a challenging climate of uncertainty and disruption for UK aid. Considering this context, the government’s response to ICAI’s recommendations from its 2018-19 reviews has been, on the whole, positive. Two examples that stand out are:

  • DFID’s results in maternal health: DFID responded swiftly to ICAI’s concerns that the models it used to assess “maternal lives saved” were flawed.
  • The UK’s approach to funding the UN humanitarian system: After ICAI’s review, DFID conducted an internal review of core support to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which agreed with ICAI that CERF should be removed from the joint UN business case and collective payment by results approach. A standalone business case for CERF is being developed and is planned to be launched in 2020.

Areas requiring further follow-up

Of the nine reviews this year, four were given an inadequate score:

  • The Newton Fund, due to inadequate progress in addressing ICAI’s concerns over tied aid and attention to poverty reduction as the Fund’s primary purpose.
  • DFID’s approach to tendering and contract management (Procurement 2), as a result of DFID’s failure to put in place a formal contract management regime, despite the risks this entails for programme results.
  • CDC’s investments in low-income and fragile states. While CDC has put in place mechanisms and tools for improving its attention to development impact, the evidence is not yet clear that these are sufficiently shaping investment practices. CDC’s plans for opening and expanding country offices remain insufficiently ambitious, particularly in Africa.
  • The UK’s International Climate Finance (ICF). A new cross-departmental strategy for the ICF has not yet been published (the current strategy is from 2011). With the UK government hosting COP26 and having committed to doubling its spending on climate finance, the urgency of communicating the ICF strategic priorities to other donors and the UK public is higher now than when ICAI wrote its original recommendation.

We will return to the Newton Fund, CDC and Procurement 2 through the next follow-up. In addition, we will follow up on the progress on the new ICF strategy as part of our forthcoming review on UK aid to tackle biodiversity and deforestation.

We also keep open the option of returning to the maternal health review again if the publication of the Ending Preventable Deaths Action Plan and the Health Systems Strengthening Position Paper does not go ahead as planned later in 2020 or if they are of insufficient quality.

Cross-cutting themes

In this year’s follow-up review, we discuss three themes that affected the government response to our recommendations and which will continue to be salient in our current review programme:

  • steady (but reduced) progress on ICAI’s recommendations in a period of extensive disruption
  • the role of clear and consistently applied strategies in achieving development impact
  • challenges in improving central and country-level coherence in the government.