DFID’s approach to delivering impact
This report reviews ICAI’s previous 44 reports and looks at how well DFID ensures positive, long-term, transformative change across its work.
UK aid, at its best, makes a real and positive difference to the lives and livelihoods of people living in poverty around the world. Ensuring the best possible performance across a large and multifaceted aid programme is, however, a complex management challenge.
Strengthening results management has been a key priority for DFID in recent years. The department has recognised the importance of demonstrating its results to parliament and the public and has worked to ensure that value for money and accountability are built into its business processes. This focus has become known as the results agenda.
We found that the results agenda has helped to bring greater discipline in the measurement of results and greater accountability for the delivery of UK aid. These achievements have, however, involved some important trade-offs. Some of DFID’s tools and processes for measuring results have had the unintended effect of focussing attention on quantity of results over their quality.
DFID’s programmes have an average programme length of just three years. Transformational impact will, however, often be possible only over several programme cycles and this should be recognised explicitly in programme design. This is particularly the case in conflict-affected and fragile states.
Development programmes rarely achieve results in isolation. Coherence across programming is a key condition for maximising impact. DFID is still relatively weak at managing complex portfolios at the country or sector level, where impact on the ground needs to be aligned better with institutional progress and top-down policy change. We see this as an important area for improvement, in order to achieve mutually reinforcing results.
In order to maximise and make sustainable the impact which DFID aims to achieve, it also needs to ensure high quality engagement with the intended beneficiaries and manage risk more proactively and transparently.