ICAI follow-up review of 2016-17 reports
ICAI’s follow-up review looks at how well DFID and other government departments have responded to our key findings and the recommendations we made in 2016-17 reviews.
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.
The 2016-17 follow-up summarises our findings for the following seven reviews:
- When aid relationships change: DFID’s approach to managing exit and transition in its development partnerships
- Accessing, staying and succeeding in basic education – UK aid’s support to marginalised girls
- The effects of DFID’s cash transfer programmes on poverty and vulnerability
- The cross-government Prosperity Fund
- The UK’s aid response to irregular migration in the central Mediterranean
- UK aid in a conflict-affected country: Reducing conflict and fragility in Somalia
- DFID’s approach to supporting inclusive growth in Africa
We also looked again at three outstanding issues from our 2015-16 follow-up:
- Violence against women and girls (VAWG): We revisited progress on mainstreaming VAWG initiatives into DFID sectoral programmes and other relevant security and justice initiatives.
- Fiduciary risk management: We looked into progress on strengthening oversight of implementers in complex delivery chains, and in improving transparency and oversight arrangements for multilateral agencies delivering bilateral programmes.
- Results management at country and departmental level: We considered progress on aggregating and reporting on development results above the programme level, drawing where relevant on findings from our review of DFID’s approach to value for money in programme and portfolio management.
Areas of progress
This year’s follow-up review highlighted a range of positive actions in response to our recommendations, leading to significant progress in a number of areas of UK aid, most notably:
- Managing the Prosperity Fund: The Treasury has extended the lifetime of the Prosperity Fund by two years, and slightly reduced its total planned spending from £1.3 billion to £1.22 billion.
- Marginalised girls’ education: DFID’s new education policy includes a strong focus on reaching marginalised girls. There is a stronger focus on equity in DFID’s new value for money guidance and DFID has made efforts to ensure the Girls’ Education Challenge is better aligned with its in-country programmes.
- Do no harm: In response to concerns raised in our reviews on Somalia, irregular migration and cash transfers, DFID has taken action to strengthen analysis of the drivers of conflict and human rights risks and has strengthened its risk management approach.
- Irregular migration: While DFID has not revisited existing programmes, its latest migration-labelled programming and research does explore the complex interactions between development and migration patterns.
- Inclusive growth: DFID is developing new diagnostic tools that address many of the concerns underpinning our recommendations.
Areas of concern
There were also a number of areas where the responses to our recommendations were weaker, or where implementation had not progressed as far as we would have expected, in particular:
- Cash transfers: We recommended that DFID scale up its contributions to cash transfer programmes where there is appropriate national government commitment. However, we perceived a move away from the direct funding of cash transfer programmes, and towards technical assistance to national government-funded schemes.
- Managing exit and transition from aid relationships: DFID has only recently begun to develop working principles for successful exits and transitions as part of its ‘strategic directions’ work.
- Sustaining the focus on marginalisation: Although DFID has made improvements to individual education programmes we criticised, it has not yet identified practical mechanisms for addressing inclusion more broadly in programmes not directly targeting marginalised groups.
- Monitoring and measuring results in the Prosperity Fund: While the Fund is currently in the process of developing portfolio-level results indicators, this is being done only after 19 business cases have already been approved, so it may not drive greater strategic focus and impact.
- Ensuring inclusion in economic development: We recommended that DFID strengthen its approach to inclusion in each country portfolio. DFID has not yet produced guidance or taken practical measures to address this challenge.
This follow-up process has highlighted three issues of strategic importance to UK aid spending that cut across many of our 2016-17 reviews:
- Leaving no one behind: Four of our seven reviews made recommendations related to the UK government’s commitment to embed the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ across its ODA programming. Our follow-up shows that further efforts are necessary to ensure that inclusion goals are integral to all UK aid initiatives, from the planning stage all the way through implementation.
- Learning: We issued learning-related recommendations in all of our 2016-17 reviews. DFID commissions a lot of high-quality research and analysis with important implications for programming. However, we often found it difficult to see how new knowledge is shared and translated into practical action. We also note that the new cross-government funds have struggled with setting up timely and robust monitoring, evaluation and learning practices.
- Non-DFID aid: Our Prosperity Fund review was the first of a series of reviews looking at aid spending by major cross-government funds. These reviews found that the funds face a steep learning curve, building up aid management capacity and developing, testing and bedding down processes to ensure that their work meets the high standards expected from UK aid. Scrutinising these funds and other non-DFID aid will continue to be an important focus for ICAI.
We will continue to monitor these in ongoing and future reviews.