ICAI follow-up review of 2017-18 reports

ICAI’s follow-up review looks at how well DFID and other government departments have responded to the recommendations made in our 2017-18 reviews.

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18 Jul 2019
Lead commissioner
Richard Gledhill

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 2017-18 follow-up summarises our findings for the following eight reviews:

We also looked again at four outstanding issues from our 2016-17 follow-up:

Areas of progress

While levels of progress varied, the response of the relevant government departments to the eight reviews followed up in this report was generally strong. Some improvements which stand out include:

  • The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) has made important progress instituting good aid practice, strengthening its ‘do no harm’ approach and accelerating learning.
  • DFID’s ambitious strategy for tackling stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities which is now included in all its programming.
  • The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) has developed strategic themes, set up research hubs and appointed challenge leaders, which is highly likely to improve the coherence of the Fund’s investments and the potential for development impact at scale.
  • The range of efforts by DFID, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and other government bodies to improve coordination and collaboration on tackling global health threats.

Areas requiring further follow-up

There are nevertheless areas of strategic significance where further follow-up next year will be beneficial:

  • It was too early to assess the government’s progress on the recommendations made in our governance review, so we will revisit all recommendations next year.
  • Although we saw significant improvements in many areas of the GCRF, we would like to return to four issues:
    • How the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) ensures overall accountability for the Fund.
    • How far the improvements in monitoring of ODA compliance will align the funding councils’ GCRF expenditure with the Fund’s strategic objectives and ensure value for money, and how BEIS monitors and ensures accountability for how block grants are spent.
    • How the newly created research hubs contribute to the potential development impact of the GCRF.
    • The effectiveness of the new cross-government Strategic Coherence for ODA-Funded Research Board in influencing the allocation and delivery of UK ODA funds for research and innovation over time.
  • Overall, we found good progress on the outstanding issues raised in last year’s follow-up on our irregular migration review. However, DFID has decided not to go ahead with plans for an independent evaluation of its flagship migration-related programme, the SSS II, relying instead on alternative arrangements for monitoring, rapid research and learning. Because this happened subsequent to our assessment, we plan to review these revised arrangements as part of next year’s follow-up.

Cross-cutting themes

The follow-up process also highlighted issues of strategic importance to UK aid spending that cut across many of our 2017-18 reviews. We will continue to monitor these in ongoing and future reviews:

  • Do no harm: We saw improvements in how UK aid actors adhere to the principle of ‘do no harm’ in several of the reviews covered by this year’s follow-up.
  • The changing profile of UK aid: Dual-purpose funds, which combine development and national interest goals and now spend a significant amount of UK aid, have made strong progress in developing systems and processes to ensure value for money and compliance with official development assistance (ODA) rules.
  • From targets to transformative change: After a period characterised by targets-based programming, there is now an increased focus on transformative results in DFID’s programming, such as promoting economic transformation and building equitable and sustainable public services to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.