DFID’s governance work in Nepal and Uganda

DFID’s governance work in Nepal and Uganda is tailored to the country contexts and largely achieving its intended outcomes, but needs a stronger strategic orientation and approach to learning.

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22 Jun 2018
Green - Amber
Lead commissioner
Tina Fahm
Governance and Rights
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Approach paper

How countries are governed has a major influence on their progress towards poverty reduction and development. More stable, effective and accountable governance is both an objective in its own right and a means of achieving broader development goals, including in areas such as economic development, health, education and climate change.

Governance programming is designed to improve the quality of institutions and governance processes in developing countries. In 2016, DFID spent £537 million on bilateral governance programming to help strengthen areas such as budgeting and public expenditure management, the electoral process, media, courts, police, local government and civil society. It aims to make governments more responsive and accountable, build organisational capacity to promote development, and to strengthen processes for the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Scope and methodology

In this performance review, we explore the relevance and effectiveness of DFID’s support to strengthening governance in two countries, Nepal and Uganda – with a total expenditure of £127 million and £94 million respectively – from 2009 to 2017. We look at the relevance of DFID’s governance work to individual country contexts and the priorities of the UK aid programme, the effectiveness of existing governance work and how well it adapts to learning.

We chose to focus this review on just two countries in order to allow for in-depth exploration of the quality of assistance and results in a broad area of programming. This also allowed us to explore results over a longer period time, and meant we could look at several cycles of programming, in recognition that governance results may take time to emerge.

While the two country studies are not representative of DFID’s governance portfolio as a whole, we expect that many of the issues explored here will have wider significance.

Our review is limited to DFID, which spends 79% of total UK governance aid globally.


  • DFID’s approach to its governance work is relevant, with clear evidence that it is tailoring the initial design of its programming to country contexts.
  • It is less clear how DFID governance programmes are intended to work together to achieve more transformational impact.
  • DFID’s individual governance programmes in Nepal and Uganda have mostly achieved their intended objectives.
  • However, it is difficult to judge the portfolio–level performance in the two countries because of deficits in monitoring and evaluation, and a lack of country-level strategic objectives.
  • Sustained engagement with particular thematic areas or institutions over multiple programme cycles has produced strong results and is in line with current thinking on good practice.
  • However, DFID’s programme management practices do not necessarily demonstrate sustained engagement and flexible and adaptive ways of working.
  • DFID governance advisers provide advice and support on the governance aspects of programming in other sectors, but could provide more ongoing support on managing complex institutional change.
  • DFID needs to focus more on capturing learning during programme delivery, to support effective adaptive management.


  • DFID should articulate in more detail its strategic approach to governance at country level, and make more use of scenario planning and risk management tools to support portfolio management in volatile contexts. Its strategies should consider and articulate the desired balance of risk and return across its governance portfolios.
  • DFID should identify areas where sustained engagement is likely to be required to generate the desired results, and invest in long-term relationships with key counterparts, while maintaining the flexibility to scale individual activities up and down as appropriate.
  • DFID should maximise value from its governance cadre by increasing the amount of time governance advisers have available to spend on technical inputs (including into other sector programmes) and external influencing and engagement, rather than programme management and administrative tasks.
  • DFID should continue to develop the capacity of its governance cadre, including by: (i) making better use of the knowledge and experience of staff appointed in country; (ii) posting home civil service staff for longer periods in country; (iii) increasing diversity in terms of experience, backgrounds and local knowledge; (iv) placing more weight on practical delivery experience in its recruitment.
  • DFID should use evaluation more to test the validity of key propositions underlying its governance programmes and portfolios (for example that support for marginalised groups reduces conflicts). It should increase its investment in learning within programmes, and make sure the lessons are used to inform the management of country portfolios and programmes.

Government response

The government publishes a response to all ICAI reviews. The government response is available to read online.

International Development Committee

Parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC), or its ICAI sub-committee, hold hearings on all ICAI reviews. The IDC hearing into DFID’s governance work in Nepal and Uganda is available to watch online.

ICAI’s follow-up

ICAI follows up on all of its reviews to check what progress has been made since publication. ICAI’s governance follow-up is available to read now.