When aid relationships change: DFID’s approach to managing exit and transition in its development partnerships

Managing the transition from traditional aid to new kinds of development partnerships is increasingly important for DFID in the current aid landscape.

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16 Nov 2016
Amber - Red
Lead commissioner
Francesca Del Mese
Beyond aid, Multisector
Related documents
Approach paper

ICAI examined how well the Department for International Development managed the process of ending bilateral aid, or transitioning to new forms of development partnerships in seven countries.

The review found that in several cases the department had not specified clear objectives for its new development partnership or detail on how that partnership would work, and that the process was not well communicated – within recipient countries or to the UK public.

The review also found examples of poor planning which led to weaknesses in a number of areas including staffing and relationship management.

In each country the end to financial aid did not necessarily mean an end to all forms of aid, with flows including technical assistance, centrally managed programmes and spending by departments other than DFID continuing.

Overall, ICAI awarded DFID’s performance on exiting and transitioning from development partnerships an ‘Amber-Red’ – requiring significant improvement.


Based on its review, ICAI made a series of recommendations for improving DFID’s performance for future transitions and exits:

  • DFID should establish a central point of responsibility for exit and transition and redress the lack of central policy, guidance and lesson learning. In future cases, it should articulate clearer objectives at the strategic and operational levels and make more consistent use of implementation plans.
  • DFID and other UK government departments should work together to improve relationship management with bilateral government partners through transition. This should include joint risk management and more coordinated communications.
  • DFID should report and be accountable to UK taxpayers regarding commitments to end aid or change aid relationships in a transparent manner. It should state clearly which parts of aid spending will end and which will continue, and this information should be readily accessible to the public.
  • During exit and transition, DFID should assess the likely consequences for local civil society partners, including both financial and other impacts, and decide whether to support them through the transition process.

Government response

The government publishes a response to all ICAI reviews. You can read the government’s response to our transition review online.

International Development Committee

Parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC), or its ICAI sub-committee, hold hearings on all ICAI reviews. You can watch the IDC hearing on transition online.

ICAI’s follow-up

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