DFID’s approach to anti-corruption and its impact on the poor

Corruption is a fundamental issue that affects the everyday lives of the very poorest and hinders efforts to lift countries out of poverty. This report focuses on DFID’s efforts to reduce corruption as experienced by the poor.

Score: Amber/Red
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 31 October 2014
  3. Type: Other
  4. Subject: Anti-corruption, tax avoidance and fiduciary risk
  5. Assessment: Amber/Red
  6. Location: Nepal, Nigeria
  7. Lead commissioner: Mark Foster

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The Department for International Development (DFID) recognises corruption as a critical development challenge but it has not developed an approach equal to the challenge, or focused its efforts on the poor. As a result of these findings, we have given a rating of amber-red and made five recommendations.


DFID recognises corruption as a critical development challenge and seeks to tackle it through direct and indirect activities. At the global level DFID, has shown leadership on important activities to tackle corruption including an intention to establish a new strategy and programming, although this is only in its very early stages.

DFID has not, however, developed an approach equal to the challenge, nor has it focused its efforts sufficiently on people living in poverty. While some programmes show limited achievements, there is little evidence of impact on corruption levels or in meeting the particular needs of those living in poverty.

DFID’s willingness to engage in programming that explicitly tackles corruption is often constrained by political sensitivity in country. It is not capturing and applying lessons learned.

We saw very little evidence DFID’s work to combat corruption is successfully addressing the impact of corruption as it is experienced by the poor. Indeed, there is little indication that DFID has sought to address the forms of corruption that most directly affect the poorest in societies, so called ‘petty’ corruption. This is a gap in DFID’s programming that needs to be filled.

The UK should take an ambitious stance with respect to tackling corruption around the world as experienced by people who live in poverty. We have recommended that DFID should develop an approach to fighting corruption that will be an integral part of the UK government’s wider efforts.


  1. DFID, in conjunction with the FCO and other UK Government departments, should articulate and implement a detailed plan setting out the level of ambition, commitment and positioning of the UK with respect to tackling corruption in its priority countries, including as experienced by the poor.
  2. DFID should develop standalone anti-corruption country strategies and, in addition to its current activities, programming that explicitly tackles corruption and that extends over a 10- to 15-year time horizon with short-, medium- and long-term goals for reducing corruption, particularly with respect to the poor.
  3. DFID should include in its expanded anti-corruption portfolio many more programmes which specifically target the everyday corruption experienced by the poor and educate the population about the ill effects of corruption.
  4. DFID should gather and publish targeted and dynamic feedback from the stakeholders of its anti-corruption work, including the intended beneficiaries, to allow DFID to ‘spot check’ and correct its existing programmes and to inform new programming.
  5. DFID should create an internal embedded centre of excellence explicitly to focus on anti-corruption and to gather evidence of effectiveness, disseminate lessons learned and cultivate expertise that will drive anti-corruption efforts globally.


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Review publication

Published 31 October 2014

Government response

Published 28 November 2014

ICAI follow-up

Published 30 June 2016