DFID’s oversight of the EU’s aid to low-income countries

The EU is the world’s second-largest aid donor. In this review of DFID’s oversight of the UK’s contributions to EU aid – around £1.4 billion a year, 16% of DFID’s total aid spending – we have focused on the impact of EU aid in low-income countries.

Score: Amber/Red
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 11 December 2012
  3. Type: Other
  4. Subject: Multilateral spend
  5. Assessment: Amber/Red
  6. Location: Mozambique, Tajikistan, Uganda
  7. Lead commissioner: John Githongo

Read the review


This review focused on the impact of EU aid on the ground in low-income countries through three case studies: Mozambique, Tajikistan and Uganda. We awarded an amber-red score and made four recommendations.


We found that at a central policy level, DFID had a clear focus for its engagement with the EU, with evidence of DFID influencing EU policy. DFID, however, did not have the same level of assurance as it has from other multilateral partners such as the World Bank. This was important, given the substantial scale of the UK’s contribution and the limited discretion the UK has about the EU as a route for aid. The review also found that the quality of engagement between DFID country offices and EU delegations was variable at the country level. Because of this, DFID did not make full use of the potential combined impact of UK and EU funds.

The involvement of recipient governments in EU programmes, particularly on planning, was found to be clear. There was less evidence, however, of how intended beneficiaries were involved in the design and assessment of EU programmes. Weaknesses in the EU’s own performance management and results framework made an overall view of the impact of EU programmes difficult to achieve. The evidence from our case studies was mixed. There were some positive results but long-term impact and sustainability have not been demonstrated and exit strategies are not clear.


  1. DFID should set out clearly what action is needed and how long it will take to deliver the same level of assurance on its contributions to the EU as it achieves elsewhere. This should include improvements to the performance management of EU aid and better access to EU information.
  2. DFID should give better guidance to DFID country offices on how they should contribute to EU country strategies and to existing co-ordination forums, so as to ensure a better combined impact from UK and EU funds and a greater focus on actual EU performance.
  3. DFID should ensure that the EU secures ongoing input from intended beneficiaries and effective intelligence on what is needed on the ground, in order to inform and challenge dialogue with recipient governments.
  4. DFID should engage more actively on developing and driving through the EU’s planned improvement of its risk management processes, given the potential this has for improving the impact of EU aid.


Read the news story


Review publication

Published 11 December 2012

Government response

Published 8 May 2013

ICAI follow-up

Published 12 June 2014