Tackling fraud in UK aid

The government’s approach to managing fraud in the aid programme is broadly relevant and effective – but more can be done to find fraud cases by improving oversight and intelligence sharing across aid-spending departments, and streamlining and enhancing whistleblowing systems.

  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 8 April 2021
  3. Type: Rapid review
  4. Subject: Anti-corruption, tax avoidance and fiduciary risk
  5. Lead commissioner: Tarek Rouchdy

Read the approach summary paper

Our approach

This review assesses the extent to which the UK government takes a robust approach to tackling fraud in its aid spending. We explored how departments prevent, detect, investigate, sanction and report on fraud in their aid delivery chains, and how they decided how to balance and manage fraud risk within portfolios, programmes and projects. The review also explored how departments have evolved their approaches to tackling fraud, with increasing amounts of UK aid being spent across government departments in recent years, and the extent to which lessons have been learned and applied to their guidance, systems and practices. In particular, it focuses on understanding why so little fraud is detected compared to other areas of public spending.

The review aims to provide timely and useful insights following the establishment of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and as departments adjust to changes in fraud risk following the COVID-19 pandemic.

It focuses on the five government departments allocated more than £100 million of ODA in 2019-20: DFID, the Foreign Office (FCO), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

As a rapid review, it is not scored.

Review questions

We sought to answer the following review questions:

  1. Relevance: To what extent do departments have systems, processes, governance structures, resources and incentives in place to manage risks to their ODA expenditure from fraud?
  2. Effectiveness: How effectively do departments prevent, detect and investigate fraud at portfolio, individual programme delivery and partner levels?
  3. Learning: How effectively do departments capture and apply learning in the development of their systems and processes for fraud risk management in their aid programmes?

Call for evidence

As part of the evidence gathering process, ICAI explored why low levels of fraud are reported and we wanted to hear from individuals or organisations that have been involved in the delivery of UK aid in any way through a short survey. This survey closed on Sunday 8th November 2020.


Read the annotated bibliography



Published 9 October 2020

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 8 April 2021

Government response

Expected spring 2021

Parliamentary scrutiny

Details to be confirmed

ICAI follow-up

Details to be confirmed