The FCDO’s Programme Operating Framework

A rapid review assessing the effectiveness of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) Programme Operating Framework (PrOF) in support of the delivery of aid across FCDO’s diverse portfolio.

  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 27 April 2023
  3. Type: Rapid review
  4. Subject: Government processes and systems
  5. Lead commissioner: Tarek Rouchdy
  6. SDGs covered:Peace, justice and strong institutions

Read the review

Read the annotated bibliography


This review finds the newly implemented PrOF has been an important tool in managing aid programmes, but full levels of compliance and awareness are yet to be achieved. We made three recommendations.


  • The PrOF maintains important aid programme management practices developed by the former Department for International Development (DFID)
  • DFID’s Smart Rules have been simplified and updated and valuable new guidance added
  • The PrOF covers key aspects of good programme and risk management practices
  • The PrOF reflects the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) priorities and structure
  • The PrOF was rapidly developed as a minimum viable product to provide stability during the process of integration following the merger decision
  • Covering both official development assistance (ODA) and non-ODA programmes has advantages and disadvantages
  • The PrOF has not been fully adapted to the FCDO landscape of reducing aid budgets and smaller programmes
  • The PrOF document is not clearly written and risks distracting from the important content
  • The PrOF launch was low key and there are examples of internal support teams giving conflicting advice
  • PrOF training is available but not mandated, and uptake is low
  • FCDO’s programme management software is user-friendly and aligned to the PrOF, but not fully developed to support compliance
  • Programmes are not fully compliant with the PrOF and compliance is not systematically reported on or enforced
  • Without strong messaging and support from senior leadership, there is a risk of PrOF being viewed as a ‘tick box’ exercise
  • Accountabilities and responsibilities are more complicated than before the merger and were not well communicated
  • Learning has been built into the PrOF from the outset but focuses on those already engaged
  • FCDO has not engaged with other donors in updating the PrOF and has limited engagement with the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA)
  • FCDO’s programme management systems have the potential to support learning


  1. FCDO should set clear targets and timeframes for PrOF awareness and implementation at all levels of FCDO staff within the scope of the PrOF, especially among Heads of Mission and Directors who have portfolio-level responsibility.
  2. FCDO should prioritise developing its programme management software’s capability to provide timely management data on programme compliance, overall portfolio risk profile and performance to programme staff and Portfolio Senior Responsible Owners, which Centre for Delivery can monitor and Internal Audit can assess.
  3. FCDO should establish a comprehensive three- to five-yearly internal and external consultation process to focus on the PrOF’s clarity, relevance and accessibility, and to incorporate new learning and international good practice for delivering agile, accountable and impact-focused programmes that support the UK’s strategic objectives.


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Published 2 February 2023

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 27 April 2023

Government response

Published 13 June 2023

Further scrutiny

To be confirmed