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 the Department for International Development (DFID) in the current aid landscape.

Score: Amber/Red
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 16 November 2016
  3. Type: Performance review
  4. Subject: Transitioning development partnerships
  5. Assessment: Amber/Red
  6. Location: Burundi, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Vietnam
  7. Lead commissioner: Francesca Del Mese

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We awarded an amber-red score and made four recommendations after finding unsatisfactory achievement in most areas of relevance and effectiveness, with particularly poor achievement in learning when we reviewed the Department for International Development’s (DFID) approach to managing exit and transition in its development partnerships.


Our review found that in several cases DFID had not specified clear objectives for its new development partnerships or detail on how those partnerships 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, we 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


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Published 26 May 2016

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 16 November 2016

Government response

Published 16 February 2017

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 14 December 2016

ICAI follow-up

Completed 29 June 2018