UK aid spending during COVID-19: management of procurement through suppliers

Aid-spending government departments worked flexibly with suppliers to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their work, but lack of transparency about the government’s new aid priorities hampered delivery, and the long-term impact of the cuts to the UK aid programme remains to be seen.

  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 4 December 2020
  3. Type: Information note
  4. Subject: Government processes and systems
  5. Assessment: Unrated
  6. Lead commissioner: Sir Hugh Bayley

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We published our information note on the management of procurement through UK aid suppliers during COVID-19 in December 2020. We identified four lines of inquiry that merit further scrutiny.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on UK aid, requiring a reprioritisation of resources for urgent public health, social protection and humanitarian responses across a large number of developing countries. This coincided with a significant reduction in the 2020 aid budget resulting from a fall in the UK’s gross national income (GNI).

This information note explores how government prioritised the aid programme to meet the urgent health and humanitarian needs faced by developing countries as a result of the pandemic, allocating nearly £800 million of new aid to respond to the challenge. Separately, the sharp fall in projected gross national income (GNI) resulted in £2.9 billion of cuts to the aid budget and the cancellation, pausing or postponement of ongoing and planned programmes – with major implications for suppliers and those receiving aid.

As an information note, it does not make evaluative judgments or make recommendations. Instead, it provides insights and transparency about a key period of decision-making.

Work on the note was completed before the announcement in the November Spending Review reducing the aid budget to 0.5% of GNI in 2021.



Published 29 October 2020

Evidence gathering


Information note publication

Published 4 December 2020

Further scrutiny

Details to be confirmed