UK aid under pressure: a synthesis of ICAI findings from 2019 to 2023

This review draws together findings from ICAI reports published between August 2019 and August 2023, to look at how the aid programme has performed during a period with numerous internal and external challenges.

  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 13 September 2023
  3. Type: Other
  4. Subject: Cross-cutting, UK aid trends
  5. Assessment: Unrated
  6. Lead commissioner: Tamsyn Barton

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Drawing on findings from ICAI’s 17 full reviews, ten rapid reviews, seven information notes and four follow-up reviews, this report looks at the impact of the DFID/FCO merger and budget reductions on the UK’s capacity as a development partner and examines the expenditure patterns and strategic shifts that have emerged.


While the review does not make formal recommendations, ICAI suggests some key measures that could be taken in the coming years to restore the quality and reputation of UK aid, ensuring it is focused where it is most needed:

  • Reducing the volatility of the UK aid budget and facilitating a return to multi-annual planning, to restore the UK’s reputation as a reliable development partner.
  • Renewing FCDO’s commitment to ending extreme poverty and placing vulnerable people at the heart of its work, in keeping with the SDGs and the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’.
  • Restoring transparency and opportunities for internal and external challenge to the management of UK aid.
  • Protecting, rebuilding and making effective use of development expertise, including that of country-based staff.
  • Restoring the commitment to evidence-based decision-making that focuses on development outcomes.
  • Strengthening measures to prevent and tackle fraud and other risks in the delivery of UK aid so that aid reaches those who need it most.
  • Restoring the reliability and quality of UK engagement with key multilateral partners.
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