UK aid spending during Covid-19: management of procurement

An information note on the management of procurement for UK aid during COVID-19.


The ongoing 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).

In March 2020, the government announced a four-point plan for the UK’s international response. Their priorities were:

  1. Ensuring a strong and co-ordinated global health response, particularly for the most vulnerable countries
  2. Accelerating the search for a vaccine, better testing and effective treatments
  3. Enabling an effective economic response globally, keeping open trade routes and supply chains
  4. Supporting British nationals abroad, particularly to help them return home.

To support these objectives, some UK aid expenditure was reprioritised and resources were reallocated. This included the pausing or slowing down of some planned activities.


This information note will focus on the government’s approach to procurement with commercial suppliers and NGOs in response to the pandemic, between January and September 2020. It will explore how the UK’s management of procurement of UK aid programming reflected its stated international priorities, including to minimise the impact of the pandemic on developing countries and the most vulnerable populations, and to minimise disruption to the supply chains needed for the delivery of UK aid.

It will look at what actions were taken to ensure value for money through the procurement process, taking into consideration constraints on competitive procurement during the period, the need for supplier diversity and management of risks.

It will also look at what measures were taken to maintain supplier capacity and explore how those responsible for procurement over this period are learning and adapting as the pandemic progresses.

As an information note, it will not make evaluative judgments or make recommendations. Instead, it will provide insights and transparency about a key period of decision-making. The impact of the reduction in GNI on the aid budget and the COVID-19 response through multilateral organisations will not be covered.


We expect this information note to be published in December 2020.

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