Select Committee on International Development Sixth Report


DFID and the Millennium Development Goals

1.     Care must be taken to ensure that the MDGs are not used excessively or inappropriately to drive DFID's activities and to set the framework for external accountability and monitoring (paragraph 10).

2.     It would be helpful if the Departmental Report included an explicit statement of DFID's objectives, as it has in previous years, rather than simply restating that DFID works in support of the MDGs (paragraph 10).

DFID's Public Service Agreement

3.     Given its importance in shaping DFID's internal structure, its relationships with external stakeholders, and its effectiveness, it is surprising that the Departmental Report fails to outline DFID's organisational structure. We recommend that subsequent Departmental Reports do this, and as a minimal step, at least include an organisation chart (paragraph 11).

4.     The Departmental Report fails to provide an analysis of spending either by Public Service Agreements objective or by MDG target. ..... In the absence of such information it is difficult to ensure that resources allocated to objectives, properly reflect Departmental policies and priorities. We are pleased that DFID has taken the opportunity offered by the Spending Round to define new PSA objectives against which it will be possible to map budget allocations more clearly. In addition, if the PSA is the clearest statement of its objectives, DFID ought to give serious consideration to structuring its Departmental Report around its PSA so as to make itself more accountable for progress towards its objectives. We would also like to know what would happen were DFID to fail to meet its PSA objectives (paragraph 18).

DFID's Resource Allocations: Sectoral targets and country planning

5.     The explanation given to us as to how DFID's resource allocation process works, fails to illuminate the extent to which DFID's resource allocation is driven by its stated policy objectives, a situation which is not improved by the lack of information about spending by sectoral objective in the Departmental Report. In addition, it says little about the role of historical inertia in determining resource allocations. We do trust that DFID seeks to spend its money wisely, but for the purposes of accountability, trust is not sufficient. We were pleased to hear DFID state: "we are currently reviewing our resource allocation system in order to identify how better we can relate resource allocation to our objectives and the MDGs" (paragraph 20.)

6.     We look forward to the inclusion in future Departmental Reports of information about the interplay between DFID's plans for realising its policy objectives—in part by attaching conditions to aid—and its support for locally-owned development strategies (paragraph 22).

The 2003-2006 Public Service Agreement and Country Assistance Plans

7.     We welcome the fact that DFID seeks to learn and develop as an organisation, and has been re-designing both its PSA and its country planning processes (paragraph 23).

8.     We accept that indicators sometimes need to be revised, but do have some concerns about the extent to which targets and objectives might be driven by data availability. We appreciate too that statistics need to be collected and assessments made even whilst data collection is not ideal. But, we do think that an important medium-term response to problems of data collection is to improve the capacity of developing countries to monitor progress towards the MDGs and associated targets and indicators. Future Departmental Reports might usefully include more information about what DFID is doing to build the capacity of developing countries in this regard. We will monitor closely DFID's selection and use of targets, and any changes to measurement methodologies (paragraph 24).

9.     We welcome the new PSA as a serious attempt to develop a set of objectives and we hope, increasingly SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed—targets which will both drive performance and facilitate accountability, and which will map onto DFID's evolving organisational structure. We also welcome the continued efforts to grapple with the issue of attribution. However, we do have some concerns about the focus on a limited number of countries. We are uncertain whether this is for measurement purposes, or whether this is part of a move to greater selectivity in the number of countries which DFID is involved in. There may well be good policy reasons—beyond making the measurement of progress more practicable—for a sharpening of DFID's focus; these should be re-iterated. We, along with DFID, also feel that a three-year time-frame does not provide a fair or realistic time-span within which to assess DFID's contribution to international development, and urge HM Treasury to think seriously about the suitability of such a framework for DFID. We also note with some concern the lack of targets or indicators as regards the effective response of multilateral agencies to humanitarian crises (paragraph 32).

10.   We welcome the inclusion of joint targets as a useful mechanism to encourage the joined up Government which international development so clearly demands (paragraph 33).

11.   We applaud the development of Country Assistance Plans as an attempt to fill the "missing middle", and welcome the integration of CAPs with PRSPs and the implicit recognition that DFID needs to engage with different countries in different ways (paragraph 35).

DFID's Portfolio of Countries: Country selection and the nature of engagement

12.   Historical links and organisational inertia are not good reasons to be involved in a particular country; we are pleased that DFID is thinking about concentrating its efforts in a smaller number of countries (paragraph 39).

13.   We expect subsequent Departmental Reports to provide clear information about DFID's assessment of its comparative advantage, its portfolio of countries, and the extent and nature of DFID's involvement in particular countries. We would also welcome further information about how DFID determines which countries will graduate from one form of development assistance to another, and ultimately beyond development assistance (paragraph 39).

14.   We were fascinated to hear about the Russian competition for aid. We feel that the wider use of such an approach, with selection criteria made explicit, might help to focus recipients' minds on why the UK is offering development assistance, and what potential partners are expected to deliver in return (paragraph 45).

15.   We support the move towards budget support where suitable partners can be found, and outcomes—closely aligned to the MDGs—can be reliably predicted (paragraph 58).

16.   We would like to see more information on the use of budgetary support contained with the annual Departmental Report and suggest that next year's Departmental Report provides a breakdown in the bilateral allocations between money given through direct budget support and allocations for programmes and projects (paragraph 58).

17.   We were interested to hear about DFID's decision-making processes as regards involvement in all the cases mentioned; Latin America, the Sahel, Nigeria, Russia, Mozambique, Uganda and Kenya. We would welcome the inclusion of similar material in future Departmental Reports. Such information improves DFID's accountability by demonstrating the link between DFID's objectives and spending plans, and by making more explicit DFID's overall strategy. In addition, by facilitating open discussion and learning about what works, a move in this direction might help to improve DFID's effectiveness (paragraph 59).

Monitoring and Evaluation for Accountability and Learning

18.   The various tiers of monitoring and evaluation—of the international development system, of DFID as a whole, and of DFID's specific interventions—should be well-integrated, with monitoring of progress towards top-tier targets such as the MDGs informing bottom-tier data collection, and data collected at the bottom-tier feeding into the monitoring of top-tier targets. This is currently not the case (paragraph 60).

19.   DFID faces major problems in collecting the data needed to monitor progress against the MDGs, and has made the first step towards addressing this issue by recognising its importance. We urge DFID to continue its work with developing countries, other donors, the World Bank and the OECD, to improve the provision of statistics on international development in both the short and longer term, and to provide progress reports in future Departmental Reports (paragraph 65).

20.   We welcome the fact that DFID plans to increase its spending on evaluation from £1.136 million in 20001/02 to £1.625 million in 2003/04. We are also glad to hear that DFID has commissioned an independent evaluation to address comprehensively for the first time the question of "How effective is DFID?", and look forward to its publication. But, evaluation must itself be made more effective. We join with the Public Accounts Committee in recommending joint evaluations, and in urging a closer relationship between country teams and the evaluation unit, to ensure that lessons are learnt and implemented quickly and effectively. In addition, to ensure the independence of evaluation—something which we have previously asked of the European Commission—we urge DFID, first, to increase the proportion of evaluations conducted by external evaluators, and, secondly to ensure that the results of all of its evaluations are made publicly available without undue delay. Above all, careful thought must be given to the ways in which the monitoring of DFID's progress against the top-level MDG targets can be more closely integrated with the monitoring of DFID's individual programmes and projects (paragraph 68).

21.   In oral evidence, no mention was made of DFID's Performance Reporting Information System for Management (PRISM). This makes us question whether PRISM is being used effectively for the monitoring of DFID's development activities, and if not, when this system will be implemented fully (paragraph 69).

Conclusions: The missing middle

22.   The Departmental Report fails to make DFID's strategy—the ways in which it integrates the cycle of development policy and practice, and the role it identifies for itself within the international system—sufficiently clear (paragraph 71).

23.   It is our belief that by setting out more clearly its strategy and distinctive role, DFID will become more accountable, and—by facilitating learning and improving its organisational performance—make itself a better partner and a more effective development agency (paragraph 72).

24.   We expect next year's Departmental Report to make further progress towards the goal of providing clear answers to the following questions:

·   What are DFID's objectives and how is the achievement of these objectives expected to contribute to the achievement of the MDGs?

·   What resources does DFID have to achieve its objectives, and how have these resources been allocated, both by objective and by country?

·   What is DFID's model of poverty and of the obstacles to achieving its poverty reduction objective, and how does this model inform DFID's policy, activities and spending?

·   What activities has DFID been engaged in in pursuit of its objectives, and where, and what have been the results of these activities?

·   How does DFID monitor and evaluate its activities and their contribution to achieving the MDGs, and test and develop its model of poverty and its overall strategy for the elimination of poverty? (paragraph 73).

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 14 November 2002