Department for International Development: Aid to Malawi - Public Accounts Committee Contents


The overall aim of the Department for International Development (the Department) is to reduce poverty in poorer countries. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. The Department provided £312 million to Malawi between 2003-04 and 2007-08, rising to a planned £80 million by 2010-11.

The Department has contributed to progress in Malawi's development since 2003, such as reduced hunger and substantially improved capacity in the health system. And its programme complies with many internationally-agreed good practices. But the Department needs better measures to assess its contribution to Malawi's progress, and evidence of the value for money of its spending in Malawi is hard to find.

Much of the Department's programme is routed through the Government of Malawi's systems. The Department funds governance and scrutiny processes, but these are not yet fit for purpose. The Department needs to do more to strengthen governance in Malawi if it is to continue support through Government systems.

The Department's ability to drive improvement in the programmes it funds is limited by weaknesses in the information it has on their implementation and results, and not helped by a weak set of targets for its own performance. The Department has invested in improved data in Malawi, but data on the results or the efficiency of many of the programmes it funds remain weak. There are opportunities for the Department to drive improved value for money from the services it helps to fund in Malawi through quicker and more robust responses to emerging issues and results.

Across its network since 2004 the Department has faced the challenge of disbursing steeply rising amounts of aid with fewer staff to oversee it, as a result of cuts in its administration budget set by the Treasury. The Department has cut staff numbers in Malawi, and we question whether current staffing is sufficient. Areas where the Department needs to raise its game to demonstrate cost-effective aid management require more work at the sharp end, not less.

On the basis of a Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General,[1] we examined whether the Department has made good choices in Malawi, whether it has the information it needs to improve implementation of the programmes it helps to fund, and whether it is driving improved outcomes.

1   C&AG's Report, Aid to Malawi, HC (2008-09) 964 Back

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Prepared 26 January 2010