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

4  Delivering more aid effectively with fewer staff

19.  Across its network of country offices 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.[56] The Department is planning to cut its total administration expenditure by £8.9 million between 2008-09 and 2010-11, largely through an £8 million reduction in staff costs.[57] The Treasury attempted to defend this position claiming that whilst it has reduced the Department's administrative resources, it is for the Department to make the necessary judgements as to where to make cuts. The Department in Malawi will know better than the Treasury in London, a telling admission on their part.[58] The Treasury has ring-fenced some resources for the Department's front-line administration costs overseas which they did not reduce at the same rate.[59] Overall, the Department contends that though struggling with the cost pressures it is coping pretty well. But other organisations perceive that staffing constraints have meant that the Department does not do the job as well as they think it should.[60] It also means that the Department has to rely more on weak local systems of assessment rather than on its own staff who would be better placed to account for the use made of public money.

20.  The Department's Malawi programme costs some £2.6 million to run in order to monitor £80 million of UK spending. Staff numbers have been cut from over 100 in 2004 to under 40 now, by better matching of staff to the nature of the programme and transferring project delivery work and staff to the Government of Malawi. The Department staff in Malawi questioned in an NAO survey whether current staffing is sufficient, and the implications of further reductions on management of the programme. The management of the Department's programme in Malawi told us they have the team to achieve what they need to.[61] The Department partly attributes the results of the NAO survey to a period of change in late 2008 when staff were demoralised,[62] but the NAO finding is consistent with wider surveys carried out by the Department indicating strain on staff and that people feel overloaded.[63]

56   Q 11 Back

57   The Department Annual Report and Resource Accounts 2008-09, Volume 1, p 69, Table 6 Back

58   Qq 11-16 Back

59   Q 86 Back

60   Q 76; Evidence to the Select Committee on International Development, 24 November 2009 Back

61   Q 76 Back

62   Qq 87-90; C&AG's Report, para 1.12 and 1.13 Back

63   The Department's Evidence to the Select Committee on International Development, 24 November 2009 Back

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