2 Expenditure |
The UK's Official Development
Assistance: key developments
Figure 1: The Department's spending in 2011-12
4. Total UK Official Development Assistance is
increasing. It grew in cash terms by 2.1% in 2011 to £8,629
million, with the Department accounting for £7,716 million
(89% of the total).
In 2013 ODA is due to reach 0.7% of GNI, which is currently
estimated to be £11.3 billion (a reduction of £254 million
from the Autumn Statement 2011). DFID's budget in 2013-14 will
be £10.765 million. DFID's expenditure is split between
its bilateral programme , mainly spent through DFID's country
offices and multilateral organisations such as the World Bank
and the EU (see Figure 1).
5. The NAO analysis of DFID's expenditure produced
a number of findings which suggest that the challenge of spending
an increasing budget was affecting DFID's ability to achieve value
for money: notably, that the Department had to reschedule planned
spending from future years and that the proportion of the bilateral
budget which is being spent through multilateral organisations
6. The NAO analysis also shows that DFID has
switched spending from low to middle income countries and that
there were great discrepancies between planned and actual expenditure
in key areas such as the MDGs, Global Partnerships, climate change
and wealth creation.
Increased spending at the end
RESCHEDULING PAYMENTS FROM 2012 INTO
7. The Department manages its spending so that
planned levels of UK ODA can be achieved, but during the last
quarter of 2011, to increase UK ODA to the planned level of 0.56
per cent of gross national income, the Department rescheduled
into 2011 payments planned for 2012 worth £450 million, for
example rescheduling a payment to the World Bank's International
Development Association planned for April 2012 to 2011,
and increased lifetime spending on other projects by £130
8. Officials explained that events arose 'that
mean we have to rephrase or juggle when programmes come on stream
or the rate at which we implement them'.
The key to doing this in a way that balances value
for money and annual spending limits and targets is about having
enough contingency and enough activity in the programme, so that
when some activities fall away, which they always do every year-one
thing we know about every year's spend is some activities you
thought would happen at the start of the year will not happen-
enough other things are on stream that represent good value for
money and deliver good results.'
9. We were assured that DFID would
not take decisions that we believe are poor value
for money simply to hit a target. If we are surprised and the
level of our contingency planning is insufficient to deal with
changes in the real world, the casualty of that, in terms of the
advice I provide, will be the target rather than the quality of
SPENDING THE INCREASE IN BUDGET IN
A COST-EFFECTIVE MANNER
10. DFID argued that it was able to spend
the large increase in its 2013-14
budget efficiently and effectively. It had built a strong 'pipeline'
of projects and programmes to deliver in 2013 and 2014. It
had recruited 500 people over the last eighteen months 'to provide
technical expertise on the front-line'. The Department therefore
had the time and the right people to develop an effective 'pipeline'
of projects. DFID had
ensured the pipeline was of good quality by improving its 'business
processes to drive value for money'.
11. When the NAO conducted its research for us
in autumn 2012, the Department had projects in place which it
estimated would account for around 75% of its 2013-14 programme
budget and 60% of its 2014-15 programme budget. In addition the
Department was developing other potential projects.
The Department subsequently provided a paper in [December] showing
that the value of approved projects and projects it was currently
designing (if subsequently approved) would account for nearly
100% of DFID's budget for the next two years (98.2% programmed
for 2012-13; 98.9% for 2013-14; and 97.0% for 2014-15).
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A DEVELOPMENT
12. We questioned officials as to whether a development
bank, along the lines of the Agence Francaise de Développement,
would ensure that DFID was not so constrained by the need
to ensure that cash was spent by the end of the calendar year.
The bank would also, more importantly, provide DFID with mechanisms
which would put it in a better position to meet future challenges.
such as offering concessional loans alongside grants. The bank
could follow the model used by the French development agency
whereby a 'development bank' operates within the organisation.
13. We received a very positive response from
the Permanent Secretary:
the development bank concept-this is just a personal
comment-that is a really interesting idea for us to look at in
general terms. We have a narrower suite of instruments, ways of
providing support for development, than some other donors do.
From time to time, it is worth asking if we should explore a wider
range of instruments. Next year, in a way, is not a bad year to
be having a look at that, because the goals for international
development with the post-MDG Panel, the G8 and so on will evolve
14. From 2013 the UK will be
increasing ODA to 0.7%. It is vital that this money is spent cost-effectively.
At the end of 2011 the Department took action to boost calendar
year spending by £580 million and thus hit the UK's ODA target.
The Permanent Secretary told us that the Department would not
take decisions which did not represent good Value For Money.
DFID should miss ODA calendar year spending targets where there
are delays or cancellations to its planned projects and it does
not have alternatives which provide good value for money.
15. The establishment of a Development
Bank would not only mean that DFID was not so constrained by the
need to ensure that cash was spent by the end of the year, but
also, more importantly, would provide DFID with a mechanism to
offer concessional loans and put it in a better position to meet
future challenges, including its engagement with middle income
Increase in spending on multilaterals
and reduction in aid to recipient governments
Figure 2: The Department's bilateral expenditure
by type of aid, 2007-8 to 2011-12
1. Financial aid to recipient governments in
2011-12 comprised £242 million of General Budget Support,
£294 million of Sector Budget Support and £545 million
of other financial aid, which includes projects and programmes
not classified as poverty reduction budget support.
Source: NAO presentation of data from the Department
for International Development, Statistics
On International Development 2007-08 - 2011-12, October
16. The Department's overall level of expenditure
in 2011-12 was £7,682 million, which was similar in cash
terms to 2010-11 levels. The proportions of the Department's spending
going as core funding to multilateral organisations (i.e. multilateral
aid) increased from 38% in 2007-08 to 42% in 2011-12. There
has also been a major switch in how bilateral aid is spent since
2007-08 with a considerable increase in the amount going through
multilateral organisations. (see Figure 2). This is now the largest
element of the Department's bilateral programme.
Funding to multilateral organisations totalled £4,900 million
in 2011-12 with £1,650 million from the bilateral programme
and £3,250 million in core funding.
Thus almost two-thirds of DFID's spending goes through multilateral
THE DECLINE IN BUDGET SUPPORT
17. Financial aid to recipient governments used
to be the largest element of the Department's bilateral programme,
but it is now at its lowest level for five years due to reductions
in general budget support.
|Changes in the value of general and sector budget support
|Country||2010-11 Budget Support (£ million)
||2011-12 Budget Support (£ million)
|General budget support
| Pakistan || 30.0
| Malawi || 19.0
| Ghana || 36.0
| Zambia || 32.8
| Uganda || 27.2
| Tanzania || 103.5
| Mozambique || 48.2
| Vietnam || 20.0
| Rwanda || 35.8
| Sierra Leone || 8.0
|Total General budget support
Sector budget support
|| 14.0 ||-47%
|| 21.4 ||-25%
|| 38.0 ||17%
|| 132.8 ||40%
|| 46.0 ||84%
|| 14.0 ||100%
|| 23.2 ||120%
|Total Sector budget support
|| 283.3|| 294.4
|Source: NAO presentation of Departmental data
18. UKAN/BOND were concerned that
since 2008-09 DFID has been moving away from 'aid
modalities' (ie. the way in which aid is provided by donors) that
promote country ownership - a strong determinant of aid effectiveness
and the first Busan principle. ...Large reductions in general
budget support (GBS), have only partly been compensated for by
increases in sector budget support.
The organisations recommended that the decline in
the use of budget support be reversed.
19. We asked the Permanent Secretary why DFID
was reducing budget support and was passing money over to multilateral
organisations to deliver what were effectively bilateral programmes:
whether it was the most effective way of achieving DFID's objectives,
whether it was because administration costs could be off-loaded
or whether it was 'a way of just getting the money out' because
the Department could not 'spend it fast enough'. In response,
we were told that the main reason was that progress had been made
on the UK Government's four objectives for the use of budget support
when it was introduced just over a decade previously. The Permanent
Secretary told us these objectives were:
i) to help countries stabilise
their macro economy
ii) to provide more financing
for the recurrent costs of developing countries' budgets, "so
they could pay the teachers and health workers needed to achieve
those MDGs in countries where the tax base is very small"
iii) to try to promote improvement
in public financial management and public expenditure management
iv) to reduce the transaction
costs between governments and the donors.
20. He reported "very good progress"
on the first two and "some progress" on the second two,
and said that "because we have made that progress, there
is a smaller need for general budget support".
We pressed him on why in countries like Ghana, Zambia and Tanzania,
where budget support had worked quite well, DFID had reduced it.
We were told that:
in Ghana, the economy has grown substantially over
the last 10 years and the tax base has increased, but also
they have oil coming on stream, so they are less reliant for funding
their recurrent cost budget on general budget support.
The economy in Zambia has grown very substantially,
but that has not translated by the degree everybody would
have wanted in either strengthening the budgetary position or
reducing poverty. We also, like you, have a number of concerns
about the composition of the budget in Zambia, especially over
the maize subsidy.
need to engage in a continuing
way with the Zambians on building the tax base and improving the
use of their own tax resources.
Tanzania is again a different case. The economy has
grown very substantially
. The tax base has grown pari passu
with that. They do finance a lot more of their own recurrent budget
now than used to be the case.
Accordingly, we do less general
budget support and sector budget support actually, and we are
programming to do less still over the years ahead.
21. The Permanent Secretary said a "subsidiary
reason" for reducing the use of budget support was the Department's
increasing focus on fragile and conflict-affected states, where
it was often not sensible to provide budget support.
22. DFID stressed that there were other mechanisms
than budget support in fragile and conflict-affected states where
Government to Government aid was not appropriate.
The Permanent Secretary set out three alternatives to budget support:
The first route is to give more grants to NGOs. The
second route is to use private-sector contractors. The third is
to work with multilateral organisations, design programmes with
them and use them as an implementing channel. 
We will discuss the first and third of these alternative
options in this section, and the second later on in this report
in the section on consultants.
OBSTACLES TO MAKING MORE USE OF NGOS
23. Regarding the first option, we questioned
DFID about the obstacles to making more use of NGOs and whether
some of the procedures the Department used, such as the Logframe
process, were too
bureaucratic and difficult for smaller NGOseven though
these organisations might provide the best value for money. Richard
Calvert of DFID told us:
for small organisations that may be new to using
a Logframe, it can be a bit daunting. Mostly we have tried to
offer advice ourselves, provide structured training and also not
to necessarily knock back a project just because an organisation
does not get it right first time.
DFID'S INCREASING SPENDING THROUGH
24. The third method of re-directing money that
might previously have been allocated as budget support also interested
us. As we said above, almost two-thirds of DFID's budget now goes
to multilateral organisations. On our overseas visits we have
often been struck by the lack of effectiveness of some multilateral
25. Multilaterals have higher administrative
costs than DFID. The Department provided us with information on
multilateral administration costs (see Appendix1) and trends (See
Appendix 2). This information is based on a review of annual reports,
budgets, audited/unaudited financial statements and dedicated
administration cost papers. DFID stressed that
due to a number of caveats, these figures were approximations.
The nature of the work carried out by different organisations
varies and this has implications for administration costs. Staff
costs are a large proportion of administration costs and as such
organisations that do a lot of policy/advocacy work as opposed
to programmes/projects tend to have higher administration costs
- but this will depend on how the organisation defines admin costs
as some organisations will only count the costs associated with
the programme/project work that they do. These organisations
also tend to require specialist/niche staff input which can be
expensive. Other organisations manage funds and do relatively
less policy or implementation work and as such require relatively
less staff input, which contributes to lower administration costs.
Despite these caveats, DFID believe this is the
best information currently available and provides a reasonable
indication of the extent of administration costs across these
26. DFID is working with other donors to establish
a cross-donor consensus on these issues and to encourage a more
systematic approach to cost classification and reporting. This
is a priority for DFID for the first half of 2013 and it is working
with the USA on a joint paper for a Senior Donor Level Meeting.
27. The Permanent Secretary emphasised that reducing
the costs and improving the effectiveness of multilaterals was
a priority for DFID, adding that there had been improvements,
e.g. at UNICEF and UNDP.
28. About two-thirds of DFID's
expenditure in 2011-12, including nearly 40% of the Department's
bilateral expenditure (spending through country offices), went
through multilateral organisations. This represents a major change
in recent years and has been accompanied by a decline in general
budget support to recipient Governments. DFID should carefully
examine its growing multilateral expenditure and ensure that it
has thoroughly examined other options such as greater use of local
NGOs and sector budget support, especially as multilaterals have
high costs and too often limited effectiveness. We recommend that
DFID provide an annual report on the progress it is making on
reducing the administration costs of multi-lateral agencies through
cross-donor consensus. We commend DFID for demonstrating leadership
in analysing multilateral costs and seeking to reduce them. We
also welcome the Permanent Secretary's willingness to look at
making more use of 'sector' budget support.
29. We also recommend that DFID
- develop specific strategies
for engaging with NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs)
which ensure that the Department's bureaucratic procedures
and funding mechanisms facilitate partnerships with effective,
smaller NGOs and CSOs;
- ensure that there is an effective
'access point' for smaller NGOs and CSOs to make it easier for
them to engage with DFID; and
- provide clear guidance to country
staff regarding its expectations for working with smaller
NGOs and CSOs.
The switch of non-humanitarian
bilateral aid from low income to middle income countries
30. The proportion of the Department's non-humanitarian
bilateral aid going to low income countries fell by 15 percentage
points to 65% (£1,709 million) in 2011-12.
This reduction has been caused in part because several former
low income countries with a large number of poor people have recently
become middle-income countries. We were told that DFID:
had decided to focus more
resources on countries
that formerly might not have been classified as low income, like
Nigeria or Pakistan, but in fact have a massive share of the remaining
MDG burden...In northern Nigeria, Pakistan and other countries
is very extreme poverty, even though they may be getting above
some of those thresholds in terms of per capita income. We are
not sure those thresholds are
necessarily the best
measure to determine what we should do,
We are not targeting
a particular number for the proportion to go to low income countries
at the moment, essentially because we think there are other more
31. However, while spending on some countries
with large numbers of poor people such as Nigeria and Pakistan
is increasing, grant aid to India, the country with the largest
number of poor people, is to end in 2015. We questioned the Permanent
Secretary about the potential inconsistencies of approach, who
we need a degree of consistency
, but I do not
think we can have a mechanistic formulaic approach to this, because
countries are all different and our relationships with countries
We do have a view on the kinds of criteria that will
be relevant [to when aid ceases]. Progress on the MDGs is one.
Growth of the economy is another. The building-up of their own
tax base is a third. A fourth one is the country's own preferences
and desires. We need to take account of that as well, as importantly
we did with India. There is a set of things we need to look at,
but we cannot be too mechanistic about it and it will be different
in each country.
32. The Permanent Secretary, Mr Lowcock, also
stressed that DFID was retaining a development co-operation relationship
'on the private sector, on expertise in capacity
development and on our shared roles on global development issues.
What we are concluding by 2015 is our finance grant aid relationship'.
33. DFID has switched expenditure
from low to middle income countries. This has occurred in part
because several countries with a large number of poor people have
recently graduated to middle-income status. The Department's policy
towards middle income countries is contradictory: it is ending
grant aid to India in 2015, but programmes in Nigeria and Pakistan
are due to grow rapidly. The Department explains that this is
because both countries have a massive share of the remaining MDG
burden, yet the same logic applies to India where a different
approach is being taken. As expenditure on middle income countries
increases, it is even more important that decision-making is rational
and consistent; we recommend that the Department establish and
make public the criteria it will use to inform decisions of when
and how it should cease to provide aid.
34. We note that while DFID
has increased expenditure in several middle income countries,
its bilateral programme in one of the world's poorest countries,
Burundi, has ended. We urge the new Secretary of State to re-instate
a bilateral programme in Burundi.
The Department's spending by
its development policy priorities - 'pillars'
| Figure 4
|Variance between the Department's estimate of 2011-12 expenditure and outturn, by pillar
||Variance (outturn less estimate)||Percentage variance
|Wealth Creation ||514.4
|Climate Change ||237.5
|Governance and Security ||673.8
|Direct Delivery of Millennium Development Goals
|Global Partnerships ||576.2
|Capital expenditure ||
|Wealth Creation ||97.5
|Climate Change ||46.6||67.1
|Governance and Security ||27.3
|Direct Delivery of Millennium Development Goals
|Global Partnerships ||1242.7
|Source: NAO presentation of departmental data
35. In 2011 the Department began to move towards allocating
and reporting its expenditure by development policy priorities.
It established five pillars which reflected the priority areas
set out in the Department's business plan. The pillars are: wealth
creation; combating climate change; governance and security; the
direct delivery of the Millennium Development Goals; and global
set out estimates for expenditure under the five pillars.
36. The Department's 2011-12 Annual Report shows
some large variations between its estimate and actual spend by
pillar. For example,
the resource budget for the Direct Delivery of the MDGs was under
spent by £880 million (29%) and resource spend on Global
Partnerships exceeded budget by £953 million (165%).
37. The Department admitted that the reason for
the variations in this first year of reporting by pillars was
that 'we got our initial estimates wrong'.
DFID added that
We have now this year integrated that reporting into
our system, so that when people enter projects on to the system,
commit projects, we pick up the pillar analysis at the time. When
we first did the estimate for 2011-12, we had only just decided
to report on that basis and essentially had to do the estimates
We were told that did not mean that the underlying
projects and programmes were not delivered or were changed. It
was essentially about the way the projects were categorised against
the five pillars. It was hoped that in 2012-13 that 'our final
reporting will be much more accurate, because we have integrated
pillar reporting into our systems much more effectively this year'.
The Permanent Secretary summed up:
we made a mistake in not paying enough attention
to this bit of the financial reporting, and we will sort that
38. We queried whether the pillar reporting was
useful. Officials replied:
This is a high level analysis. It does not fundamentally
drive our project decisions.
. We think it is a useful complement
to our other reporting mechanisms. It is probably not the most
important, but if we can, as we now believe we can, pull this
information out from our core project reporting system, it is
another way of looking at the programme.
39. In its Annual Report and
Accounts, the Department reported some huge discrepancies between
actual and planned spend by pillar. DFID admitted that it got
its initial estimates wrong, but said that whilst data on spending
was useful it was giving more attention to results. The calculation
of pillar spending appears to have little relevance to the Department's
spending decisions. The Department should either explain its relevance
or delete the mechanism altogether.
PRIORITISING AND COMMISSIONING RESEARCH
40. The Department's central research programme
increased in cash terms by 126% in the six years to 2011-12 to
reach £220 million, and is expected to grow by a further
£100 million over the three years to 2014-15. 
Figure 5: Research and Evidence Division's expenditure
on research, 2008-09 to 2011-12 actuals and 2012-13 to 2014-15
All values in cash terms
Values for 2013-14 and 2014-15 are based on provisional
budgets which, like those of the Department's other business units,
were being revisited in December 2012.
Values include core funding provided by Research
and Evidence Division to multilateral organisations such as the
Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research.
Source: NAO presentation of departmental data
41. The Department conducts research to understand
and identify solutions to the challenges of achieving the Millennium
Development Goals and to reducing poverty and the effects of poverty.
42. The Department uses six different routes
to obtain research evidence.
The largest of the 6 routes which takes 27% of all DFID's research
expenditure is spent on providing core funding along with other
donors for research institutes such as the Consultative Group
on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR). Typically the Department
seeks to ensure that this expenditure represents value for money
in following ways: it is represented on the boards of these research
institutes; it monitors its own performance frameworks which set
out what it wants an institution to deliver; and it reviews funding
each year. Thus it seems there is no market testing for the largest
category of DFID's budget.
43. Moreover, the Department's Research and Evidence
Division does not have the staff to directly manage the commissioning
and oversight of all smaller research exercises; thus some smaller
projects are commissioned through programmes the Department has
with the Research Councils. To maintain a balanced portfolio of
large and small projects the Department may need to make greater
use of the Research Councils and other donors and partners, such
as the Gates Foundation, to commission research.
44. We asked DFID officials the rationale for
increasing spending on research and were informed:
We spend just under 3% of our budget on research.
We invest that money to improve the quality of the impact of the
rest of the budget that we spend, but also we are genuinely providing
a global public good here, improving the quality and impact of
other people's spend, whether it be other donors or developing
countries. There are some fantastic examples of where our research,
whether it be in flood resistant rice or drought resistant maize,
has really delivered very significant returns.
45. Tracking the proportion of the Department's
research undertaken in the UK is made difficult by the number
and location of organisations that can be involved in undertaking
a project. We questioned
officials about the impact of DFID's research spending on UK universities
and how much it benefits UK universities. The Permanent Secretary
responded that he had been to a number of universities in 2012,
including Reading, the University of East Anglia, the London School
of Economics and Sussex. DFID was trying to strengthen its links
and collaboration. He also thought it important that universities
in the UK strengthen their links with partner organisations in
developing countries. He concluded
Britain has some of the world's greatest higher education
institutions and research capability. It is a really smart thing
to do, we think, to put that to work for development goals. I
expect us to be doing more of it in future.
46. DFID's spending on research
is increasing significantly. We are surprised that 27% of research
expenditure goes in core funding to major international research
institutes and is not subject to market testing, but monitored
by DFID representation on the Boards of institutes. DFID's large
research expenditure has the potential to benefit UK universities
as well as providing the evidence needed to improve the delivery
of aid. The Department has limited information on how much of
the research it commissions is conducted in the UK. We recommend
that the Department review its research portfolio to identify
any sectors where UK universities look under represented. It should
use this information to inform its on-going engagement with universities.
MAKING GOOD USE OF RESEARCH
47. To encourage the use of research, the Department
has increased the attention and funding it has given to communicating
the results of research to its staff and to external audiences.
The Department is seeking to develop its measures of the performance
and results of its research activities: to date quantitative measures
have focused on the number of research outputs made public and
the number of times they were accessed. 
In addition, the Department's resource allocation and project
approval procedures are placing greater emphasis on the use of
48. DFID told us
we are using that research well in our decision-making.
we have put a lot of effort into this over the last couple
of years. The more we use evidence effectively through the business-case
process, the more that will help also to ensure that we commission
the right types of research.
However, unfortunately the NAO reported that the
Department's staff were not yet making consistently good use of
research. In February
2012 the Department's Quality Assurance Unit reported that 17
(59%) of the 29 business cases it examined in terms of the choice,
function, judgment of quality, or use of evidence were lacking,
inappropriate or poorly employed. We were told that training had
been designed which aimed to improve the way the Department's
staff use evidence.
49. We are concerned that DFID
staff are not yet making consistently good use of the research
it commissions. The Department should improve its staff training
and put increased resources into its Research and Evidence Division.
2 NAO Briefing, paragraph 1.11 Back
NAO briefing Back
NAO briefing, paragraph1.12 Back
NAO Briefing, paragraph 1.10 Back
Ev 24 Back
QQ 24-25 Back
NAO Briefing, paragraph 1.4 Back
NAO Briefing, paragraph 1.4, footnote 7 Back
see figure 3 NAO briefing, paragraph 1.5 Back
Ev w17-18 Back
Q 10 Back
DFID monitors and designs its interventions against a 'logical
framework' (logframe), which establishes outputs, indicators,
milestones and targets for each individual DFID programme Back
Ev 27 Back
NAO Briefing, paragraph 1.6 Back
NAO Briefing, paragraph 1.7 Back
NAO Briefing, paragraphs 1.8 to 1.9 and Figure 7 Back
NAO briefing, paragraph 5.3 Back
NAO briefing, paragraph 5.2 Back
NAO briefing, paragraph 5.6 Back
NAO briefing, paragraph 5.6 Back
NAO briefing, paragraph 5.7 Back
NAO briefing, paragraph 5.8 Back
NAO briefing, paragraph 5.9 Back
NAO briefing, paragraph 5.10 Back
NAO paragraph5.10 Back