34.With a much greater proportion of UK ODA spending being delivered by OGDs and through cross-Government funds, concerns have been raised with us about the levels of transparency and accountability for UK aid moving forward. DFID has robust processes in place to ensure transparency and accountability. It has “world-class expertise in transparency”, and is rated Very Good by the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), compared to ratings of Poor and Very Poor for the FCO and MOD respectively. The new UK aid strategy commits “for all UK government departments to be ranked as ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good’ in the international Aid Transparency Index, within the next five years.” Ben Jackson, Chief Executive, Bond, criticised this timeline, as being below the standards expected of NGOs receiving UK aid:
“To say that it will take five years for the MOD to get to those standards, and that that is acceptable, is not acceptable to us. It is out of kilter with what is expected of many other partners, like ourselves.”
35.It is crucial that a change in the proportion of aid delivered by other government departments does not lead to a change in the effectiveness of that aid. Demonstrating this effectiveness requires those departments to meet the same high levels of accountability and transparency that DFID has over the past few years. The ambition for all government departments to be ranked as ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good’ in the international Aid Transparency Index is welcome, but five years is an unambitious and unacceptable timescale.
36.The Government should commit to all government departments achieving a ‘Good’ or ‘Very Good’ ranking in the international Aid Transparency Index within two years. All departments administering UK aid should report to Parliament within two years as to their ranking and, if they have not achieved one of the above rankings, should explain why this is the case.
37.There are questions over the proper accountability and parliamentary scrutiny of UK ODA spending, considering it will be more spread out than ever before. The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and the Prosperity Fund will be led by the National Security Council (NSC), which also raises particular issues over its accountability and transparency. Bond and the UK Aid Network told us, “The lack of transparency surrounding the NSC sits uncomfortably with the Government’s drive to increase transparency of non-DFID ODA. It also has a mandate and priorities that may sometimes be at odds with sustainable development and lack the strong and robust accountability and scrutiny to which DFID is subject.”
38.Many witnesses have raised doubts about the ability of the NSC to deliver aid effectively, and whether it will prioritise poverty reduction over a narrow definition of the national interest, making its accountability and transparency a matter of particular concern. With regards to the Prosperity Fund, RESULTS UK stated:
“It is puzzling, to say the least, that the cross-Government Prosperity Fund is being led by the National Security Council, rather than DFID. DFID would appear to be the best-placed department for ensuring that prosperity strategies deliver on poverty reduction, not merely boosting growth and opportunities that do not reach the poorest and most marginalised communities”.
Mark Lowcock described the reasoning as being so that the Cabinet, the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and others would have an overview of what was going on. He explained that “global prosperity is part of what makes us secure as a country. If other countries are becoming more prosperous, what you are going to observe is that security issues become less acute.”
39.Much of the evidence has questioned whether there will be adequate parliamentary scrutiny of non-DFID ODA. Conscience expressed “concerns that the totality of CSSF spending is not fully accountable to Parliament.” The Scotland Malawi Partnership expressed similar concerns “for it is unclear whether all ODA, including the 25% not spent by DFID, will continue to be overseen by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) and the UK Parliament’s International Development Committee.” Bond and the UK Aid Network also called for “strong, coherent and coordinated oversight, scrutiny and accountability of UK aid spend by all government departments, including through high-level political support for the scrutiny work of ICAI and more coordinated parliamentary accountability.”
40.Our formal remit, as the International Development Committee, is “to examine the expenditure, administration and policy” of the Department for International Development. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), however, which reports to us, has an explicit mandate “to scrutinise any UK Government Official Development Assistance (ODA) spend”. In relation to this mandate, OGDs have explicit responsibilities towards ICAI, including to “provide ICAI with full and unrestricted access to all relevant information and documents in a timely manner up to but not beyond Official (including Official-Sensitive) material”, and ICAI has previously reported on non-DFID ODA spend. Additionally, the Department for International Development, which we scrutinise, has many responsibilities with regards to ODA spend across Government under the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006 and the 2015 Act.
41.Parliamentary scrutiny of aid spending is vital to ensure that it is spent well. We consider that we, as the International Development Committee, have a role in scrutiny of all UK ODA, both through ICAI and through our own inquiries into UK aid. We intend to exercise this function, alongside any relevant other parliamentary committees, with regards to all government departments and the National Security Council, in order to maintain a broad overall picture of all UK aid. Furthermore, we highlight the fundamental importance of ICAI in the scrutiny of UK aid and its clear mandate to scrutinise all Government aid spending, regardless of department. In order to ensure the effectiveness of ICAI’s reviews, other government departments must treat it with the same seriousness and respect that has exemplified the relationship between it and DFID.
60 RESULTS UK () para 18
61 Aid Transparency Index, ‘’, accessed 25 February 2016
62 HM Treasury, UK aid: tackling global challenges in the national interest, , November 2015, para 4.11
64 Bond and the UK Aid Network () para 25
65 RESULTS UK () para 13
67 Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War () para 2
68 Scotland Malawi Partnership () para 3.2
69 Bond and the UK Aid Network () para 3(vi)
70 Standing Order No. 152
73 See ICAI, A preliminary investigation of Official Development Assistance (ODA) spent by departments other than DFID (February 2015)
74 Including to report on the amount of aid provided and to make arrangements for the independent evaluation of the extent to which ODA provided represents value for money.
Prepared 17 March 2016