UK launches review of aid watchdog

2 Sep 20

The UK will reform the body that scrutinises its aid spending as it merges its international development department with the Foreign Office, the government has announced.


The Independent Commission for Aid Impact will become “a committee for what works”, helping the new ministry determine how aid can be spent to tackle poverty, disease, climate change and humanitarian disasters, said foreign secretary Dominic Raab.

Under the new department, which launches on Wednesday, UK aid will become more tied to foreign policy objectives, rather than simply being focused on tackling global issues as it was under the Department for International Development.

The review will “make sure ICAI’s remit, focus and methods are effectively scrutinising the impact of UK aid spend, in line with the aims of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office”, the government said.

“Since it was set up by a previous Conservative administration, ICAI has done important work scrutinising UK aid spending, especially around transparency and value for money,” said Romilly Greenhill, UK director of The ONE Campaign, which encourages governments to work to reduce poverty around the world.

“It’s in everyone’s interest that ICAI continues to play this role. The world faces ever more complicated challenges, so ensuring every penny of UK aid is effective and focused on poverty is key.”

“Robust, independent scrutiny helps to ensure that aid reaches those who need it most, and that UK taxpayers – who contribute a substantial amount towards the aid budget each year – get maximum value for their money,” said ICAI chief commissioner Tamsyn Barton.

ICAI was set up in 2011 and carries out reviews of different aspects of aid spending, making recommendations to the government – 80% of which have been acted upon.

In the next year, its planned work includes a full review of the UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through aid, a rapid review of how the government manages its spending target (currently 0.7% of gross national income), a study of how aid is protected from fraud, and a review of UK aid work tacking deforestation.

“We are integrating our aid budget with our diplomatic clout in the new FDCO to maximise the impact of our foreign policy,” said Raab.

He said he wanted to “reinforce” ICAI’s role “to strengthen further transparency and accountability” in UK aid spending.

The review will begin later in September, and its findings are expected to be published at the end of 2020.

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