DfID ‘delays’ hamper UK aid partners

12 Apr 19

Delays and uncertainty in funding decisions have weakened the impact of UK aid projects delivered by civil society organisations, says a watchdog.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact said poor management in projects’ early stages led to “unreliable and unpredictable” funding decisions.

In a review of Department for International Development’s partnerships with CSOs published this week, ICAI praised their positive results and said civil society groups saw the government department as a supportive donor once implementation had begun.

But its overall influence and programming were deemed “slow and limited”.

“Delays – often long ones – between funding calls, funding decisions and funding disbursement were the norm rather than the exception,” the report said.

“Grant making and contract award processes were almost always delayed, or even cancelled altogether.”

The report added that delays were “poorly communicated”, leading to “disillusionment among CSOs about the nature of their partnerships with DfID.”

ICAI is critical of DfiD’s response to disruptive events that occurred during the period of the review, such as the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar.

A failure to respond pragmatically to large changes in personnel demands and severe travel restrictions in Bangladesh in 2016 led to long gaps between projects and phases of programmes, one case study concluded.

In another case study, workers on a civil society support programme in Ethiopia delivered by the British Council, a DfID intermediary, said in 2018 that there had been no funding disbursements for the past three years.

Tina Fahm, the ICAI commissioner who led the report, said: “Civil society organisations can play a vital role in reaching the world’s poorest and most marginalised people and speaking up for human rights, so DfID’s relationship with them is crucial to tackle global poverty.

“In many cases our review found DfID-funded CSO programmes were making a difference to people’s lives, however too frequently avoidable delays in funding decisions made by DfID negatively impacted the crucial work.

“It is important that DfID now improves how it funds these organisations, and steps up its efforts to promote civic space worldwide.”

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