DFID urged to improve its learning

4 Apr 14
The Department for International Development must maximise its learning and apply what works in practice if UK aid is to achieve maximum impact and value for money, the independent aid watchdog said today

By Judith Ugwumadu | 4 April 2014

The Department for International Development must maximise its learning and apply what works in practice if UK aid is to achieve maximum impact and value for money, the independent aid watchdog said today.

In its How DFID learns report, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact drew on 31 of its reviews, which between them examined 140 DFID programmes across 40 countries/territories and 24 DFID country offices. It found that DFID was poor at using research and evidence to build on experience.  

The watchdog said the department’s performance on learning was ‘relatively poor’ for effectiveness and value for money and gave it an amber/red rating. It said it wanted to understand why learning in the department was inconsistent. 

Between 2011 and 2015 DFID allocated around £1.2bn for research, evaluation and personnel development, ICAI said. With this it generated considerable volumes of information, such as funded research, which is publicly available.

But DFID does not ‘clearly’ or ‘consistently’ link this investment to how it could deliver better impact, ICAI said. 

‘We found that DFID staff learnt well as individuals... and are highly motivated... but staff struggle to deal with the volumes of information available. 

‘As an organisation, however, DFID itself is less good at using research and evidence to build on experience so as to turn learning into action,’ it noted. 

The watchdog urged DFID to clarify further how it learns as an entire organisation, adding that this was increasingly important with the department’s increasing focus on fragile states and staff turnover. 

ICAI chief commissioner Graham Ward said: ‘DFID does not routinely assess the impact of learning on decision-making. Improving skills, sharing knowledge and know-how within networks and direct experience on the job improve performance.

‘There are many examples of available knowledge not being used, to the detriment of DFID’s impact and value for money. DFID’s team and staff should be more consistent in their approach to learning.’

Responding to the report, a DFID spokesman said the department would continually look at its processes in light of external evaluations like ICAI. 

‘We have already introduced strong measures such as greater ministerial oversight of spend and tough new rules for suppliers to drive better value for money for taxpayers. This ICAI report recognises some of the strengths that DFID has in this area and our potential for excellence.’

Did you enjoy this article?

Related articles

Have your say

Newsletter

CIPFA latest

Most popular

Related jobs

Most commented

Events & webinars