UK aid watchdog urges DFID to boost water and sanitation VFM

24 May 16

The UK’s development agency needs to do more to ensure value for money and sustainability in its water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, the country’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact has said.


In a review published today, ICAI commended DFID for improving water, sanitation and hygiene, known as WASH, for almost 63 million people in 2015, but said these interventions didn’t have enough of a lasting impact.

The commission also said that, despite DFID increasing its annual spending on WASH sevenfold over the last 12 years to £200m, the department “lacks convincing methods” for ensuring value for money across the portfolio.

While Richard Gledhill, lead ICAI commissioner for the review into DFID’s WASH programmes, said: “It is concerning that DFID does not monitor whether these results are sustained beyond the lifetime of a project, with its systems designed to maximise outputs rather than create lasting change.”

The review concluded that there is still not enough being done to ensure WASH access was becoming a permanent part of people’s lives; DFID needs to work to address long-term problems like water security, maintenance of infrastructure, strengthening local institutions and behaviour change.

The department was also criticised for failing to assess the lifetime investment costs and lacking a consistent approach for measuring return on investments across the portfolio of programmes.

Overall, ICAI gave DFID’s WASH portfolio a “green-amber” rating, recognising its good results but also the need for improvement.

In response, a DFID spokesperson said: “As this report confirms, 60 million of the world's poorest people now have access to clean water and sanitation thanks to British aid. We should be proud of this achievement, which is firmly in the UK’s interest. 

“We will now build on this success by helping a further 60 million people by 2020.”

ICAI also recently assessed DFID’s programmes to tackle violence against women and girls. While the commission again commended the department’s achievements, its review into this portfolio also raised issues around ensuring value for money.

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