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Yesterday I was excited to see that the UK Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) had a report out on UK Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) anticorruption activities. It was a great topic for independent analysis by a group that didn’t need to worry about the politically correct thing to say, and could get beyond sloganeering (‘zero tolerance for corruption’) to a careful, evidence-based analysis of how corruption impacts development, what the role is for donors, and how DFID’s existing portfolio stacks up. My excitement didn’t last long—this report is not that analysis. I feel like a kid who got empty wrappers in his trick or treat bag.
Does a stand-alone Department for International Development have a long-term future? What is the role of DFID in facilitating other British government departments and other UK organizations to assist developing countries? What is its role in influencing the policies of other Whitehall departments?
Development agencies are increasingly interested in making aid more transparent, stakeholder-led, and effective by expanding the use of payment by results (PbR) — rewarding those implementing projects on the basis of results delivered instead of paying for inputs. For payment by results to work, you have to get a lot of things right. It has to be for the right kind of programme targeting the right results, properly measured and rewarded in the right way. These issues, and more, are laid out in Stefan Dercon and Paul Clist’s 12 principles for payment by results (PDF).
The UK Secretary of State for International Development has made a big speech emphasising economic growth. That's good, but it is a shame that it is all about how DFID will use its aid budget, and makes no mention of all the other things that Britain can do to improve the prospects for growth and prosperity in the developing world.
It would be strange to try learning how to play music without listening to musicians. Similarly, learning about results-based aid programs requires listening to people who design and implement them. That is just what we did last week in a set of workshops about implementing programs that pay for results – programs which apply some or all of the principles that we’ve discussed here at the Center as Cash on Delivery Aid. As a result of discussing real experiences, we discovered that some of the challenges are quite different than we had anticipated while a number of common concerns have simply failed to materialize.
The United Kingdom has been a stalwart funder and innovator in foreign assistance for almost 20 years. In 2011, it created the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) to report to Parliament on the country’s growing aid portfolio. ICAI is a QUANGO in Brit-speak – a quasi-public non-governmental organization - with a 4-year mandate which is undergoing review this year. Recently, I took a look at the reports it has produced to see whether the organization is fulfilling its role in holding the country’s overseas development aid programs accountable. I found one fascinating report which shows what ICAI could be doing and many more reports that made me wonder whether ICAI is duplicating work already within the purview of the agency, Department for International Development (DFID), which accounts for most of the UK’s foreign assistance programs.
The UK International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, announced yesterday that DFID has a new open access policy, which will require all researchers receiving DFID funding to make their findings available for free online.