Committee of Public Accounts: Press Notice

18th PAC Report 2006-07

DFID: Working with non-governmental and other civil society organisations to promote development

Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

“Civil society organisations have played a vital role in supporting the very poorest of people in developing countries. But now that so much support by the Department for International Development goes directly to the governments of those countries, the department seems to have taken its eye off the ball in relation to civil society groups.

“DFID now needs to get a better grip on the roles these organisations can and should play. The department must also achieve a clearer picture of the value of its support for civil society organisations up to now and clarify its future policy on engaging with them.”

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 18th Report of this Session which, on the basis of evidence from the Department for International Development (DFID), examined how the department is engaging with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

DFID channelled £328 million of its development aid expenditure through CSOs in 2004-05. Although this sum was nearly double the equivalent figure for 1997, as a proportion of expenditure it declined from 9.8 to 8.5%. CSOs include large international charities based in donor countries and local collaborative and mutual assistance groups based in developing countries. They play a variety of roles in development. They deliver services in areas including health and education, give a voice to the poor and help hold governments accountable for poverty reduction.

DFID has several funding streams for engaging with CSOs, including in-country funding of local CSOs, strategic partnership agreements (called Partnership Programme Agreements) with key non-governmental organisations, and funding of UK CSOs through a Civil Society Challenge Fund..

Today’s report covers four themes:

• How and when to engage with CSOs. DFID recognises the important role which CSOs can play in development, but does not systematically assess their effectiveness. DFID is increasing its funding of CSOs which promote accountability and lobby for change;

• Targeting the poorest. Some CSOs have a vital role in providing services to the poorest people. But these CSOs are often small and informally structured which makes it hard for DFID to engage with them. To target its assistance well DFID needs good co-ordination, both internally and with other development partners;

• Measuring achievements. On projects where DFID worked with CSOs, almost half of project indicators were not robust. A particular area of weakness was DFID’s support for capacity building and advocacy projects. Only a quarter of Programme Partnership Agreements had specific and measurable indicators; and

• Improving value for money. DFID’s projects and Agreements have largely met their objectives. But formal monitoring arrangements provide little insight into value for money. DFID needs to assess not just effectiveness but also cost-effectiveness. It could make more use of competition to promote better value for money.

Notes for Editors

1. Contact details for requests for further comment from Mr Edward Leigh are provided below. ISDN facilities are available for broadcasting purposes.

2. The full text of the Committee’s Conclusions and Recommendations is attached to this press notice.

3. This report can be accessed via the internet from around 11.00 am on the day of publication.

All media enquiries to:

Luke Robinson
Select Committee Media Officer
Tel: 020 7219 5693
Mobile: 07917 488549