UK absent from top performers in Aid Transparency Index for first time
The 2022 Aid Transparency Index highlights:
- No UK agencies are in the “very good” category – the first time this has happened since the categories were introduced in 2013.
- The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), created by Boris Johnson when he merged the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), now ranks 16th in the Index. It dropped 13.5 points, falling from “very good” to “good” compared with DFID’s score in 2020.
- FCDO’s deterioration in transparency is largely due to its lack of organisational and country strategies, and inconsistent publication of results, evaluations and objectives.
- This 10th anniversary report highlights the breadth and utility of the global aid data set, but contains a stark warning about the deterioration in quality of data between editions of the Aid Transparency Index, which is now at risk.
The 2022 Aid Transparency Index reveals that more aid organisations than ever before are publishing good quality information and score “very good” or “good” in the global ranking. However, the whole data set could be under threat as the Aid Transparency Index, the only tool driving tangible improvements in data quality, is set to close for want of funding. The FCDO is one of only two donors currently providing financial support.
Produced by Publish What You Fund, the Index is the only independent measure of aid transparency among the world’s major aid donors.
The FCDO has performed significantly worse in the 2022 Index compared with DFID’s performance in 2020. Its score is 13.5 points below DFID’s 2020 score and it fell seven places to 16th in the ranking. It is now in the ‘good’ category, dropping out of ‘very good’ for the first time since the categories were introduced in 2013. Compared to DFID’s scores FCDO underperforms across all components of the Index.
Specifically, FCDO lost points in the following areas:
- The absence of an organisational strategy (given the 2.5 year delay in publication of the UK’s International Development Strategy) and resulting country strategies
- Scarce disclosure of contracts and tenders (published for less than 35% of activities)
- No publication of disaggregated budgets
- Reduced disclosure across results, reviews and evaluations, and objectives.
FCDO’s data is mostly for projects that used to be managed by DFID. The inclusion of previously poor quality data from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) portfolio will have had a small effect on FCDO’s scores. However, this does not account for the total drop observed.
Meanwhile, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) achieved a score of “good” in its first appearance in the Aid Transparency Index. BEIS was previously assessed in the 2020 UK Aid Transparency Review, where it also scored ‘good’ against the Index criteria. It generally produces detailed data about its programmes and activities, but little information is available about project performance.
Gary Forster, CEO of Publish What You Fund, said:
“Until recently the UK was considered a leader in aid transparency. However, recent events, including the removal of the transparency targets from the International Development Strategy, coupled with the high turnover of staff focussing on transparency, all suggest a de-prioritisation within the FCDO. The implication for UK taxpayers is less visibility of the FCDO’s activities and impact. Meanwhile in the countries where FCDO operates, the absence of strategies and detailed budgets make it increasingly difficult for other donors, as well as recipient governments, to understand what the FCDO is doing, coordinate, and ensure effective collaboration”.
Speaking to the future of the Aid Transparency Index Forster continued:
“It’s a bittersweet moment; more agencies than ever scoring good or very good, more examples of data being used to inform better development policy, and yet the Index, which has driven all of these improvements over the last decade is facing closure. There isn’t a backup option. This isn’t a drill. The evidence shows that without the incentive that the Index provides, or the feedback it offers to agencies, the quality of the global dataset deteriorates precipitously. We’re grateful for the FCDO’s support in maintaining the Index but more is needed. We implore agencies and foundations to step up, invest in the Aid Transparency Index, and maintain this momentum so that all stakeholders have access to high quality aid data now and into the future.”
Aaron Oxley, Executive Director of RESULTS UK, and Co-Chair of the TB Accountability Platform said:
“The news that the Index may cease to exist just as a major donor backslides on transparency is sobering. Globally, we’ve seen that the very presence of the Aid Transparency Index has a meaningful effect on lifting the quality of ODA transparency and reporting as donors clearly feel that additional scrutiny. In the UK we haven’t had to worry about this so much as DFID was always at the top, but as we’ve seen with the FCDO and material decreases in the quality of DevTracker data, good access to ODA data is not a given. When you can’t get it you are left fumbling in the dark, scrambling to get access to what should be publicly available and clearly presented information.”
Alex Tilley, who researched and authored the report, said:
“As a former leader in aid transparency we know the FCDO has the systems and expertise to produce high-quality, comprehensive and detailed data about its aid projects. We hope that senior leadership in the department will now prioritise transparency and that we will see the UK return to its position at the top of the Aid Transparency Index in the coming years. Aid transparency provides accountability to citizens from donor countries and clarity to citizens in recipient countries. High quality data means governments and civil society can plan and track where aid money is flowing to, for what purpose. Transparency and accountability are a cornerstone of a modern, well governed aid system.”
The Index website provides details of the scores and analysis of the performance of each donor.
The 2022 Aid Transparency Index will be launched at a hybrid event hosted by the European Commission, DG International Partnerships (DG INTPA) on Wednesday 13th July at 9:30am EDT, 2:30pm BST, 3:30pm CEST. Register for the event here.