The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) official development assistance (ODA) spending increased by £267m since 2014, and now totals £633m, which was 4.4 percent of the United Kingdom’s (UK) ODA in 2018, making it the third largest ODA spending department. This includes overseas diplomacy-related costs in ODA–eligible countries (Frontline Diplomatic Activity) and some contributions to multilateral organisations. FCO’s ODA also funds activities of the British Council and BBC World Service. The FCO first published to the IATI registry in 2013 and now publishes data about more than 300 active projects. In addition, the FCO spends significant amounts of ODA from cross-government funds, including the Prosperity Fund and the Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund.
The FCO ranked in the bottom five of the ‘fair’ category in the 2020 Index. This is a noteworthy move up from the ‘poor’ category in the 2018 Aid Transparency Index. The FCO increased its publication to the IATI Registry from annual to quarterly, for which we awarded it additional points across its IATI activity-related indicators. The FCO improved its scores in the organisational planning and commitments and finance and budgets components since the 2018 index.
In the organisational planning and commitments component, the FCO scored its highest points. It published documents across the majority of the indicators here, including a current allocation policy that it made available for the 2020 Index. However, it can make improvements on its country strategies documentation, as we only found programme summaries.
The FCO slightly improved on its project attributes score since 2018. It published high quality descriptions and titles in the IATI format. However, it did not publish sub-national location data, so it lost points there. The FCO can also improve its data on implementer names and project activity dates, which were available for less than half of its activities.
The FCO published good quality IATI data for four out of the seven indicators in the joining-up development data component. These were: aid type, flow type, finance type, and tied aid status. However, project conditions and contracts/tenders failed our IATI quality checks because they were too generic and did not meet the criteria.
We awarded the FCO 35 percent of the available points in the finance and budgets component. It improved upon its 2018 score by publishing more of its disbursement and expenditure data, some budget alignment information, and a one-year forward looking organisational budget. The project budget document failed our quality checks as we could not find any line-item project budget break downs. The FCO is still not publishing commitments data in the IATI Registry. It did not make a disaggregated organisational budget.
The FCO scored no points in the performance component. It published documents against the indicators but these all failed our data quality checks. Documents generally failed as they did not meet the criteria because they were too general, summaries were published rather than full versions of documents, or they were not specific to the project in question.
- FCO should improve the quality and comprehensiveness of key data sets such as commitments, contracts and tenders and sub-national locations.
- FCO now publishes key organisational planning documentation, such as its overall allocations policy, but it should also publish its country/sector strategies.
- FCO should improve its publication of key documents including those related to project performance, project budgets, and contracts, all of which failed sampling in the 2020 Index.
Organisational planning and commitments
This component looks at the overall aims and strategy of an organisation. We check for any public commitments to aid transparency. We also make sure audits are in place and if planning documents have been published, including by parent organisations (including national governments) where applicable. We make note of any Freedom of Information laws and critically, we make sure that organisations have tried to make their information easy to access and understand. You should not have to be an expert in open data to be able to find and use this information.
Quality of FOI legislationScore: 1.88
Organisation strategyScore: 1.88
Annual reportScore: 1.88
Allocation policyScore: 1.88
Procurement policyScore: 1.88
Strategy (country/sector) or Memorandum of UnderstandingScore: 0
Finance and budgets
This component is critical to allow you and anyone else to follow the money. We expect to find the total budget of the organisation being assessed, right down to individual transactions for each development activity. In particular, forward-looking budgets from donors are important for partner country governments to be able to plan their own future finances.
Disaggregated budgetScore: 0
Project budgetScore: 0
Project budget documentScore: 0
Disbursements and expendituresScore: 3.16
Budget AlignmentScore: 2.91
Total organisation budgetScore: 2.78
This component refers to descriptive, non-financial data, including basics like the title and description of a project. Information like this is important as it is often the entry point for data users to quickly understand what a project is about. We also look for other information that helps to put a project in context, such as its sub-national location (rather than simply being pin pointed to a capital city or the centre of a country) or the sector that the project deals with, for example, education or agriculture.
Planned datesScore: 0.86
Actual datesScore: 0.76
Current statusScore: 0.95
Contact detailsScore: 0.95
Sub-national locationScore: 0
Unique IDScore: 3.33
Joining-up development data
This component looks at how well a donor's data is able to be linked and connected with other bits of information. There is a diverse nature of flows, activities and actors within the development sector. Aid and development finance data needs to be effectively linked and connected with the rest to provide a full picture for the user. This can be particularly important for partner country governments, who need to integrate information on aid with their own budgets and systems.
Flow typeScore: 3.17
Aid typeScore: 3.17
Finance typeScore: 3.17
Tied aid statusScore: 3.17
Project procurementScore: 0
This component refers to the essential data and documents that assess whether a project is on track or has been achieved. This includes things like baseline surveys, progress against targets, mid-term reviews and end of project evaluations. This information is important to hold donors to account and also to share knowledge with others on what worked and what did not during a project.
Pre-project impact appraisalsScore: 0
Reviews and evaluationsScore: 0
Quality of FOI legislation definition
Quality of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or disclosure policy (Access to Information Policy) The definition used in the Global RTI Rating is that it has to be a law in the strict sense. It must include the right of access to information, this right has to be enforceable and there must be compliant, court and high court appeal possibilities. Decrees are included if they meet the same standards. In addition, the FOIA must be in use for at least the executive part of the government; therefore, FOIAs which are only adopted, approved or still in draft form are not counted.
For multilateral donors, international finance institutions (IFIs) and private foundations, a disclosure or transparency policy is accepted as equivalent to a FOIA. Publish What You Fund completes an assessment of the quality of these disclosure policies based on the overarching approach taken in the Global RTI Rating.
Does this organisation promote access and use of its aid information?
The overall accessibility of aid information through the organisations’ portals, project databases or searchable data sources. These are scored using three criteria: 1) the portal allows free, bulk export of data; 2) it contains detailed disaggregated data; 3) the data is published under an open licence. The same data source is used for all three checks
Organisation strategy definition
Does this organisation publish an overarching strategy document?
An overarching strategy document explains the general approach and policies of the organisation towards international development. This should be forward looking.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Institutional strategy paper (document code = B02).
Annual report definition
Does this organisation publish an annual report?
Annual reports outline basic (normally aggregate) information about how aid was spent in the previous year, broken down by sector and/or country. This should be backward looking.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Annual report (document code = B01).
Allocation policy definition
Does this organisation publish its aid allocation policy?
Aid allocation policies are the detailed policy documents by which the organisation chooses where to spend its resources, i.e. on particular countries or themes. Relatively general documents or web pages outlining which countries, themes and institutions the agency will fund are accepted, as long as this is forward-looking and not wholly retrospective.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Aid allocation policy (document code = B04).
For organisations such as IFIs and private foundations, which do not have an “aid allocation” policy, equivalent documents are accepted; for example, “investment strategy/policy” or “grant-making policy”.
Procurement policy definition
Does this organisation publish its procurement procedures?
An organisation’s procurement procedures explain the process used to tender and contract (invite bids for) goods and services. This must fully explain the criteria on which decisions are made and could be in a single procurement policy document or attached to each tender. The IATI reference for this indicator is: Procurement policy and procedure (document code = B05).
For IFIs, which are often demand-driven, this is understood as their investment policy. For private foundations, this is their grant making policy.
Strategy (country/sector) or Memorandum of Understanding definition
Does this organisation publish the country strategy paper or memoranda of understanding for this partner country?
For this indicator coun
try strategies and MoU’s are taken together. A country or sector strategy will be accepted. Where one cannot be found, a MoU signed by the donor organisation and recipient country government will be accepted.
A country strategy paper sets out the organisation’s planned approach and activities in the recipient country. For it to be accepted it needs to be a detailed document, rather than just a paragraph on the organisation’s website.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Country strategy paper (document code = B03).
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is a document that details the agreement usually between the organisation and recipient government for the provision of aid in the country.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Memorandum of Understanding (document code = B13 or A09).
Does this organisation publish an annual audit of its aid programmes’ accounts?
The organisation’s annual audit of its activities is an official inspection of the accounts and activities of this organisation, typically by an independent body.
Audits up to date with regular audit cycles are accepted, i.e. if the organisation publishes biennial audits, the most recent document within this time frame is accepted.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Institutional audit report (document code = B06).
A formally approved audit of annual accounts is required to score on this indicator. Audits conducted by official government agencies such as State Audit Offices or Controller General Reports are accepted for this indicator.
Disaggregated budget definition
Does this organisation publish their annual forward planning budget for assistance to different countries and institutions per year for the next three years?
The organisation’s annual forward-planning budget for assistance is the disaggregated budget that the organisation or agency will spend on different countries, programmes and institutions where it will be active, for at least the next three years. The figure could be indicative.
Aggregate budgets of between 2–3 years are scored the same as 1-year forward budgets.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Annual forward planning budgets for recipient countries (recipient-country-budget).
Both country budgets and thematic budgets are accepted for organisations that prioritise their work by countries. Projected figures disaggregated along thematic and sectoral priorities, at a near similar level of detail to total organisation budgets are accepted. IFIs and DFIs sometimes publish “road maps”, which contain this information.
Project budget definition
Does this organisation provide a breakdown of the budget of the activity by year and/or quarter?
The budget of the activity is the breakdown of the total financial commitment to the activity into forward-looking annual and quarterly chunks.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Budget or Planned Disbursement.
Project budget document definition
Is the budget of the activity published?
This is a specific budget detailing what the intended spending is for the different lines of the individual activity. It is often a document published on the organisation’s website.
Budget documents cannot simply be at the country level. If an activity budget is included in a larger country-level document, it is only accepted if the budget for the activity is broken down line by line.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Budget (document code = A05).
For organisations where budget documents might be considered commercially sensitive, documents with redactions of the commercially sensitive pieces of information are accepted. These must include the specific reasons for the redactions and must clarify why the information is commercially sensitive and would cause material and direct harm if published.
Does this organisation provide details of the overall financial commitment made to the activity?
This refers to the financial commitment for the activity as a whole for the lifetime of the activity. This is generally a high-level commitment rather than a detailed breakdown of the activity budget.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Transaction (transaction type = commitment).
Disbursements and expenditures definition
Does this organisation provide transaction-level details of individual actual financial disbursements / expenditures for this activity?
Individual actual financial disbursements must be related to individual activities and must be on a per-transaction basis. Each activity is likely to have several transactions.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Transaction (transaction type = disbursement and expenditure).
Budget Alignment definition
Does this organisation provide information about the activity that can link the activity to the recipient government’s relevant budget classifications?
The budget classification is a way of linking the activity to the recipient country government’s own budget codes. There are two parts to this indicator.
The first part captures the percentage of the total commitment allocated to or planned for capital expenditure. When publishing in IATI, a number between 0 and 100 should be used, with no percentage sign.
The definition of capital expenditure follows the IMF GFS definition approved by WP Stat in February 2016.
Capital spending is generally defined as physical assets with a useful life of more than one year. But it also includes capital improvements or the rehabilitation of physical assets that enhance or extend the useful life of the asset (as distinct from repair or maintenance, which assures that the asset is functional for its planned life). Capital includes all aspects of design and construction that are required to make the asset operational.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: capital spend.
The second part checks that the activity is not using broad “multisector aid” or “sector not specified” sector codes. It checks that the activity is using one of the detailed “voluntary” CRS purpose codes and not aggregated “parent” codes.
Total organisation budget definition
Does this organisation publish the total organisation budget per year for the next three years?
The total organisation budget is the total amount that the organisation will be allocated by the government or its funders per year for the next three years. This is money going to the organisation and can be indicative. Aggregate budgets of between 2–3 years are scored the same as 1-year forward budgets.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Annual forward planning budget (total-budget)
IFIs and DFIs do not have budgets allocated to them as traditional donor agencies do. In many cases, total budgets are established annually, once total financial figures of all investments are taken into account. However, they do have projected total spend figures that they sometimes publish. If published, these projected figures are accepted for this indicator.
Similarly, for private foundations and humanitarian agencies, indicative figures of available funds are accepted.
Does this organisation publish the title of the activity?
The title of the activity is its name. This is preferably the formal name of the activity but does not have to be.
The title needs to be complete with any abbreviations or acronyms explained.
Titles need to contain at least 10 characters.
Does this organisation publish a description of the activity?
The description of the activity is a meaningful descriptive text, longer than the title, explaining what the activity is.
The description of the activity needs to contain a minimum of 80 characters in order to be considered a description rather than just a title.
Planned dates definition
Does this organisation publish the planned start and end dates?
The planned dates are the dates that the activity is scheduled to start and end on.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Activity date (activity date type = start-planned and end-planned).
Both month and year are required to score on this indicator in recognition of recipient countries needing to be able to map activities to their own financial year rather than the calendar year.
If the activity has started or has finished, the original planned start and end dates must be retained in addition to the actual dates in order to score on this indicator.
Actual dates definition
Does this organisation publish the actual start and end dates?
(If they are not explicitly stated as actual dates then it is assumed that they are planned dates.)
These are the dates that the activity actually started (and ended on, if the activity has finished). If there is only one set of dates but they are not explicitly stated as planned or actual dates, then it is assumed they are planned dates.
Actual dates are accepted where specific events occurred, e.g. the date the project/programme agreement is signed, a board presentation or an appraisal date.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Activity date (activity date type = start-actual and end-actual).
Current status definition
Does this organisation publish the current status of the aid activity (e.g. in pipeline, implementation, completion, post-completion or cancelled)?
This shows whether the activity is currently under design, being implemented, has finished or has been cancelled.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Activity status.
Contact details definition
Are contact details provided for the activity?
This shows who can be contacted in relation to this activity. This does not have to be the contact information for an individual or project manager and could refer to a central contact or information desk. Contacts for either the funding organisation or the implementing organisation are accepted.
This has to be stated alongside the activity or on an obvious “contact us” link alongside the activity.
Does this organisation publish the specific areas or “sectors” of the recipient’s economic or social development that the activity intends to foster, e.g. education, health or infrastructure?
The sectors of the activity explain whether this is, for example, a health or education project. It does not count if it is just mentioned incidentally within the title or description. It needs to be stated separately and explicitly.
If projects are presented by sector on an organisation’s website, it must be clearly stated whether the organisation works only in those sectors that are listed.
Sub-national location definition
Does this organisation publish the sub-national geographic location for this activity?
The sub-national geographic location is information about where the activity is located within a country. This may be a province or city, or it could be geo-coded (whereby the precise longitude and latitude is published). It needs to be stated separately and explicitly.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Location.
For activities that are relevant at a country or regional level, information on the location where the funds are sent to or where the recipient is located are all accepted for this indicator.
Does this organisation publish which organisation implements the activity?
The implementer of the activity is the organisation that is principally responsible for delivering it.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Implementing organisation (participating-org role = implementing).
Unique ID definition
Does this organisation publish a unique activity identifier?
The activity identifier is a unique reference ID for the activity, e.g. a project number. It allows an activity to be referred to and searched for by a code, which can be used to retrieve the project from a database or filing system.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: IATI identifier.
Flow type definition
Does this organisation publish the “flow type”, i.e. whether the activity is categorised as Official Development Assistance (ODA), Other Official Flows (OOF), private grants, private market flows, non-flows (e.g. GNI) or any other flows?
The flow type shows whether the organisation states that this activity counts as ODA, OOF, climate finance or any other type of flow. This has to be explicitly stated per activity OR once in a country strategy paper OR in a single place on the organisation’s website if there is only one flow type for all activities, e.g. “all aid is ODA”, or “we only provide private grants”.
Aid type definition
Does this organisation publish the type of aid given (e.g. budget support, pooled funds, project-type interventions, experts, scholarships, debt relief, or administrative costs)?
The type of aid shows whether the activity is classed as budget support, a project, technical assistance, debt relief, and/or administrative costs. This needs to be explicitly stated per activity OR once in a country strategy paper OR on a clear place on the organisation’s website if there is only one aid type for the whole organisation, e.g. “all aid is project-type interventions”.
Finance type definition
Does this organisation publish the type of finance given (e.g. grant, loan, export credit, debt relief)?
The type of finance shows whether the activity is a grant, loan, export credit or debt relief. This needs to be explicitly stated per activity OR once in a country strategy paper OR clearly on the organisation’s website if there is only one finance type for the whole organisation, e.g. “all aid is grants”. Investment type (e.g. loan, equity) can be interpreted as equivalent.
Tied aid status definition
Does this organisation publish whether the aid is tied or not?
The tied aid status shows whether the organisation states that this activity counts as “tied” (procurement is restricted to the donor organisation country) or “untied” (open procurement).
Specifying location requirements in activity documents such as procurement policies or tenders is accepted as publishing tied aid status. The IATI reference for this indicator is: Default tied status.
Are the terms and conditions attached to the activity published?
The terms and conditions of the activity may also be referred to as benchmarks, priors, or involve words such as “subject to...”. They are specific to an individual activity and explain what the recipient must do in order to be eligible for the funds to be released. The conditions should include loan repayment terms if the activity is financed by a loan.
The IATI references for this indicator are: Conditions and/or Conditions document (document code = A04).
For IFIs and DFIs, this includes loan repayment conditions or special terms and conditions.
Project procurement definition
Is the contract for the activity published?
The individual contract(s) signed with a company, organisation or individual that provides goods and services for the activity. This could be on a procurement section of the organisation’s website, on a separate website or on a central government procurement website.
Contract documents cannot simply be at the country level. If an activity contract is included in a larger country-level document, it is only accepted if the contract mentions the activity specifically and in detail.
Basic information about the activity contract is accepted if it contains three of the following five information items: awardee, amount, overview of services being provided, start/end dates, unique reference to original tender documents.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Contract (document code = A11 or A06).
In cases where organisations consider such information to be commercially sensitive, sections within the contract can be redacted but the reason for the redactions needs to be explicitly stated.
Does this organisation publish all tenders?
Tenders are the individual contracts or proposals that have been put out to invite bids from companies or organisations that want to provide goods and services for an activity. They may be on a separate website, possibly on a central government procurement website. The IATI reference for this indicator is: Tender (document code = A10).
Investment codes or policies for IFIs and DFIs are accepted. For private foundations, calls for grant submissions are accepted. For humanitarian agencies, documents that provide guidance on securing funding are accepted.
Due to the difficulty with manually finding tenders linked to current activities, rather than looking for the specific tender, a review of the organisation’s overall calls for tenders is completed to check it is publishing them consistently and in-line with their procurement policy.
Are the objectives or purposes of the activity published?
The objectives or purposes of the activity are those that the activity intends to achieve.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Objectives / Purpose of activity (document code = A02) or Description (description type = 2). The objectives need to include the target sector/group and expected outcomes.
Pre-project impact appraisals definition
Is a pre-project impact appraisal published?
Pre-project impact appraisals explain the totality of positive and negative, primary and secondary effects expected to be produced by a development intervention.
Environmental impact assessments as well as impact assessments that explain what objectives the project itself intends to provide are accepted.
The IATI reference for this indicator is: Pre and post-project impact appraisal (document code = A01).
IFIs and DFIs tend only to publish impact appraisals if regulations require them to but given the link they have to the eventual impact and results of the activity all organisations are scored on this indicator.
Humanitarian Implementation Plans (HIPs) and project plans are accepted for humanitarian agencies.
Reviews and evaluations definition
Are evaluation documents or reviews published for all completed activities in this recipient country?
Evaluation and review documents consider what the activity achieved, whether the intended objectives were met, what the major factors influencing the achievement or non-achievement of the objectives were and an assessment of the impact, effect and value of the activity. This information may be on a specific evaluation section of the organisation’s website.
If the activity under assessment is not completed but interim evaluation or review documents are available, these will be accepted. The IATI reference for this indicator is: Review of project performance and evaluation (document code = A07).
Are results, outcomes and outputs published for all completed activities in this recipient country?
The results show whether activities achieved their intended outputs in accordance with the stated goals or plans. This information often refers to log frames and results chains and may be within a specific results or evaluation section of the organisation’s website.
The IATI references for this indicator are: Result and/or Results, outcomes and outputs (Document code = A08).