Even before the publication of Daily Mail story implicating the Sharif family in misuse of funds, the International Development Committee of the British Parliament had launched an inquiry into DFID’s aid programme for Pakistan (and its coherence with other aspects of UK/Pakistan relations). The announcement commented on the political climate in Pakistan, saying that PML-N, which led the government since 2013, lost the elections due to corruption scandals which led to the downfall and subsequent imprisonment of the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, in 2017.
Pakistan is the top recipient country of UK aid. Being the sixth most populous country in the world and with a fast-growing economy, Pakistan also faces a number of substantial development challenges.
As per an announcement by the committee, they have launched the inquiry to understand how well UK aid spending addresses challenges and progress made since the last IDC inquiry in 2013.
“We will investigate how the different strands of aid spending in Pakistan – including health, education, economic development, security and stability, and climate change – work together to meet the aims of the UK’s overall aid strategy in the region and globally. The Committee will also examine how programmes in Pakistan address UK commitments to broader issues including poverty focus, disability inclusion, gender equality and safeguarding as well as overall progress against the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Pakistan is a strategic priority for UK aid. DFID’s office in Pakistan has the largest budget of any DFID country office, with a planned spend of £302 million in 2019-20 (down from £325 million in 2018/19). In 2018-19, the majority of the budget (53%) was spent on human development (including health and education), with the remainder split between economic development (29%), governance and security (10%), climate and environment (5%) and humanitarian aid (3%).
The UK delivers further official development assistance (ODA) aid to Pakistan through the cross-Government Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) on democracy (£8m ODA in 2018/19) and the rule of law (£9m ODA in 2018/19) – the latter includes work to increase Pakistan’s civilian capacity to prosecute terrorists in line with international standards. Pakistan also receives ODA administered by other UK Government Departments such as HMRC and from the Scottish Government (focusing on education and skills).
According to the announcement, the probe will focus on delivery, safeguarding and performance areas.
The scope of the inquiry will seek if UK’s strategic aims for its Pakistan aid programme clear and appropriate, and if other aspects of the UK/Pakistan relationship are coherent and well-coordinated with the aid programme and its aims and objectives. To what extent is UK aid spending in Pakistan integrated and coordinated with (i) the priorities and commitments of the Government of Pakistan, and multilateral, and other bilateral, donors’ programmes in Pakistan?
The focus of the probe in on the effectiveness of the UK aid (both DFID and non-DFID spending) in Pakistan in supporting its progress towards achieving the SDGs, and to what extent UK aid in Pakistan is focused on the poorest, most marginalised and most vulnerable people in that country?
The scale factors to be viewed are if UK’s aid spending in Pakistan us appropriate in view of relevant factors such as: competing demands; the potential to achieve lasting, cost-effective and scalable impact; Pakistan’s commitment to reform and its access to other resources.
In the delivery mechanism, the inquiry will see how effective are the partners (NGOs, private contractors and multilateral agencies) through which UK aid is delivered in Pakistan? What are the key risks (and mitigations) to the value for money, effectiveness and impact of UK aid projects and programmes in Pakistan? What are the main safeguarding challenges for aid delivery in Pakistan and how well are these being addressed in UK aid projects and programmes? What has UK aid achieved in Pakistan: in the last five years; since 1997? Are there adequate processes of independent evaluation and self-evaluation built into the country programme? What evidence is there of lesson-learning and turning learning into action?
Stephen Twigg, chair of the committee, said:
“We are looking at DFID’s country programme in Pakistan as it receives more UK aid spending than any other nation – from a range of UK ODA-spending departments – and faces a number of serious challenges across the development agenda as outlined by the SDGs and in areas recently examined, thematically, by the Committee. For example, Pakistan has high levels of extreme poverty, infant mortality, child malnutrition and illiteracy. Many children do not receive a formal education. At the same time, the country has a rapidly growing population requiring significant long-term economic growth to provide meaningful employment opportunities. Pakistan also houses the second highest number of refugees in the world and is one of the 10 countries most at risk from climate change.”