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Managing the Official Development Assistance target

The Department for International Development met, for the calendar year 2013, the government target to spend 0.7% of the UK’s annual gross national income on overseas aid, according to a report from the National Audit Office. This is the level of overseas aid (Official Development Assistance or ODA) that the United Nations has said that developed countries should aim to achieve. However, the requirement to hit the target and not exceed it significantly, against a background of considerable uncertainty, presents the Department with challenges in managing its budget and spending.

In 2010, the coalition government committed to the 0.7% ODA target. It increased the Department’s 2013‑14 budget by a third to support its commitment at a time when it was reducing the budgets of most other departments. In 2013, the United Kingdom spent some £11.5 billion on overseas aid.

According to today’s report, which supports an inquiry by Parliament’s International Development Committee, the Department worked hard to manage the substantial increase in its budget, completing preparatory work to strengthen many of its business processes, increasing the capacity of its workforce, and improving its approach to measuring benefits.

One clear challenge for the Department is that, in effect, it must work to two year ends. Although the target relates to cash expenditure in a calendar year, the Department continues to account to a March financial year end. This difference is likely to represent more than an accounting difficulty because of the need to hit a target with little or no flexibility, causing significant decisions to be made late in the year and at short notice.

Moreover, assessing whether the Department has met the target is made more difficult by changes in the calculation of gross national income. In October 2014, the Department published four values for the ratio of ODA spending to gross national income, ranging from 0.67% to 0.72%, depending on how gross national income is calculated.

16 January 2015

Notes for Editors


UK 2013 spending on aid – Official Development Assistance (ODA)


2013 ODA as a percentage of the UK’s gross national income


OECD countries that spent more than 0.71% of their gross national income on ODA in 2013


Growth of the Department for International Development’s budget from £7,862 million in 2012-13 to £10,439 million in 2013-14


The proportion of total 2013 UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) spent by the Department


Growth of the Department’s workforce to 2,731 in the 2 years to March 2013


The proportion of the Department’s 2013-14 spending it chose to give as core funding to assist multilateral organisations to deliver their objectives, up 3 percentage points on 2012-13


Growth in the Department’s bilateral humanitarian spending from £476 million in 2012-13 to £891 million in 2013-14

1. The Department for International Development monitors spending by other departments, such as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Department of Energy & Climate Change, that falls within the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) definition of ODA.

2. This report supports the International Development Committee's inquiry into the Department's 2013-14 Annual Report and Accounts.

3. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at Hard copies can be obtained by using the relevant links on our website.

4. The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Amyas Morse, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO, which employs some 820 employees. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy. Our studies evaluate the value for money of public spending, nationally and locally. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to audited savings of £1.1 billion in 2013.

PN: 05/15