Grants are one of government’s main funding mechanisms, supporting a range of public services, from research and innovation to infrastructure projects. Recipients include local authorities or arm’s-length bodies (ALBs), as well as businesses, charities, and individuals. Central government’s grant expenditure in 2021-22 was £172 billion, approximately 16% of government expenditure.

We last reported on grants in 2014. We found that government often used grants without considering other funding options, that many grants were given in isolation and not as part of portfolios, and that the Cabinet Office wasn’t capturing enough oversight data or providing guidance to civil servants.

Since then, the Cabinet Office has set up the Government Grant Management Function, which collects data on all central government grants, has developed a set of minimum grant standards, and provides a suite of training opportunities, advice, and automated due-diligence tools for grant providers across government.


We will assess how effective government is at designing and delivering grant programmes, and if it uses lessons learned from past programmes to improve future delivery, including:

  • whether government considers all funding options before giving money, ensuring that grants are used appropriately and cost-effectively
  • if the risk controls and reporting obligations for grants are proportional so that they’re not overly burdensome for small grants, but are robust enough for large grants
  • how effective the Government Grant Management Function is at giving grant practitioners the tools needed to improve the quality and efficiency of their work

NAO Team

Director: Siân Jones
Audit Manager: Leon Bardot