National Audit Office: DfID must improve staff planning to support crisis response

NAO finds that the Department for International Development may be over-reliant on external contractors as it responds to an increasing number of crises

By Suzannah Brecknell

21 Jan 2016

The Department for International Development (DfID) trebled the amount it spends on crisis response to almost £1.2bn in 2014-15, according to an NAO report published today.

However, as it has increased capacity to respond to crises, it has “yet to identify whether it is deploying the most cost-effective combination of internal and external resources and skills,” the report said.

DfID should “take stock of its workforce planning needs”, says the report, particularly looking at weaknesses which emerged during the response to the Ebola crisis.

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It also calls on DfID and assess the “impact that a major crisis has on those parts of its business that release resources to support the response.”

The department spent £16m in the 12 months to August 2015 on contract staff, the NAO found. It described these staff as being  “invaluable in supporting its response in Syria, Nepal, Yemen, and Sierra Leone” but noted that: “Contractors can be expensive when deployed for long periods, and may lack experience of working within the Department and across government."

The NAO suggested limits "on the department’s internal costs may be an incentive for its teams to use contractors".

The report also found that DfID does not have a clear way to identify when and how it should exit from crises; and recommends that the department update the way it measures performance “given the growth of its portfolio of crisis interventions”.

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