Today ICAI published a performance review of the Newton Fund, with support from Agulhas.
The Newton Fund is a research and innovation partnership fund managed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which was established to develop science and innovation partnerships to reduce poverty by generating and putting into use knowledge and technology.
It has a secondary purpose of strengthening the UK’s wider prosperity and global influence by building ties with partner countries, promoting the UK as a global leader in development research and unlocking opportunities for collaboration and trade.
ICAI found that the fund was poorly designed to pursue the aim of promoting international development, and its secondary objectives – such as building ties with partner countries – have often been the main driver of its work.
BEIS has provided little effective oversight or management of the Newton Fund, resulting in weaknesses such as a lack of transparency and accountability, weak coordination within and across country partnerships, and a lack of a coherent approach to securing value for money and maximising development impact.
Although improvements have been made to the Fund’s working processes in recent years, the government needs to speed up its work to strengthen the Fund.
ICAI made the following recommendations:
- BEIS should ensure the Fund increases its focus on meeting the development needs and priorities of its partner countries. It should require improved ODA compliance and assurance processes across delivery partners.
- The Newton Fund should ensure that it meaningfully considers options for reducing gender inequality and reports its progress.
- BEIS should ensure the funding practices of the Newton Fund comply with both the letter and the spirit of the untying aid commitment.
- BEIS should improve the governance and accountability of the Newton Fund.
- BEIS should improve the Newton Fund’s approach to and measurement of value for money.
- The Newton Fund should improve its approach to monitoring, evaluation and learning at the Fund level.