DFID’s new approach is paying off

Mark Lowcock, permenant secretary, DFIDMark Lowcock, the permanent secretary at the Department for International Development, on best practices and reform.

Suppliers are a key part of our operation and without them we would not have been able to achieve the same results. UK aid has now given 54.4 million people, almost half of them women, access to financial services; ensured 3.6 million safe births and helped 10.2 million children to go to school.

However with 1.4 billion people still living in poverty, many in fragile, conflict-affected states that are falling behind, we cannot take our eye off the ball. By 2015, most of those mired in extreme poverty will reside in places troubled by conflict, making it vital that DFID and suppliers work with a relentless focus to meet these development challenges.

The UK has met its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on official development assistance. This brings increased scrutiny and a need to show the impact it is having. Our recently published payment by results (PbR) strategy focused on pioneering suitable types of results-based aid in new places and gathering evidence about what works best. PbR is becoming our ‘business as usual’ approach with suppliers.

An even more commercial approach is taken when engaging with suppliers. This leads to better contracts for us both and, crucially, better results for people on the ground. We have increased engagement with SMEs and NGOs and provided opportunities for suppliers to input into process reviews. Our key supplier management programme provides an arena for frank discussion and development of improvement plans with our largest strategic suppliers.

Early market engagement is becoming the norm – allowing us to access market expertise The value is clear in the higher quality of bids received. In addition, our focus on strengthening contract management reflects not just a DFID priority, but the cross-government review of major contracts that is driving contract management reform. Forty per cent of our procurement and commercial staff are CIPS qualified, and I was delighted last year when DFID received the CIPS SM Award for Best International Procurement Project of the Year.

Also over 1,000 suppliers have signed up to our Statement of Priorities and Expectations for Suppliers and we seek continuous performance improvement from our suppliers, a willingness to flag issues when they arise, and an appetite for open discussions.

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