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Edited by Trevor Hopper, Mathew Tsamenyi, Shahzad Uddin and Danture Wickramasinghe
9 Accounting and accountability for NGOs Jeffrey Unerman and Brendan O’Dwyer INTRODUCTION The topic covered in this chapter is accounting and accountability for and by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), exploring whether their accounting and accountability systems are and should be different from those used by other forms of organization. The chapter specifically focuses on the role and potential of accounting and accountability processes in those NGOs that are concerned with delivering poverty reduction programmes in developing countries, such as welfare aid, education and development programmes. A prerequisite for exploring these issues is defining what a non-governmental organization is. In practice, it can be difficult precisely to define an NGO because the definitions are rather blurred at the boundaries (Gray, Bebbington and Collison, 2006; Unerman and O’Dwyer, 2006). In some ways it is easier to start by defining what an NGO is not: in broad terms, an NGO is an organization that is neither a private commercial sector organization nor a public sector organization. Nor is it an organization that is managed directly by either national or local government, and the core purpose of an NGO is not to make commercial gain. Within this broad ‘definition-by-exclusion’, some organizations are very clearly NGOs. However, there are a number of organizations that are widely regarded as NGOs that do engage in some non-core commercial-type activities (such as charity shops run by Oxfam, and income-generating conferences). A number of NGOs also carry out some activities that might be more traditionally regarded as functions of the...
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