Review of Literature and Research Methodology on Accountability

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Literature 1

Sowmya Kidambi (2012), studied on “Why It Is Important for NGOs to establish their credibility when every sector is under the scanner?”

In this study, she described that as civil society organizations, nascent political formations increasingly demand transparency and accountability from the political establishment, and executive, it is ethically necessary that they develop institutional structures and systems for their own transparency and accountability. Amid this widespread call for transparency, there are many questions being raised about public resources, their use and potential misuse by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The study suggested public auditing system should be developed so that the beneficiaries can monitor the use of funds meant for them.

Literature 2

Godwin Awio, Deryl North, Stewart Lawrence (2011) studied on “Social Capital and Accountability in Grass Roots NGOs: the case of the Ugandan community-led HIV/AIDS initiative”.

In this study, they analyzed how grass-root NGOs account for their actions and expenditure and how this accountability is disclosures to and benefits the citizens they serve. This study was based on a case study of an NGO that delivers welfare services to a Ugandan committee affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The research found that by harnessing the attributes of social capital grass root NGOs can supplement format accountability obligations to funders with effective bottom-up accountability. This research addressed the lack of empirical studies of NGOs in accountability.

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Literature 3

Gloria Agyemang, Mariama Awumbila, Jeffrey Unerman, Brendan O’Dwyer(2009)

They studied on “Accountability and Aid Delivery” the aims of the research project had been to investigate, through the experiences of those operating on aid projects at the NGO fieldwork level, the impact of different accounting and accountability mechanisms on the effectiveness of aid delivery. By investigating this issue and identifying the types of accounting and accountability mechanisms that enhance aid, effectiveness and those that have a potentially dysfunctional impact on aid effectiveness.

This study aims to contribute to the formulation of NGO accounting and accountability policies that will be effective in improving the efficiency and effectiveness with which aid funding is transformed into a reduction in human suffering in impoverished nations. The insights provided throughout this study, and the recommendations outlined above, provide and suggest many avenues of further research into the impact of accountability mechanisms on the effectiveness of aid delivery and the development of new accounting and accountability mechanisms.

Literature 4

Edward Mac Abbey (2008) studied, “Constructive regulation of non-government organizations”

This study found that a key role of Civil Society Organizations, such as NGOs, is to develop community capacity to link with formal sector institutions. Regulation of NGOs themselves can legitimize their role, improve their professional standards, and assure accountability to the public. Care should be taken not to excessively regulate, which restricts innovation and outreach of NGOs. Constructive regulation should include simple registration, self-help regulatory mechanisms, and formal regulation of important services such as microfinance. Drawing on experience in Bangladesh and Dominican Republic, the author demonstrated how regulation can improve the effectiveness of development intervention of NGOs.

Literature 5

Brendan O’Dwyer, and Jeffrey Unerman (2008), studied on “The paradox of greater NGO accountability: A case study of Amnesty Ireland”

In this study, they analyzed that despite mounting public, governmental and corporate interest in issues of non-governmental organization (NGO) accountability, there were few academic studies investigating the emergence of accountability mechanisms in specific advocacy NGO settings. Drawing on the theoretical constructs of hierarchical and holistic accountability, this paper addressed that research gap by investigating recent developments in accountability practices at the Irish section of the human rights advocacy NGO Amnesty International.

Through analysis of a series of in-depth interviews with managers in Amnesty Ireland, supported by extensive documentary scrutiny, this study examined reasons why Amnesty’s historical reliance on internal forms of accountability had been augmented with a range of ad hoc external accountability mechanisms. It was widely perceived that this trend could, somewhat paradoxically prove counterproductive to the achievement of Amnesty’s mission. The paper considered the possible implications of these findings for the development of NGO holistic accountability practice more generally.

Literature 6

Glen Lehman (2007) studied on “The accountability of NGOs in civil society and its public spheres”

In this study, the author analyzed that in the past two decades, globalization had brought about many unexpected changes in the assumed role of governments. Part of this had included the role and rise of non-government organizations (NGOs) that had grown in number and power to fill services that governments were either unable or unwilling to provide. The prominence of NGOs in third-world countries fills a void of humanitarian services that were often lacking, but in all nations, they had increasingly become potential vehicles for ideology instead of assistance, subject to capture by both sides of politics. In this respect, a new question and a new challenge face those who look for the accountability of NGOs in the public sphere—Are NGOs doomed to fail by the environment that made them necessary? The possible role for NGOs can be evaluated by examining alternative of ways of thinking about the “civil society”. More particularly, NGO contributions involve examining connections with accountability in a world in which public intervention and social awareness had been trivialized. A reinvigorated civil society can help to reconcile the role of NGOs to an authentic and effective accountability.

Literature 7

Brendon O’Dwyer, and Jeffrey Unerman (2007), worked on “From functional to social accountability: Transforming relationship between funders and nongovernment development organization”.

The purpose of this paper was to analyze the evolving nature of the accountability relationship between a group of Irish non-governmental development organizations (NGDOs) and their primary governmental funder. The empirical content of the paper was derived from a series of in-depth interviews with senior individuals working within the Irish NGDO sector, along with a comprehensive analysis of documentary sources. The study find out that lack of resources, organizational commitment, guidance, and expertise from the governmental funder had contributed to an attitude of skepticism among many NGDOs towards both the partnership rhetoric and the accompanying adoption of the central tenets of social accountability, particularly downward accountability to beneficiaries. The limitation of study is that research was based on a detailed analysis in a specific context which may limit its wider applicability. Nevertheless, it added insights to the developing academic literature on NGO accountability, with particular reference to their broader social accountabilities.

This study provided in-depth, highly informed insider perspectives on the evolving nature of these relationships, especially in the context of attempts to promote more partnership-based approaches to the delivery of development aid.

Literature 8

Jeffrey Unerman, Brendan O'Dwyer, (2006) 'Theorising accountability for NGO advocacy', Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 19 Iss: 3, pp.349 – 376

The purpose of this study was to develop a staged theoretical argument regarding whether NGO can be considered, responsible and accountable for the direct and indirect consequences, on a wide range of stakeholders flowing from their advocacy activities. The paper found that the advocacy activities on NGO may be considered to cause widespread and often unintended negative impact upon the lives of many either stakeholders who are close to or remote from.

This study was primarily theoretical so it can be benefit from empirical studies to assess its applicability in practice. It also has the scope to be applied in assessing the responsibility and accountability of a range of other entities for their advocacy – such as businesses, religious bodies, political parties, and academics.

Literature 9

Rob Gray, Jan Bebbinqtan, and David Collison(2006), studied on “NGOs and civil society accountability, making the people accountable to capital”.

The research finds that the essence of accountability lies in the relationships between the organization and the society and/or stakeholder groups of interest. The nature of this relationship allows us to infer much about the necessary formality and the channels of accountability. In turn, this casts a light upon taken-for-granted assumptions in the corporate accountability and reminds us that the essence and basis of success of the corporate world lies in its withdrawal from any form of human relationship and the consequential colonization and oppression of civil society.

Literature 10

Andrew Goddard, Mussa Juma, Assad (2006), conducted study on “Accounting and navigating legitimacy in Tanzanian NGOs”

This research established the importance of accounting in the process of navigating organizational legitimacy. Two principal strategies were employed by organizations in navigating legitimacy – building credibility and bargaining for change. The paper contributed to the limited empirical research into accounting in NGOs in developing countries and to grounded theory, accounting research.

The principal finding that in the NGOs studied the primary purpose of accounting was its symbolic use in navigating legitimacy and that it had a minimal role to play in internal decision making, was an important finding for practice as well as for understanding and knowledge. Finally, the paper sheds light on accountability in NGOs by narrating how the phenomenon is constructed and perceived by organizations and stakeholders.

Literature 11

Rob Dixon, John Ritchie, and Juliana Siwale (2006), studied on “Microfinance: Accountability from Grassroots”.

This study focused on accountability at the grassroots in microfinance NGOs with a social mission. It reveals potential for further personal, community and socially constituted accounting research within microfinance in particular. This study was based on a series of semi-structured interviews and live observation of the client-loan officer interface and internal meetings provided triangulation on accountability relationships in the midst of crisis. Data were analyzed using NVIVO, a qualitative computer software package.

The findings showed that tensions between vertical and horizontal accountability in practice can be directly translated into heightened pressure and stresses on both the non-governmental organization (NGO) and its loan officers, which constrain overall accountabilities to other stakeholders and disguise other potential dysfunctions.

Literature 12

Alnoor Ebrahim(2003), studied on “ Accountability In Practice: Mechanisms for NGOs”.

This paper examined how accountability is practiced by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Five broad mechanisms were reviewed: reports and disclosure statements, performance assessments and evaluations, participation, self-regulation, and social audits. Each mechanism, distinguished as either a “tool” or a “process,” was analyzed along three dimensions of accountability: upward–downward, internal–external, and functional–strategic. It was observed that accountability in practice had emphasized “upward” and “external” accountability to donors while “downward” and “internal” mechanisms remain comparatively underdeveloped. Key policy implications for NGOs and donors are discussed in this study.

Literature 13

Paul Jepson, Governance and accountability of environmental NGOs, Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 8, Issue 5, October 2005, Pages 515-524

The issue of the governance and accountability of environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) is gaining in prominence in academic and public discourse. Ideally each sector of society should be characterized by a distinct accountability regime, but faced with calls for greater accountability there is a risk that ENGOs might apply accountability regimes uncritically from the business or private sector. This could undermine the independent change-agent role of ENGOs and therefore weaken aspects of the democratic system.

This paper argued that ENGOs and the NGO sector in general, need to develop and debate a distinct and credible accountability regime that strengthens and defines their role in society. In support of this goal a framework for conceptualizing a legitimacy-based approach to accountability is described. This was based on the observation that NGO capacity for impact was founded on different types of legitimacy that together establish and maintain public trust. One role of governance is to maintain and strengthen these legitimacy assets by establishing and over-seeing accountability streams that recognize that public trust is built on the cumulative evidence of legitimacy.

Literature 14

Glen Lehman, “The accountability of NGOs in civil society and its public spheres, Critical Perspectives on Accounting”, Volume 18, Issue 6, September 2007, Pages 645-669.

In the past two decades, globalization has brought about many unexpected changes in the assumed role of governments. Part of this has included the role and rise of non-government organizations (NGOs) that have grown in number and power to fill services that governments are either unable or unwilling to provide. The prominence of NGOs in third-world countries fills a void of humanitarian services that are often lacking, but in all nations they have increasingly become potential vehicles for ideology instead of assistance, subject to capture by both sides of politics.

In this respect, a new question and a new challenge face those who look for the accountability of NGOs in the public sphere—are NGOs doomed to fail by the environment that made them necessary? In other words, are they doomed to fail because they are unelected and unaccountable, and unlikely to rise above the limitations of the current system that made them necessary in the first place? The possible role for NGOs can be evaluated by examining alternative of ways of thinking about the “civil society”.

This draws together interpretative strategies from philosophers such as Stanley Aronowitz, Carl Boggs, Craig Calhoun, Timothy Luke, Randy Martin and Charles Taylor. From their work, an on tic dialectical thinking is developed and can be used to assess whether NGOs can truly fill the democratic vacuum, and contribute towards the good society. More particularly, NGO contributions involve examining connections with accountability in a world in which public intervention and social awareness have been trivialized.

Literature 15

Sanjaya Chinthana Kuruppu (june, 2015) submitted a thesis on “The accountability trap: understanding meaning, practice and stakeholder salience in an NGO”.

In this study the researcher had studied that There is a great concern for “what forms of accountability are manifest and hence privileged” (Gray and Laughlin, 2012 p. 241). At the heart of these questions are issues of power and how through the operationalisation of accountability, certain aspects of accountability are elevated over others. As such, this thesis adds to theory in a number of ways. This study extended on mainly philosophical expositions of accountability in terms of a relationship between a ‘self’ and an ‘other’ (Roberts, 1991; Messner, 2009). Contextualized empirics from a Sri Lankan case study highlighted how certain forms of accountability will inherently dominate because of underlying and generally taken for granted notions of how to be accountable and who really matters. The way in which DEVPA (name of an NGO) created a sense of self within a diverse stakeholder context demonstrated how the ‘self’ is always a reflection of an ‘external other’. A core theoretical insight provided by the case evidence is the extent to which stakeholder salience matters in shaping DEVPA’s sense of self. Future theoretical explorations may observe how other NGOs and different types of organizations may be influenced by stakeholder salience in different ways; thus highlighting how accountability can be manifested in diverse forms.

Stakeholder salience has been discussed in this work (implicitly, at least) in terms of discussions of how ‘upwards’ stakeholders are prioritized and catered to, implicitly and explicitly subordinating the concerns of ‘downwards’ stakeholders (see, for example, Goddard and Assad, 2010). This thesis extends present studies by adopting a stakeholder salience lens to explain some of the dynamics of changing power, legitimacy and potentially urgency (Mitchell et al., 1997; Neville et al., 2011) has driven changes in the way that DEVPA interacts with its stakeholders.

Fundamentally, the thesis adds to theory by discussing stakeholder salience as a key driver of DEVPA’s evolving role. In doing so, the thesis again elucidated a distinction between an ‘organizational self’ and an ‘other’. In addition to highlighting the dynamics of ‘self’ and ‘other’, this study also adopted a theoretical framework based on Bovens’ (2010) exposition of accountability as a virtue and as a mechanism. In this study it is argued in chapters how the logic of accountability and governance at DEVPA were shaped by salient stakeholders and their demands.

Subsequently, discussed how the processes of accountability and governance were also driven by salient stakeholders’ concern. Explained in a chapter how logics, processes and practice at DEVPA were bound by the fundamental calculative nature embedded within operationalisations of accountability. These calculative practices are responsible for creating and perpetuating power differences among stakeholders by capturing the language and the means by which NGOs relate to their stakeholders. As the ‘language’ of accountability and governance (e.g. logics and processes) is constructed by powerful stakeholders, as discussed earlier, the voices of ‘downwards’ stakeholders are automatically subordinated. Governance studies have tended to concentrate on private sector structures and processes and government/public institutions (Brennan and Solomon, 2008).

Work exploring governance at NGOs remains much more limited (Steffeck and Hahn, 2010; Steffeck et al., 2010), this despite accountability and governance being considered as interwoven (Tandon, 1995) and important to examine concurrently (Buriss et al., 2008).

This study adds to the literature by unpacking governance structures and systems alongside and with accountability systems. Despite a significant transformation in DEVPA’s role, governance structures are relatively hierarchical despite a proclaimed need for being more nimble. Furthermore, despite a willingness to adopt and integrate a participatory approach to decision making and project interventions, ultimately, the demands of powerful stakeholders pressured DEVPA into more centralized control structures.

Ultimately, the thesis confirmed theoretical findings from prior studies and shows how NGOs are caught in an ‘accountability trap’ to satisfy demands of ‘upwards’ stakeholders. The strength of this conclusion lies in the empirics of the case study. It is also discussed that the process of DEVPA’s evolving role within the Sri Lankan context from a ‘direct implementer’ to a ‘policy advocacy’ based NGO. Despite a significant change in the organization’s operational focus and interventions, the underlying form of DEVPA’s accountability and governance did not transform, restricted by the necessity to ‘calculate’ impact and justify the NGO to external stakeholders (see, for example, O’Dwyer and Unerman, 2008).

Literature 16

S. S. Ghonkrokta and Anu Singh Lather (February, 2017) “Identification of Role of Social Audit by Stakeholders as Accountability Tool in Good Governance”

In this study the authors studied that in the recent years social audit is being viewed as a promising approach to improve the performance and social accountability in private as well as in public sector. A number of state governments have also initiated social audit exercise and government of Delhi is probably the pioneer in social audit. Organizations have developed procedures, standards and methods to achieve social audit as it has been useful in many ways in improving performance and accountability, but it is only the stakeholders who can truly appreciate the benefits and role of social audit.

In this study the construction of a standardized Likert scale questionnaire undertaken to assess the role of social audit as perceived by stakeholders. In the process of constructing the instrument, this paper attempted to clarify the actual role of the society and civic engagements as is perceived and expected by stakeholders. Social audit creates confidence in society regarding government initiatives, promotes transparency and efficiency, improves social, ethical and environmental performance, enhances inclusion, facilitates monitoring and ensures accountability.

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Review of Literature and Research Methodology on Accountability. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from
“Review of Literature and Research Methodology on Accountability.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
Review of Literature and Research Methodology on Accountability. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 Jul. 2024].
Review of Literature and Research Methodology on Accountability [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2024 Jul 23]. Available from:

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