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External auditors, policy transfer, accruals accounting and the United Nations

Kim Moloney (College of Public Policy, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Doha, Qatar)
Gwenda Jensen (Independent Researcher, Toronto, Canada)
Rayna Stoycheva (Harkin Institute, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, USA)

Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management

ISSN: 1096-3367

Article publication date: 1 May 2024




This study asks whether external auditors enable the transfer of policies to the United Nations organizations that they audit and, if so, what types of policies are transferred.


The empirical research is based on a content analysis of 512 external auditor recommendations from 28 pre- and post-accrual reports of 14 UN bodies.


We find that external auditors do enable policy transfer and that such involvements may, at times, veer into non-neutral policy spaces.

Research limitations/implications

We did not analyze all UN organizations with accruals-based accounting. We also did not engage in a longer longitudinal study.

Practical implications

Our findings raise new questions about international organization accountability, the technocratic and policy-specific influences of external auditors, and open a debate about whether attempted policy transfers can be neutral.


The world’s largest group of international organizations is affiliated with the UN. External auditors help ensure that member-state monies are appropriately utilized. Our study is the first to compare pre- and post-accrual external auditor recommendations for 14 UN bodies. It is also the first to notate and study the attempted policy transfers from external auditors to the audited UN bodies.



We thank Diane Stone and Leslie Pal for comments on earlier drafts. Any errors are our own.


Moloney, K., Jensen, G. and Stoycheva, R. (2024), "External auditors, policy transfer, accruals accounting and the United Nations", Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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