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Article
Publication date: 31 July 2019

Gloria Agyemang, Brendan O’Dwyer and Jeffrey Unerman

The purpose of this paper is to offer a retrospective and prospective analysis of the themes explored in the 2006 Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal special…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to offer a retrospective and prospective analysis of the themes explored in the 2006 Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal special issue on non-governmental organisation (NGO) accountability.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is a reflective review essay.

Findings

The paper outlines how a number of themes in the 2006 special issue addressing downward accountability, hierarchical accountability and management control have been subsequently developed in a selection of papers from the accounting literature. The development of these themes leads to several suggestions for future research in NGO accountability.

Originality/value

The paper offers a systematic, original perspective on recent developments in certain areas of the field of NGO accountability.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 19 June 2017

Gloria Agyemang, Brendan O’Dwyer, Jeffrey Unerman and Mariama Awumbila

The purpose of this paper is to ascertain how upward accountability processes can be enabling in, or constraining to, the effective deployment of development aid funding.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to ascertain how upward accountability processes can be enabling in, or constraining to, the effective deployment of development aid funding.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper derives its primary insights from in-depth interviews and focus groups with non-governmental organization (NGO) fieldworkers working and delivering development aid in Northern Ghana. It analyses inductively the perspectives of fieldworkers to explain their experiences of upward accountability.

Findings

The fieldworkers’ perception of upward accountability was mainly one of external control, in response to which they enacted a skilful form of compliance accountability. This perception of control failed to stifle their initiative and intrinsic commitment to beneficiaries. The fieldworkers craved “conversations for accountability”, in which they had a voice in the development of upward accountability metrics, thereby enabling them to fulfil their sense of felt responsibility to beneficiaries. While aspects of “conversations for accountability” were emerging in fieldworker-funder interactions, it was unclear to what extent funders were committed to further advancing them. Overall, the analysis unveils how felt responsibility mediates for, and partly diminishes, the perceived negative impacts on aid effectiveness of upward accountability processes informed by a focus on control.

Originality/value

The authors examine the potential of upward accountability processes using in-depth analyses of the actual experiences of those involved in delivering NGO services at the grassroots level. The authors contribute to emerging work in this vein by enriching the authors’ understanding of local constituencies’ experiences of accountability processes more generally, especially the impact these mechanisms have on NGO operational activities. The authors also unveil the mediating role fieldworkers’ “felt responsibility” to beneficiaries’ plays in moderating the perceived negative impacts on aid effectiveness of upward accountability processes.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 30 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 10 June 2020

Brendan O'Dwyer and Jeffrey Unerman

This paper problematizes TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) reporting in a way that demonstrates areas where academic research can contribute…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper problematizes TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures) reporting in a way that demonstrates areas where academic research can contribute towards realizing the transformative potential of this unique form of sustainability accounting in its early stages of development.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper proposes a number of research agendas for impactful interdisciplinary research into new forms of corporate reporting of sustainability risks, opportunities and dependencies.

Findings

There are several major challenges that both reporting corporations and investors need to address in realizing the potential of TCFD style risks, opportunities and dependencies reporting. Key among these is developing new practices of climate-related scenario analysis and reporting.

Practical implications

There is potential for many different academic research studies to provide solid evidence in helping improve the practical impact of TCFD style sustainability reporting. These impacts may assist in moving corporate policies and actions towards zero carbon.

Originality/value

This is the first agenda-setting paper that addresses the need for, and opportunities of, academic research into TCFD reporting and its potential to transform corporate accounting and reporting of sustainability.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 33 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 May 2006

Jeffrey Unerman and Brendan O'Dwyer

The purpose of this paper is to set out key issues in the academic study of non‐governmental organisation (NGO) accountability, and to introduce papers appearing in this…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to set out key issues in the academic study of non‐governmental organisation (NGO) accountability, and to introduce papers appearing in this special issue on NGO accountability.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a discussion paper exploring key issues theoretically.

Findings

The paper finds that there are many aspects of NGO accountability which should be explored in greater depth in future studies. Several other issues have been examined in the papers in this special issue of Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal.

Research limitations/implications

There is a possibility that the issues explored in this paper, and the other papers in this special issue, will lead to a considerable growth in academic studies in this area.

Practical implications

The paper is a contribution to the growing debate on NGO accountability.

Originality/value

The paper sets an agenda for research into NGO accountability.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 19 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 May 2006

Jeffrey Unerman and Brendan O'Dwyer

The purpose of this paper is to develop a staged theoretical argument regarding whether non‐governmental organisations (NGOs) can be considered responsible and accountable…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to develop a staged theoretical argument regarding whether non‐governmental organisations (NGOs) can be considered responsible and accountable for the direct and indirect consequences, on a wide range of stakeholders, flowing from their advocacy activities.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is primarily theoretical and conceptual, developing a structured, conditional and staged model illustrated with empirical examples.

Findings

The paper finds depending upon the theoretical arguments accepted at each stage of the model, the advocacy activities of an NGO may be considered to cause a widespread and often unintended negative impact upon the lives of many stakeholders who are either close to, or remote from, the NGO. Also, that depending upon the theoretical position taken regarding the scope of accountability, all entities – including NGOs – may be regarded as responsible and accountable for the impacts which their activities directly and indirectly cause to a broad range of stakeholders.

Research limitations/implications

The model is primarily theoretical, so it can 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.

Practical implications

The paper presents a ontribution to the growing debate on NGO accountability.

Originality/value

The paper uses the synthesis of various philosophical positions to develop a conditional, staged model which may be used to establish whether NGOs (and other organisations) can be regarded as having responsibilities and accountabilities for the direct and indirect impacts of their advocacy activities on a broad range of stakeholders.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 19 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 January 2006

Mary Canning and Brendan O'Dwyer

This paper aims to advance understanding of the disciplinary decision‐making process underpinning the professional ethics machinery employed by professional accounting…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to advance understanding of the disciplinary decision‐making process underpinning the professional ethics machinery employed by professional accounting organisations, using elements of francophone organisational analysis to examine the influence of the key formal organisational components established by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI) to administer its disciplinary decision‐making process up to December 1999.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses evidence gathered from a series of in‐depth interviews with members of the ICAI disciplinary and investigation committees.

Findings

Illuminates the internal tensions and conflicts permeating the disciplinary decision‐making process of the ICAI and the influence key organisational components have on resolving these conflicts through their encouragement of decision making driven by a preferred reasoning or logic of action.

Research limitations/implications

The evidence presented questions the public interest proclamations of the ICAI with respect to its disciplinary procedures pre‐December 1999. It further exposes the tensions between profession protection and society protection motives in the disciplinary decision making of accounting bodies.

Originality/value

This paper represents a first attempt at getting inside the disciplinary decision‐making process of a professional accounting body to examine the process using the voices of process participants.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 19 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 February 2005

Brendan O'Dwyer, Jeffrey Unerman and John Bradley

This study presents an in‐depth investigation of non‐governmental organisations' (NGO) perceptions of CSD (corporate social disclosure) in Ireland. It commences the…

Abstract

Purpose

This study presents an in‐depth investigation of non‐governmental organisations' (NGO) perceptions of CSD (corporate social disclosure) in Ireland. It commences the process of addressing a lacuna in the CSD literature, whereby the perspectives of non‐managerial stakeholders have been largely ignored. In particular, it responds to O'Dwyer call for research to examine the nature and extent of stakeholder demand for CSD in Ireland in order to inform the future development of accountable Irish CSD practices.

Design/methodology/approach

Evidence is collected from in‐depth interviews with senior representatives of major Irish NGOs. The paper focuses on the nature of NGO demand for administrative reforms encompassing types of CSD and the prospects for supporting institutional reforms aimed at further empowering less powerful stakeholder groups.

Findings

A demand for the development of stand‐alone, mandated, externally verified CSD mechanisms predominates the perspectives. This is motivated by a desire to see stakeholder “rights” to information enforced given Irish companies' apparent resistance to engaging in complete and credible CSD. A number of perceived obstacles to the development of institutional mechanisms designed to support any desired CSD developments are exposed. These encompass: active corporate resistance to discursive dialogue, corporate resistance to voluntary information disclosure, a compliant political elite unwilling to confront the corporate sector on social and environmental issues, and a fragmented NGO community which has difficulty in raising public awareness about corporate social and environmental impacts. Evidence of antagonism between certain NGOs and elements within the Irish corporate sector is also illuminated.

Practical implications

The paper reflects on these perspectives and considers their implications for the development of accountable CSD mechanisms in Ireland.

Originality/value

Adds to the literature on CSD.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 18 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 19 January 2015

Brendan O'Dwyer and Roel Boomsma

The purpose of this paper is to deepen and advance the understanding of the construction of accountability within the relationship between government funders and…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to deepen and advance the understanding of the construction of accountability within the relationship between government funders and development non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Design/methodology/approach

The paper presents a case study examining the process through which an influential Dutch development NGO, Oxfam Novib, constructed its own accountability while simultaneously seeking to influence shifts in government funder accountability requirements. It enrols a combination of comprehensive archival data on the Dutch government’s financing scheme for NGOs from 1965 to 2012 and in-depth interviews with Oxfam Novib managers and Dutch government officials. The co-evolution in accountability within Oxfam Novib and the government funding scheme is conceptualised using the notions of imposed, felt and adaptive accountability

Findings

The case unveils the dynamics through which accountability within a major government funding scheme for NGOs was co-constructed by Oxfam Novib and the Dutch government’s development aid department. In particular, it reveals how this process was influenced by an internal evolution in Oxfam Novib’s organisational approach to accountability and an institutional context characterised by consensus-based economic and social policy making. The case also unveils the process through which Oxfam Novib’s influence declined as more demanding, narrowly focused government accountability requirements emerged in a setting that was increasingly critical of NGOs.

Originality/value

The paper presents a rare example of a context where development NGOs have proactively sought and secured influence over the accountability demands of a key donor. It is unique in combining consideration of the internal evolution of accountability within an individual NGO (conceptualised as an evolution from felt to adaptive accountability) with a progression in the form of accountability required by governmental funders. The paper unveils the conditions under which NGO-preferred conceptions of accountability may gain (and lose) influence among key funders.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 28 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 August 2002

Brendan O’Dwyer

This paper interprets managerial perceptions of corporate social disclosure (CSD) presence and absence through the lens of organisational legitimacy theory. Evidence from…

Abstract

This paper interprets managerial perceptions of corporate social disclosure (CSD) presence and absence through the lens of organisational legitimacy theory. Evidence from in‐depth semi‐structured interviews with 29 senior managers in 27 Irish public limited companies is presented. It is one of the few studies to use interview‐based evidence in attempts to understand the motivations for CSD and responds to calls for more empirical work of this nature in the CSD literature. The paper extends and interrogates the use of legitimacy theory to infer motivations for CSD by presenting a narrative which contemplates conceptions of legitimacy as both a process and a state while endeavouring to understand the motives for CSD. In this manner, the paper furnishes a more complex, complete, and critical story of the motives for CSD. The perspectives suggest that while CSD may occasionally form part of a legitimacy process, ultimately this is misguided as it is widely perceived as being incapable of supporting the achievement of a legitimacy state. Consequently, for many managers, the continued practice of CSD is deemed somewhat perplexing. The paper reflects on the implications of these findings for future CSD research and practice.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 15 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 20 June 2008

Brendan O'Dwyer and Mary Canning

The purpose of this paper is to examine the operation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland's (ICAI) complaint process from the complainant's perspective…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the operation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland's (ICAI) complaint process from the complainant's perspective. The findings are interpreted drawing on key elements of Parker's private interest model of professional accounting ethics, particularly the private interest roles of professional authority and professional insulation.

Design/methodology/approach

The primary evidence used is drawn from numerous sources. These include: extensive “private” documentation comprising original correspondence between the complainant in the case examined (or his advisors) and various representatives of the ICAI spanning a five‐year period; detailed supporting documentation included with this correspondence; Independent Experts' Reports on the complaints submitted; and in‐depth interviews with the complainant prior to, during, and post the examination of the documentary evidence.

Findings

The paper reveals how high levels of professional authority and professional insulation worked in tandem to prevent complaints entering the complaint process and deny the complainant reasons for decisions taken. It demonstrates how a key structural barrier in the complaint process, the screening role of the professional accounting body's secretary, created a complainant impression of a process concerned primarily with protecting members' interests. Subsequent to complaint process changes, an erosion of professional insulation is unveiled. However, this proves fleeting and, in response to persistent complainant challenges to heightened demonstrations of professional authority, the degree of professional insulation intensifies further.

Research limitations/implications

The paper focuses on a specific case where the complainant was dissatisfied with the ICAI's procedures. It reveals the extent to which complainants using professional body complaints procedures may, often by virtue of the structures in place, feel that profession protection motives are overriding purported concerns for society protection.

Originality/value

The paper extends and advances the literature examining professional accounting body disciplinary and complaint procedures. Prior research investigating the operation of these procedures has neglected to examine complaint processes in depth to inform their evaluations, particularly from the perspective of potential users of these processes.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 21 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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