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NGO Accountability: The Case of Charities in Ethiopia

NGO influence and visibility have increased and stakes on their work are becoming greater. This has led to demands for better transparency and accountability by a multitude of stakeholders such as governments, donors, scholars and the public. NGOs in Ethiopia could not escape the pressure and the sector introduced codes of conduct to promote accountability. The government also issued a proclamation and established an agency to ensure NGO accountability. I am interested in the study of NGO accountability to support the effort of my organisation, which strives to uphold the image of the sector.

The overall aim of the study is to explore the extent of NGO accountability in Ethiopia and suggest ways of improving their accountability in all dimensions. Thus, the research explores NGOs’ understanding of accountability; how NGOs analyse and prioritise their stakeholders; evaluate the existing accountability mechanisms and the challenges to promote accountability.

The study employs an interpretive approach and uses non-probability methods and a purposive sampling strategy. The research uses semi-structured interview to understand the experience of researched organisations. Accordingly, four cases are selected representing the various categories of NGOs in Ethiopia and their experience regarding accountability is explored. In addition, the study examines the views of government, donor and media in regard to accountability.

The findings show that there is no uniform accountability framework that addresses to what extent NGOs are accountable, to whom NGOs are accountable and mechanisms of accountability. Both researched charities and their staff do not adequately understand the concept of accountability and stakeholder. The study has shown that evaluations, reports and financial disclosure are relatively strong mechanisms of accountability and basically serve upward accountability. The level of charities’ accountability towards beneficiaries, other NGOs and staff is not satisfactory. Charities face various challenges to promote accountability ranging from cost to poor understanding of accountability and stakeholders to lack of motivation.

The study suggests a number of recommendations including designing an accountability framework, building the capacity of charities, empowering the community and extensive organisational reform.

 

Solomon Belete 2011

 

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