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Accounting and navigating legitimacy in Tanzanian NGOs

  • Andrew Goddard
  • Mussa Juma Assad
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    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the phenomenon of accounting in non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It seeks to understand accounting processes and reporting practices in NGOs and the conditions that sustain those processes and practices. NGOs have become important institutions in world affairs but accounting research has not developed significant interest in their operations. Design/methodology/approach – The research executes a grounded theory strategy as the principal methodology for the inquiry. Fieldwork was undertaken in three Tanzanian NGOs. Findings – The research established the importance of accounting in the process of navigating organisational legitimacy. This was achieved due to its important role in symbolising organisational competence. Two principal strategies were employed by organisations in navigating legitimacy – building credibility and bargaining for change. Originality/value – The paper makes a contribution 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 has a minimal role to play in internal decision making, is 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 organisations and stakeholders. Future research should extend our understanding of these phenomena across a broader range of NGOs to incorporate differences in geographical location, religious affiliation and also include Northern donor organisations.

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    Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal.

    Volume (Year): 19 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 3 (April)
    Pages: 377-404

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    Handle: RePEc:eme:aaajpp:v:19:y:2006:i:3:p:377-404
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    1. Lehman, Glen, 1999. "Disclosing new worlds: a role for social and environmental accounting and auditing," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 217-241, April.
    2. Jonsson, Sten & Gronlund, Anders, 1988. "Life with a sub-contractor: New technology and management accounting," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 13(5), pages 513-532, August.
    3. Hyman, Eric L. & Dearden, Kirk, 1998. "Comprehensive impact assessment systems for NGO microenterprise development programs," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 261-276, February.
    4. Lennox, Clive, 2000. "Do companies successfully engage in opinion-shopping? Evidence from the UK," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 321-337, June.
    5. Ebrahim, Alnoor, 2003. "Accountability In Practice: Mechanisms for NGOs," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 813-829, May.
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