A space where we give our members the opportunity to express themselves on certain topics related to their research, their practices and, of course, the impact of their work!
The Role of Accounting and Management Control in International Cooperation and Development
By: Nelson Duenas
International cooperation and development initiatives are paramount for promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, and achieving sustainable development around the world. They bring together different actors —i.e. donors, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), grassroots movements— to advance causes such as children’s rights, public health, or peacebuilding. Accounting and management control play a key role in these efforts by providing actors with the necessary information and mechanisms to manage aid resources transparently, effectively, and to develop trusting cooperation relationships.
First, accounting provides essential information to ensure that resources are used appropriately and effectively. This includes setting objectives, measuring performance, and implementing corrective actions if necessary, to guarantee that development goals are achieved. Technologies such as performance indicators, budgetary tools, and project management methodologies help in tracking the implementation of development projects. In addition, management control ensures that development initiatives are deployed in accordance with a set of legal and missional principles. Control mechanisms such as risk management and auditing, provide organizations with the tools to identify potential risks in project implementation and mitigate them proactively.
Second, accounting and management control are key elements to guarantee a trusting relationship between funders and aid recipients. By ensuring processes of compliance, communication, and sound financial and operational management, they promote accountability and transparency. The later are paramount pillars in the development of strong bonds of trust between donors, partners, and the public in international cooperation exchanges. When resources are well spent in achieving agreed development goals, aid actors set the base for larger and stronger partnerships.
One aspect of current concern for accounting researchers and aid practitioners is how a homogenizing vision of accounting rooted on managerial values of cost efficiency, technical planning, and administrative accountability, modifies the behavior of implementing organizations of development projects in the Global South, and how this impacts the aspirations and ambitions of grassroots movements. The adoption of accountability mechanisms impacts Southern NGOs’ ways of doing and enacting accounting, as well as their own community and organizational identities. Critical accounting research documents how donors constrain NGOs’ behavior and advance a managerial neocolonization over the Global South through the imposition of accounting and accountability frameworks that privilege a unique version of knowledge, that determines which Southern NGOs are “capable enough” of implementing development aid, and that many times exclude the voices of the beneficiary organizations and populations in managing their own development. Southern NGOs and grassroots movements sustain their social fabric through reciprocity, informal bonds of trust, and flexible accountability. But typically, these aspects suffer with the introduction of controls and managerial practices coming from a Western set of values.
To the above, accounting researchers are mobilizing initiatives to give visibility to the pressures and paradoxes that Southern NGOs face, between mobilizing their aspirations according to their values and identities, and adapting to a changing field whose boundaries and tools are defined by foreign actors. These initiatives include supportive fieldwork within NGOs that lack administrative capacities to fully respond to the increasing needs of project management, decolonizing the accounting curriculum to include indigenous and community-based organizations’ knowledge, and brokering alliances between academic institutions in the Global South and their Northern counterparts to disseminate organizational realities that fall outside the conventional managerial knowledge.