Reconsidering the Case for Enhancing Accountability Via Regulation
This paper considers dangers and pitfalls associated with a range of oversight options and scenarios, including self-regulation, government regulation, donor monitoring and community participation. The paper outlines the blind spots and sources of potential bias associated with each of these oversight mechanisms. Examining the Ugandan case study we find that perceptions of corruption and ineffectiveness tarnished the reputation of the sector, but at this stage the proposed peer review mechanism and stricter government regulation are unlikely to improve NGO sector outcomes. Government regulation is anticipated to be ineffectual due to poor design and insufficient resource allocation, but both of these factors may be attributable to the underlying political motivations. Similarly, not much is expected from the peer review mechanism because participation is voluntary, offers few benefits and the list of guidelines is too long and contains too many vague and intangible quality standards. The paper argues for more empirical research to inform the design of oversight mechanisms and to monitor the impact of self-regulation and government regulation on the NGO sector. This may also help to expose and limit opportunistic interventions by government, often thinly concealed under the conceptual cloak of accountability and oversight. © 2011 International Society for Third-Sector Research and The John's Hopkins University.