See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil!
Despite the growing level of funds channelled through NGOs (or maybe because of it), fraud and corruption continue to be a highly sensitive topic, with most NGOs reluctant to openly discuss it. This was highlighted a few years ago, when Médecins du Monde initiated a study in an attempt to open up discussion on corruption within the humanitarian aid sector (one of the most corruption prone areas of development). Of the 17 largest French NGOs contacted for a confidential interview, accounting for more than 80% of all French humanitarian aid, 11 refused to participate. Attitudes such as this, a general lack of transparency within the sector, and a scarcity of empirical evidence available on fraud and corruption, has resulted in the topic avoiding appropriate scrutiny.
Following on from my article on NGO accountability, this is the second in a series of three articles examining NGO accountability and corruption. Its focus will be on what we know about actual corruption within the NGOs.
‘Rose-tinted’ glasses’: Corruption only happens in NGOs working in the developing world … or does it!
When the topic of corruption is raised, the natural inclination is to point the finger elsewhere. In the case of Northern NGOs, this tends to be at their counter-parts operating in the developing environments of the South. This was brought home to me in a discussion with a CEO & President of a North American based INGO last week, who stated with absolute conviction, that the ‘real’ need for anti-corruption measures was in Southern NGOs, as those in the North (like his) could safely “rely” on their external auditors and internal risk management systems to prevent it from happening. When I pointed out that the latest ACFE fraud survey showed that he had twice the chance of uncovering a fraud within his INGO by accident (at 6%) then it being uncovered by his external auditors (at 3%), he was a little taken aback. That aside, just how accurate was his assertion that the problem of fraud and corruption within the NGO / non-profit sector is limited to certain parts of the world? More