Very Public Scandals: Nongovernmental Organizations in Trouble

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This paper analyzes, from a cross-national perspective, publicized incidents of alleged wrongdoing on the part of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Data were derived from daily, weekly, or monthly newspapers and special nonprofit newsletters accessible through websites. Analysis of media reports of “scandals” involving NGOs was conducted to identify issues and trends in governance and management problems associated with this sector. The paper focuses on NGOs involved in the financing or delivery of health and human services. After highlighting some of the precedent-setting cases of NGO improprieties in the United States during the 1990s, prominent global cases of wrongdoing during the period 1998–2000 are reviewed. The underlying problems that allowed these cases to occur and their implications regarding NGO credibility and public trust are identified, and strategic options for enhancing accountability presented.

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