Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play a significant role in today’s society, typically picking up the government’s deficits in services and social protection for citizens via the philanthropy of donors and the socially aware.
Consequently, diverting funds from the core business to cover regulatory expenditure, including audits, has an element of depriving those in need – and it is the reasoning underpinning decisions to discount fees.
BDO Durban Audit Partner, Sally Juckes says auditing NGOs’ books ensured accountability for the donors, but it was also an opportunity for the auditing firm to give back to the community.
“It is rewarding to be able to contribute to society, knowing that people working in the NGO sector have a common goal – to educate and uplift the members of their society and to invest in future generations,” she says.
NGOs are non-profit organisations independent of state and international governmental organisations; are usually funded by donations and may rely heavily on volunteers for their operation. Highly diverse, NGOs are engaged in a wide range of activities and take different forms globally.
In South Africa numerous NGOs face serious financial and capacity challenges with many already closing down or scaling back their activities. This is despite the country facing increasing developmental challenges in areas including health, education and poverty alleviation.
Juckes believes corporate South Africa has the ability to bring its skills and knowledge to NGOs, effectively supporting the organisations with their strategies and mission statements. In return big business benefits from access to influential board members and thus the chance to further business relationships.
“South African businesses have a responsibility to corporate social investment – the responsibility to give back to the communities in which they are operating – but more essentially, without the help of business, many NGOs will collapse and the critical role they are playing in civil society evaporate,” Juckes says.
Big business thus also has the opportunity to create awareness around the work NGOs perform and can add value to South Africa by ensuring these organisations work towards improving the lives and opportunities for future generations.
Juckes says a UK report released last year that assessed the motivations, drivers, barriers, enablers, role models, trends and forecasts for corporate-NGO partnerships reflected NGOs can help corporate business understand their social impact.
In terms of the report, 87% of corporate respondents stated corporate-NGO partnerships have improved the business understanding of social and environmental issues, while 59% stated their business practices have changed for the better as a result of the interaction.
While there were not corresponding surveys conducted locally, Juckes believes the symbiotic relationship between corporate South Africa and NGOs can bring CSI into sharper focus – one that shifts the emphasis to an understanding of what the NGO is achieving through its commitment.
“Take education as an example. Too many young South Africans do not have access to tertiary education and that underpins the decision to assist educational and social upliftment initiatives,” she says.
At an industry level, the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) Thuthuka Fund sponsors promising underprivileged students through university with the understanding that an auditing firm will employ them on completion, thus boosting the pool of black chartered accountants working in South Africa.
“As professional service firms, there is a demand for focusing our CSI on areas where students do not have access to quality education – the bright children who without the assistance from NGOs and corporate social responsibility initiatives will have little or no future,” Juckes says.
This article was first published in the BDO South Africa website.
Photo Courtesy: Ketto