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The term quango or QUANGO (less often QuANGO or QANGO) is a (normally pejorative) description of an organisation to which a government has devolved power, but which is still partly controlled and/or financed by government bodies. The term was originally a shortening of "Quasi-NGO", where NGO is the standard acronym for a non-government organization, and in this sense was used neutrally.


In its pejorative use, it has been widely applied to public bodies of various kinds, and a variety of backronyms have been used to make the term consistent with this expanded use. The most popular have been "Quasi-autonomous national government organization" and "Quasi-autonomous non-government organization", often with the acronym modified to "qango" or "QANGO".

As its original name suggests, a quango is a hybrid form of organization, with elements of both non-government organizations (NGOs) and public sector bodies. The term is most often applied in the United Kingdom and, to a lesser degree, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and other English-speaking countries. In the UK, the term quango covers different "arm's-length" government bodies, including "non-departmental public bodies" (NDPBs), non-ministerial government departments, and executive agencies. [1]



In 2006, there were 832 quangos in the Republic of Ireland – 482 at national and 350 at local level – with a total of 5,784 individual appointees and a combined annual budget of €13 billion. [2]

The Irish majority party, Fine Gael, had promised to eliminate 145 quangos should they be the governing party in the 2016 election. Since coming to power they have reduced the overall number of quangos by 17. This reduction also included agencies which the former government had already planned to remove.

United Kingdom

Despite a 'commitment' from the 1979 Conservative party to curb the growth of non-departmental bodies, their numbers grew rapidly through their time in power throughout the 1980s. [3] One UK example is the Forestry Commission, which is a non-ministerial government department responsible for forestry in England.

The Cabinet Office 2009 report on non-departmental public bodies found that there are 766 NDPBs sponsored by the UK government. The number has been falling: There was 827 in 2007 and 790 in 2008. The number of NDPBs has fallen by over 10% since 1997. Staffing and expenditure of NDPBs have increased. They employed 111,000 people in 2009 and spent £46.5 billion, of which £38.4 billion was directly funded by the Government. [4]

United States

Use of the term quango is less common in the United States although many US bodies, including Government Sponsored Enterprises, operate in the same fashion. [5] However, Paul Krugman has stated that the US Federal Reserve is, effectively, "what the British call a quango... Its complex structure divides power between the federal government and the private banks that are its members, and in effect gives substantial autonomy to a governing board of long-term appointees." [6]

Other U.S.-based organizations that fit the original definition of quangos include Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac).

On the broader definition now used in the United Kingdom, there are hundreds of federal agencies that might be classed as quangos.


The term "quasi non-governmental organisation" was created in 1967 by Alan Pifer of the US-based Carnegie Foundation, in an essay on the independence and accountability of public-funded bodies that are incorporated in the private sector. This essay got the attention of David Howell, a Conservative M.P. in Britain, who then organized an Anglo-American project with Pifer, to examine the pros and cons of such enterprises. The lengthy term was shortened to the acronym QUANGO (later lowercased quango) by a British participant to the joint project, Anthony Barker, during one of the conferences on the subject. [7]

It describes an ostensibly non-governmental organisation performing governmental functions, often in receipt of funding or other support from government, [8] By contrast, traditional NGOs mostly get their donations or funds from the public and other organisations that support their cause.

An essential feature of a quango in the original definition was that it should not be a formal part of the state structure. The term was then extended to apply to a range of organisations, such as executive agencies providing (from 1988) health, education and other services. Particularly in the UK, this occurred in a polemical atmosphere in which it was alleged that proliferation of such bodies was undesirable and should be reversed. In this context, the original acronym was often replaced by a backronym spelt out as "quasi-autonomous national government organisation, and often rendered as 'qango' [9] This spawned the related acronym qualgo, a 'quasi-autonomous local government organisation'. [10] "London Waste Regulation Authority, the first 'qualgo' formed after abolition of the Greater London Council...The new body is a joint board of councilors from London boroughs.

The less contentious term non-departmental public body (NDPB) is often employed to identify numerous organisations with devolved governmental responsibilities. Examples in the United Kingdom include those engaged in the regulation of various commercial and service sectors, such as the Water Services Regulation Authority.

The UK government's definition in 1997 of a non-departmental public body or quango was:

A body which has a role in the processes of national government, but is not a government department or part of one, and which accordingly operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm's length from Ministers. [11]


The Times has accused quangos of bureaucratic waste and excess. [12] In 2005, Dan Lewis, author of The Essential Guide to Quangos, claimed that the UK had 529 quangos, many of which were useless and duplicated the work of others.

The term has spawned the derivative quangocrat; the Taxpayers' Alliance faulted a majority of "quangocrats" for not making declarations of political activity. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Non-governmental organization Organization independent of any government, usually created to aid those in need or similar

Organizations which are independent of government involvement are known as non-governmental organizations or non-government organizations, with NGO as an acronym. NGOs are a subgroup of organizations founded by citizens, which include clubs and associations that provide services to their members and others. NGOs are usually nonprofit organizations, and many of them are active in humanitarianism or the social sciences. Surveys indicate that NGOs have a high degree of public trust, which can make them a useful proxy for the concerns of society and stakeholders. However, NGOs can also be lobby groups for corporations, such as the World Economic Forum. According to NGO.org, "[an NGO is] any non-profit, voluntary citizens' group which is organized on a local, national or international level ... Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of service and humanitarian functions, bring citizen concerns to Governments, advocate and monitor policies and encourage political participation through provision of information."

In the United Kingdom, non-departmental public body (NDPB) is a classification applied by the Cabinet Office, Treasury, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to public sector organisations that have a role in the process of national government but are not part of a government department. NDPBs carry out their work largely independently from ministers and are accountable to the public through the Parliament; however, ministers are responsible for the independence, effectiveness and efficiency of non-departmental public bodies in their portfolio.

Departments of the Government of the United Kingdom

The departments of the Government of the United Kingdom are the principal units through which it exercises executive authority; a few of them are titled ministries. A department is composed of employed officials, known as civil servants, and is politically accountable through a minister. Most major departments are headed by a secretary of state, who sits in the cabinet, and typically supported by a team of junior ministers.

A government or state agency, sometimes an appointed commission, is a permanent or semi-permanent organization in the machinery of government that is responsible for the oversight and administration of specific functions, such as an administration. There is a notable variety of agency types. Although usage differs, a government agency is normally distinct both from a department or ministry, and other types of public body established by government. The functions of an agency are normally executive in character since different types of organizations are most often constituted in an advisory role—this distinction is often blurred in practice however, it is not allowed.

Ministry or department, also less commonly used secretariat, office, or directorate are designations used by a first-level executive bodies in the machinery of governments that manage a specific sector of public administration.

Public bodies of the Scottish Government

Public bodies of the Scottish Government are organisations that are funded by the Scottish Government. It is a tightly meshed network of executive and advisory non-departmental public bodies ("quangoes"); tribunals; and nationalised industries. Such public bodies are distinct from executive agencies of the Scottish Government, as unlike them they are not considered to be part of the Government and staff of public bodies are not civil servants, although executive agencies are listed in the Scottish Government's directory of national public bodies alongside other public bodies.

A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to make a positive difference for social benefit. The social impact is funded wholly or partly by reinvesting profits made by the organization to create social capital. Profits are not kept by owners or participants

Articles related to waste management include:

A government-organized non-governmental organization (GONGO) is a non-governmental organization that was set up or sponsored by a government in order to further its political interests and mimic the civic groups and civil society at home, or promote its international or geopolitical interests abroad.

A statutory corporation is a corporation created by the state. Their precise nature varies by jurisdiction, thus, they might be ordinary companies/corporations owned by a government with or without other shareholders, or they might be a body without shareholders that is controlled by national or sub-national government to the extent provided for in the creating legislation.

UK Commission for Employment and Skills

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills was a non-departmental public body that provided advice on skills and employment policy to the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations.

Quango or Qango may refer to:

Executive agency

An executive agency is a part of a government department that is treated as managerially and budgetarily separate, to carry out some part of the executive functions of the United Kingdom government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government or Northern Ireland Executive. Executive agencies are "machinery of government" devices distinct both from non-ministerial government departments and non-departmental public bodies, each of which enjoy a real legal and constitutional separation from ministerial control. The model was also applied in several other countries.

Skills Funding Agency

The Skills Funding Agency was one of two successor organisations that emerged from the closure in 2010 of the Learning and Skills Council. The agency was in turn replaced by the Education and Skills Funding Agency in 2017.

Following the 2010 United Kingdom general election, the UK Government announced plans to curb public spending through the abolition of a large number of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations (quangos). On 23 May 2010, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne unveiled a £500million plan to reduce the budget deficit by abolishing or merging many quangos. This was styled in the national press as a "bonfire of the quangos", making reference to Girolamo Savonarola's religiously inspired Bonfire of the Vanities. The cuts and closures received criticism in some quarters, but was generally welcomed by the business community.

The Union Modernisation Fund (UMF) was a fund established in 2005 by the Government of the United Kingdom with the aim of providing financial support to British trade unions by supporting "innovative modernisation projects which contribute to a transformational change in the organisational effectiveness of a trade union". The fund was overseen by the independent quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation (quango) the Union Modernisation Fund Supervisory Board, which was part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Three rounds of the UMF were held, with a large amount of money disseminated to trade unions. The Conservatives criticised the fund, calling it a way to keep the unions "sweet", and the then shadow business secretary Alan Duncan called on Gordon Brown to scrap the fund. Only three rounds of funding were ever held, and the board was abolished in 2010 as part of the UK government's quango reforms. In total the fund gave £7 million to trade unions throughout its existence.

The Office for Civil Society Advisory Body was a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation (quango) set up by the Government of the United Kingdom in July 2008, which advised the government on the needs of charities and voluntary organisations in the United Kingdom, and to implement the July 2007 review by HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office. The body was formed as a result of the merger of four previous advisory structures: the Voluntary and Community Sector Advisory Group, Futurebuilders Advisory Panel, Infrastructure National Partnership and the Third Sector Review Advisory Group, was chaired by Baroness Jill Pitkeathley OBE, and was part of the Cabinet Office's Office of Civil Society.

National Housing and Planning Advice Unit

The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit (NHPAU) was a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation set up by the Government of the United Kingdom in 2006 and formally launched in June 2007, with the aim of advising the government on the impact of planned housing provision on affordability, and in an attempt to counteract the growing numbers of citizens who were struggling to get on the property ladder in England. The body was part of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DC&LG) and was abolished in the 2010 UK quango reforms.

Penelope Lyttelton, Viscountess Cobham

Penelope Ann Lyttelton, Viscountess Cobham, CBE, is a British businesswoman known for her involvement in a number of quangos. She presently serves as director general of the 5% Club.


  1. "Departments, agencies & public bodies - Inside Government". Gov.UK. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  2. According to a survey carried out by the think tank Tasc in 2006. "Focus: What's wrong with quangos?"  The Sunday Times newspaper article, 29 October 2006
  3. Watts, Duncan (2003). Understanding US/UK Government and Politics. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 164.
  4. Oonagh, Gay. "Quangos". House of Commons Library Research. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  5. Watts, Duncan (2003). Understanding US/UK Government and Politics. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 321.
  6. Paul R. Krugman, 1997, The Age of Diminished Expectations: U.S. Economic Policy in the 1990s, MIT Press, p. 99.
  7. Letter: On Quasi-Public Organizations; Whence Came the Quango, and Why – New York Times Opinion page by Alan Pifer
  8. Wettenhall, R 1981 'The quango phenomenon', Current Affairs Bulletin 57(10):14–22.]
  9. "You've Been Quangoed!" by Roland Watson
  10. "New body's waste plea", The Times , 18 April 1986: Gale Document Number:CJ117886677. Retrieved 5 Apr 2008.
  11. "Public Bodies 1997, "Introduction"". Archived from the original on 9 December 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2006.
  12. Waste mounts as £100 billion web of quangos duplicates work
  13. "Taxpayers' Alliance hits out at "quangocrat gravy train"". CityAM. Limited. 6 June 2016.