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A quango or QUANGO (less often QuANGO or QANGO) is a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation. The concept is most often applied in the United Kingdom and, to a lesser degree, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United States, and other English-speaking countries. As its name suggests, a quango is a hybrid form of organization, with elements of both non-government organizations (NGOs) and public sector bodies. It is typically an organisation to which a government has devolved power, but which is still partly controlled and/or financed by government bodies.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, with 70% of citizens residing within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.


In the UK, the term quango covers different "arm's-length" government bodies, including "non-departmental public bodies", non-ministerial government departments, and executive agencies. [1] One UK example is the Forestry Commission, which is a non-ministerial government department responsible for forestry in England and Scotland.

The Forestry Commission is a non-ministerial government department responsible for forestry in England. It was formerly also responsible for Forestry in Wales and Scotland, however on 1 April 2013 Forestry Commission Wales merged with other agencies to become Natural Resources Wales, whilst two new bodies were established in Scotland on 1 April 2019. The commission was set up in 1919 to expand Britain's forests and woodland after depletion during the First World War. To do this, the commission bought large amounts of former agricultural land, eventually becoming the largest land owner in Britain. The Commission is divided into three divisions: Forestry England, Forestry Commission and Forest Research.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Scotland Country in Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the North Sea to the northeast and by the Irish Sea to the south. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.


The term "quasi-autonomous 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. Pifer's term was shortened to the acronym "QUANGO" – later spelt quango – by Anthony Barker, a British participant during a follow-up conference on the subject. [2]

Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) is a U.S.-based education policy and research center. It was founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered in 1906 by an act of the United States Congress. Among its most notable accomplishments are the development of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA), the Flexner Report on medical education, the Carnegie Unit, the Educational Testing Service, and the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

An acronym is a word or name formed as an abbreviation from the initial components of a phrase or a word, usually individual letters and sometimes syllables.

It describes an ostensibly non-governmental organisation performing governmental functions, often in receipt of funding or other support from government, [3] while mainstream NGOs mostly get their donations or funds from the public and other organisations that support their cause. Numerous quangos were created from the 1980s onwards. Examples in the United Kingdom include those engaged in the regulation of various commercial and service sectors, such as the Water Services Regulation Authority.

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 (see below). [4] This spawned the related acronym qualgo, a 'quasi-autonomous local government organisation'. [5]

Executive agency part of a UK government department

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.

The less contentious term non-departmental public body (NDPB) is often employed to identify numerous organisations with devolved governmental responsibilities. The UK government's definition in 1997 of a non-departmental public body or quango was:

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 quangos. NDPBs are not an integral part of any government department and carry out their work at arm's length from ministers, although ministers are ultimately responsible to Parliament for the activities of bodies sponsored by their department.

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. [6]


The Times has accused quangos of bureaucratic waste and excess. [7] 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.



In 2006 there were more than 800 quangos in 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. [8]

United Kingdom

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 were 790 in 2008 and 827 in 2007. 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. [9]

Since the coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats was formed in May 2010, numerous NDPBs have been abolished under Conservative plans to reduce the overall budget deficit by reducing the size of the public sector. As of the end of July 2010, the government had abolished at least 80 NDPBs and warned many others that they faced mergers or deep cuts. [10] In September 2010, The Telegraph published a leaked Cabinet Office list suggesting that a further 94 could be abolished, while four would be privatised and 129 merged. [11] In August 2012, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the government was on course to abolish 204 public bodies by 2015, and said this would create a net saving of at least £2.6 billion. [12]

United States

Use of the term quango is less common and therefore more controversial in the United States. 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." [13]

See also

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Regional development agency non-departmental public body in England

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The Public Bodies Act 2011 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It has 39 sections and six schedules, and is concerned with the management of public bodies within the UK.


  1. "Departments, agencies & public bodies - Inside Government". Gov.UK. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  2. Letter: On Quasi-Public Organizations; Whence Came the Quango, and Why – New York Times Opinion page by Alan Pifer
  3. Wettenhall, R 1981 'The quango phenomenon', Current Affairs Bulletin 57(10):14–22.]
  4. "You've Been Quangoed!" by Roland Watson
  5. "New body's waste plea", The Times , 18 April 1986: Gale Document Number:CJ117886677. Retrieved 5 Apr 2008. "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. 'Qualgo' stands for 'quasi-autonomous local government organization', the municipal equivalent of a quango, in which members are appointed by other councilors".
  6. Public Bodies 1997, "Introduction"
  7. Waste mounts as £100 billion web of quangos duplicates work
  8. 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
  9. Oonagh, Gay. "Quangos". House of Commons Library Research. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  10. "One by one, the quangos are abolished. But at what cost?", N Morris, The Independent, 2010-07-27, accessed 2010-08-15.
  11. Porter, Andrew (24 September 2010). "Quango cuts: 177 bodies to be scrapped under coalition plans". The Telegraph. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  12. Sparrow, Andrew (22 August 2012). "100 quangos abolished in cost-cutting bonfire". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
  13. Paul R. Krugman, 1997, The Age of Diminished Expectations: U.S. Economic Policy in the 1990s, MIT Press, p. 99.