Building legitimacy for European public sector accounting standards (EPSAS)

Giovanna Dabbicco (Department of National Accounts, Istituto Nazionale di Statistica, Roma, Italy)
Ileana Steccolini (Essex Business School, Southend-on-Sea, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Publication date: 19 August 2019



The purpose of this paper is to look at the European public sector accounting standards (EPSAS) project development path to explore how governance and legitimacy issues intertwine when a new standard-setting system is developed.


A qualitative interpretative multimethod approach is adopted, which encompasses document analysis and participative observations.


The analysis shows the role of governance dimensions, including institutional participation and consensus, in the process for securing the legitimacy of accounting standards and the related setting processes, pointing to the critical issues emerging throughout the development of the EPSAS project.


The definition of public sector accounting standards poses significant challenges to the accounting profession and regulators alike. A paradigmatic case of such challenges is represented by the decisions to develop harmonised EPSAS. A key contribution of this paper is to connect legitimacy dimensions with network governance, offering a view of the input, output and procedural dimensions associated with decisions to legitimise EPSAS and how these may be affected by network governance.



Although the paper is the result of an equal joint effort by the authors, their primary individual contributions are reflected in the following sections of the paper: Giovanna Dabbicco – Sections 2–4 and Ileana Steccolini – Sections 1, 5 and 6.


Dabbicco, G. and Steccolini, I. (2019), "Building legitimacy for European public sector accounting standards (EPSAS)", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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