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The institutionalization of public sector accounting reforms: the role of pilot entities

Susana Jorge (Faculdade de Economia, Universidade de Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal) (Research Centre in Political Science, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)
Sónia P. Nogueira (Instituto Politécnico de Bragança, Campus de Santa Apolónia, Bragança, Portugal) (Research Centre in Political Science, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal)
Nuno Ribeiro (Management Applied Research Unit (UNIAG), Instituto Politécnico de Bragança, Campus de Santa Apolónia, Bragança, Portugal)

Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management

ISSN: 1096-3367

Article publication date: 17 December 2020

Issue publication date: 19 March 2021

582

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims at understanding the action of pilot entities, in order to ultimately infer about their role to the overall reform process of public sector accounting (PSA).

Design/methodology/approach

Taking the Portuguese case as a reference, the new institutional theory (isomorphism perspective) and institutional logics are used to explain the action and stance of pilot entities in the implementation process of reforms.

Findings

Pilot experiments are expected to provide feedback on the main difficulties felt in the implementation of a new PSA system, helping to define a global strategy to overcome those problems and to improve the system to be generally and finally put into practice. Nevertheless, entities seem to find it important to be pilots, more for individual advantages than for the common benefit of the reform as a whole. Therefore, in order for them to actually be important actors in the reform process, pilots need to be included in the decision process, better realizing the benefits of the new IPSAS-based system and be provided with the proper technical, human and financial support.

Research limitations/implications

This research suffers from some limitations, namely concerning the use of questionnaires. The findings may, in some points, reflect the perceptions of the respondents and not the actual reality. Additionally, the respondents were not asked about any personal background factors, which may influence their answers. Also, they did not allow relating the new PSA system features with the way pilot entities (re)acted. In regard to the implications for practice, the study points to a need for decision-makers and external support bodies to work more closely with pilot entities in the overall design and implementation of PSA reforms. Pilot entities need to understand the importance and usefulness of changes, and reform authorities need to better recognize their institutional reality and the support they require. Only in this way, the use of pilots can make a difference in the implementation of PSA innovations.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to theory by adding to a better understanding of the role of the ones acting in the development and implementation of PSA innovations, enlightening on how pilot entities can act/react. Despite several studies on PSA reforms, very few so far have addressed pilot entities in particular, their attitude and actual contribution toward PSA reforms, and why. The case of Portugal as a frontrunner in adopting an IPSAS-based system within the EU helps contribute to that understanding in the setting of European countries.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study was conducted at the Research Center in Political Science (UIDB/CPO/00758/2020), University of Minho and supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and the Portuguese Ministry of Education and Science through national funds. It was also conducted at UNIAG, I&D unit funded by FCT - Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology and the Portuguese Ministry of Education and Science. Project no. UIDB/GES/04752/2020.

Citation

Jorge, S., Nogueira, S.P. and Ribeiro, N. (2021), "The institutionalization of public sector accounting reforms: the role of pilot entities", Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 114-137. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBAFM-08-2019-0125

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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