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Article
Publication date: 17 August 2015

Enrico Bracci, Christopher Humphrey, Jodie Moll and Ileana Steccolini

The era of austerity that has followed the outbreak of the global financial crisis has posed a myriad of challenges for public services, with demands for major cuts in government…

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Abstract

Purpose

The era of austerity that has followed the outbreak of the global financial crisis has posed a myriad of challenges for public services, with demands for major cuts in government spending, the delivery of balanced budgets and zstrategies for deficit reduction. The purpose of this paper is to consider how public sector accounting and accountability systems are implicated in the development and implementation of austerity policies. Also, it pinpoints a range of issues that accounting researchers need to be contemplating on the subject of accounting for austerity.

Design/methodology/approach

Interdisciplinary literature review, coupled with an illustrative discussion of the changing nature of public sector accounting practices under austerity.

Findings

Despite the significance and scale of austerity, public sector accounting research on the topic is in its infancy, with the prominent focus being on how accounting technologies are used to manage austerity. There have been few attempts to debate critically the construction of austerity and to provide alternative accounts of austerity. Accounting for austerity, especially in terms of its implications and consequences, is far too complex and challenging to be categorized as simply seeking to “balance the books”.

Research limitations/implications

As an academic community, we need to be developing understanding of public sector accounting research under austerity across different organizational levels and contexts. Also, we should be framing the accounts of austerity in ways that respect and build on a sound understanding of the extensive available interdisciplinary research on this topic. Key research questions to address include: how is accounting shaping constructions of, and impressions, attitudes and behaviors toward, austerity and the status of governments and public service organizations? What do such patterns of development mean for the roles and contributions of public sector accountants under austerity? Are accounting systems destined to be used primarily as vehicles for cost-cutting, or can they be used as engines for growth and for thinking about public service responsibilities in more socially inclusive forms?

Originality/value

Accountings of austerity in the field of public sector accounting research have been worryingly limited. This paper and the papers in this special issue of AAAJ address such failings, revealing a range of critical implications and challenges of austerity policies for public sector accounting research.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 28 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 9 September 2022

Enrico Bracci

Governments are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) algorithmic systems to increase efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery. While the diffusion…

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Abstract

Purpose

Governments are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) algorithmic systems to increase efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery. While the diffusion of AI offers several desirable benefits, caution and attention should be posed to the accountability of AI algorithm decision-making systems in the public sector. The purpose of this paper is to establish the main challenges that an AI algorithm might bring about to public service accountability. In doing so, the paper also delineates future avenues of investigation for scholars.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper builds on previous literature and anecdotal cases of AI applications in public services, drawing on streams of literature from accounting, public administration and information technology ethics.

Findings

Based on previous literature, the paper highlights the accountability gaps that AI can bring about and the possible countermeasures. The introduction of AI algorithms in public services modifies the chain of responsibility. This distributed responsibility requires an accountability governance, together with technical solutions, to meet multiple accountabilities and close the accountability gaps. The paper also delineates a research agenda for accounting scholars to make accountability more “intelligent”.

Originality/value

The findings of the paper shed new light and perspective on how public service accountability in AI should be considered and addressed. The results developed in this paper will stimulate scholars to explore, also from an interdisciplinary perspective, the issues public service organizations are facing to make AI algorithms accountable.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 36 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 23 August 2021

Enrico Bracci, Mouhcine Tallaki, Riccardo Ievoli and Sonia Diplotti

The paper aims to understand the possible determinants of knowledge of, and interest in using, blockchain, with a particular focus in the future intention to apply this…

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Abstract

Purpose

The paper aims to understand the possible determinants of knowledge of, and interest in using, blockchain, with a particular focus in the future intention to apply this technology. Blockchain technology is deemed to radically change business models and processes. Using this technology in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is still a novel idea. Moreover, not much is known about the diffusion and level of interest towards blockchain in SMEs. This research adopts a knowledge management perspective, drawing on technology acceptance model to highlight the level of blockchain technology diffusion, and to explore which factors lead SMEs’ to adopt blockchain.

Design/methodology/approach

This study distributed a questionnaire to a sample of 300 SMEs in Italy. This study received 96 responses (32% response rate). This study calculated descriptive statistics and undertook a reliability analysis. Finally, this study performed a logistic regression to analyse the determinants of further intention to use blockchain technology.

Findings

Results show that blockchain technology is quite well known, but the level of knowledge is limited. Moreover, the research reveals that the rate of adoption is very low. Interest in the future adoption of blockchain is associated with knowledge, perception of usefulness and ease of use of blockchain.

Originality/value

This paper is one of the first explorative studies showing which factors lead SMEs to adopt blockchain technologies and shedding some light on the interaction between knowledge management and blockchain adoption and diffusion in SMEs. It highlights how blockchain knowledge could determine future interest in blockchain innovation. This paper is relevant for public and private institutions that aim to promote, through knowledge management, the adoption of blockchain in SMEs.

Details

Journal of Knowledge Management, vol. 26 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1367-3270

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 6 March 2019

Mouhcine Tallaki and Enrico Bracci

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the institutional factors affecting the reform of public sector in Morocco. In particular, this study focuses on the adoption path of…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the institutional factors affecting the reform of public sector in Morocco. In particular, this study focuses on the adoption path of one such reform, in which Moroccan municipalities had to adopt economic and development plans (EDPs).

Design/methodology/approach

The paper’s methodology adopts a qualitative approach. In particular, the paper adopts a mix of primary and secondary sources to analyze the historical development of the EDP reform in the Moroccan context, and the institutional factors involved in the implementation process. It contributes to the existing literature in two ways: it defines a tentative model that combines two approaches (new and old institutional theories); and it contextualizes the proposed model in the Moroccan context by examining the institutional process of implementing the reforms.

Findings

The reform that introduced EDPs in Morocco was the result of a collaboration between the Moroccan government and international donors. The introduction of EDPs was impeded by institutional features of Moroccan society. Therefore, the implementation of EDPs in Morocco did not change taken-for-granted ways of thinking, nor did it remove institutional restrictions and barriers. Municipalities were not affected by the modernizing effects of the reform. They are managed as traditional administrative structures, with very little capacity for organizational and management innovation.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the debate on the adequacy of new public management (NPM) in less developed countries (LDCs), and in particular with regards to the use of strategic plans in Moroccan municipalities. In doing so, the paper attempts to define a tentative framework that combines new institutional and old institutional theory. The framework proposed helps to explain how NPM in LDCs was diffused and how institutional characteristics could hamper or foster the implementation of NPM reform.

Details

Journal of Accounting in Emerging Economies, vol. 9 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-1168

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 17 August 2015

Berend van der Kolk, Henk J. ter Bogt and Paula M.G. van Veen-Dirks

The purpose of this paper is to examine how management control (MC) within governmental departments is used in times of austerity, and how insights from agency and stewardship…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine how management control (MC) within governmental departments is used in times of austerity, and how insights from agency and stewardship theory can enhance the understanding of this issue.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors distinguish two types of MC (constraining and facilitating) based on their different assumptions regarding human behavior (agent-like and steward-like). The authors empirically analyze changes in the use of these types of MC in four cases located in two municipalities. The collected data consists of 51 semi-structured interviews, desk research and multiple field observations.

Findings

The authors find that MC at the departmental level becomes more constraining in times of austerity. The authors suggest that an overemphasis on constraining MC has negative consequences. It can, for instance, evoke agent-like, opportunistic behavior while it disregards potential steward-like behavior. These negative consequences are less prevalent when there is a simultaneous increase in emphasis on the use of facilitating MC elements.

Originality/value

The authors acknowledge “human ambivalence,” i.e. an employee’s recurring choice between agent-like and steward-like behavior, and illustrate the dangers of overly relying on constraining types of MC. The authors also contemplate alternative strategic managerial responses to austerity in a public sector context.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 28 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 17 August 2015

David Heald and Ron Hodges

The purpose of this paper is to analyse how austerity has impacted to date upon European Union (EU) financial reporting developments and how this might influence future reforms…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyse how austerity has impacted to date upon European Union (EU) financial reporting developments and how this might influence future reforms. It considers how a critical juncture in EU financial reporting might be recognized and factors which might prevent or delay such a juncture being realized.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses the theoretical conceptualization of the territorializing, mediating, adjudicating and subjectivizing roles of accounting (Miller and Power, 2013), linked to document analysis and interviews with members of the relevant policy communities. In technical terms, austerity makes accounting subject to greater demands for consistency and uniformity. In political terms, accounting is implicated in increasing external fiscal surveillance of sovereign states.

Findings

The authors have shown how the Miller-Power framework illuminates these developments. The territorializing role of accounting in sovereign states creates an environment which facilitates the mediating, adjudicating and subjectivizing roles. Austerity promotes re-territorializing, yet also creates incentives for governments to hide risks and guarantees: the comparability of financial reports and national accounts may be achieved only at a rhetorical level. Evidence for a critical juncture would be termination of national traditions of financial reporting, greater harmonization of accounting across tiers of government, weakening of the linkages to private sector accounting, and stronger alignment of government financial reporting with statistical accounting.

Originality/value

The paper provides a theoretically based analysis of how austerity influences government financial reporting and statistical accounting and brings them into closer contact. This analysis is located within broader tensions between technocracy and democracy that are institutionalized in EU fiscal surveillance.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 28 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 17 August 2015

Sandra Cohen, María-Dolores Guillamón, Irvine Lapsley and Geraldine Robbins

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of the Eurozone financial crisis by discussing the experiences of Greece, Ireland and Spain. It particularly examines the…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of the Eurozone financial crisis by discussing the experiences of Greece, Ireland and Spain. It particularly examines the influence and actions of the Troika in the management of the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone.

Design/methodology/approach

The primary source of information for this study has been the documents of the Greek, Irish and Spanish Governments (often only available in their native language) and the reports of EU bodies and the IMF, supplemented by media coverage, as deemed appropriate. This has been analysed on a comparative basis to contrast the experiences of these three countries.

Findings

This study reveals how the Eurozone crisis has impacted on financially weak countries in this currency union. The fiscal conservatism of the Troika (the IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank) has had profound consequences for these economies, which have experienced dramatic cuts in public services.

Research limitations/implications

This study has focused on the experiences of three countries in the Eurozone. There is a case for extending this analysis to other Eurozone countries.

Practical implications

There are two approaches to recession – governments can stimulate demand by infrastructure spending or take the financial conservatism route of reducing public expenditure and public sector borrowing. However, the severity of the crisis undermines the first approach and there are uncertain outcomes with the second approach. This paper shows the effects of adopting financial conservatism as a strategy in this crisis.

Social implications

The austerity programmes pursued by the governments in this study have led to unemployment, migration of skilled workers, collapse in property markets, failing banks and social unrest.

Originality/value

This study takes an accounting perspective on the Eurozone crisis. This offers a distinctive interpretation of events. This study examines the merits of widely used theories in studies of public sector change namely legitimation and resource dependency theory intertwined with power and offers insights into how meaningful they are in explaining the dramatic influence of austerity programmes in the Eurozone.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 28 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 17 August 2015

Thomas Ahrens and Laurence Ferry

The purpose of this paper is to shed light on new accountability relationships between Newcastle City Council (NCC) and its citizens and stakeholders in the wake of the British…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to shed light on new accountability relationships between Newcastle City Council (NCC) and its citizens and stakeholders in the wake of the British government’s austerity politics and its budget cuts for local authorities. It seeks to show some of the ways in which various kinds of budgeting, for example, for alternative sources of funding, the use of volunteers for service provision, resource sharing, and asset transfers, as well as a diverse set of accounts of the social implications of resource diversions and service cuts, have been implicated in those changes.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a qualitative field study of some of the uses of budgets in the shaping of accountability relationships through interviews with council officers, conversations with activists and citizens, analysis of council and other documents, and observation of public meetings and demonstrations. The approach focused on the relationship between the city’s political grassroots and the NCC leadership and administration.

Findings

The authors find that NCC’s senior politicians and officers co-opted the city’s political grassroots and managed to reconstitute local political accountability to citizenry and stakeholders as a choice between the cessation of different types of local government services, by combining appeals to the legal framework of English local authorities, the unfairness of national politics, and the fairness of local government service provision. Local government blamed the funding cuts and the resulting resource shortages on the central government. It sought to push responsibility for cuts to the local citizenry whilst reserving for itself the role of mediator and adjudicator who makes the final decisions about the portfolio of causes that will be funded.

Originality/value

This is the first study to offer detailed insight into the effects of the British government’s austerity budget cuts of local authority grants on the politics of accountability in a local authority.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 28 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 21 March 2022

Alberto Sardi, Enrico Sorano, Guido Giovando and Vania Tradori

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is increasing the use of digital technologies for delivering products and services. A performance measurement and management system (PMMS) is…

Abstract

Purpose

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is increasing the use of digital technologies for delivering products and services. A performance measurement and management system (PMMS) is recognised as a useful system to guide era 4.0; however, the literature has not adequately addressed this challenge in public government and not-for-profit organisations (NPOs). This research aims to investigate the evolution of the PMMS adopted by a local government for the control of investee NPOs in era 4.0.

Design/methodology/approach

Through action research, the authors investigate an Italian municipality and its main investee NPOs. The project involved 4 researchers and 25 managers of the local government and NPOs.

Findings

This paper describes the design of a PMMS developed for a local government to control its investee NPOs. Considering the regulations and managerial needs, the designed system evolved from a fragmented set of indicators based on legitimacy and economic perspectives to a holistic set of indicators based on a comprehensive set of perspectives to consider the changing business environment.

Originality/value

This study sheds light on the design of a PMMS adopted by local governments for controlling investee NPOs in era 4.0. The paper contributes (1) to identify the main control needs for the design of a PMMS in a public network and (2) to capture the evolution of a PMMS in light of era 4.0 by developing two conceptual propositions.

Details

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, vol. 72 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1741-0401

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 11 May 2015

Giuseppe Grossi, Ulf Papenfuß and Marie-Soleil Tremblay

– The purpose of this paper is to introduce the special issue and outline its major themes and challenges, their relevance and the research opportunities the field presents.

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to introduce the special issue and outline its major themes and challenges, their relevance and the research opportunities the field presents.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper reviews prior literature and outline’s the need to analyse challenges for corporate governance and accountability of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as a precursor to introducing the contributions to this special issue.

Findings

Corporate governance, accounting and accountability of SOEs are crucial and growing topics in public management and other research disciplines. Public service provision and budget consolidation cannot be realized effectively and efficiently without powerful governance and management of SOEs. However there are significant corporate governance challenges and important empirical research gaps in comparison to other fields. Broader theoretical perspectives, methodological approaches, accountability mechanisms and sector/context are identified and discussed and encouraged in future research.

Research limitations/implications

This paper aims to stimulate interdisciplinary research on emerging issues affecting governance and accountability of SOEs considering their growing importance in the society and their changing nature.

Practical implications

Effective mechanisms and good practices may contribute to better performance of SOEs. Findings may help politicians, administrations, board members, auditors, consultants, scholars and the media striving for improvements around the world.

Originality/value

The paper condenses theoretical and empirical findings to highlight the relevance of this field and important research gaps. The special issue offers an empirical examination of interdisciplinary literature and innovative experiences of SOEs to strengthen public service motivation, board composition and roles, trust and control, transparency, public value and to enhance the ability to manage, steer and monitor contracts, performance and relationships.

Details

International Journal of Public Sector Management, vol. 28 no. 4/5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3558

Keywords

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