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Article
Publication date: 20 June 2016

Umesh Sharma and Helen Irvine

This is a study of the social consequences of accounting controls over labour. This paper aims to examine the system of tasking used to control Indian indentured workers…

Abstract

Purpose

This is a study of the social consequences of accounting controls over labour. This paper aims to examine the system of tasking used to control Indian indentured workers in the historical context of Fijian sugar plantations during the British colonial period from 1879 to 1920.

Design/methodology/approach

Archival data consisting of documents from the Colonial Secretary’s Office, reports and related literature on Indian indentured labour were accessed from the National Archives of Fiji. In addition, documented accounts of the experiences of indentured labourers over the period of the study gave voice to the social costs of the indenture system, highlighting the social impact of accounting control systems.

Findings

Accounting and management controls were developed to extract surplus value from Indian labour. The practice of tasking was implemented in a plantation structure where indentured labourers were controlled hierarchically. This resulted in their exploitation and consequent economic, social and racial marginalisation.

Research limitations/implications

Like all historical research, our interpretation is limited by the availability of archival documents and the theoretical framework chosen to examine these documents.

Practical implications

The study promotes a better understanding of the practice and impact of accounting controls within a particular institutional setting, in this case the British colony of Fiji.

Social implications

By highlighting the social implications of accounting controls in their historical context, we alert corporations, government policy makers, accountants and workers to the socially damaging effects of exploitive management control systems.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the growing body of literature highlighting the social effects of accounting control systems. It exposes the social costs borne by indentured workers employed on Fijian sugar plantations.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 13 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article
Publication date: 8 August 2019

Helen Irvine and Christine Ryan

In the context of the Australian Government’s attempts to impose budget austerity measures on publicly funded universities in its higher education sector, the purpose of…

Abstract

Purpose

In the context of the Australian Government’s attempts to impose budget austerity measures on publicly funded universities in its higher education sector, the purpose of this paper is to assess the sector’s financial health.

Design/methodology/approach

The multi-dimensional study is based on seven years of government financial data from all 39 publicly funded Australian universities, supplemented by information from universities’ annual reports. Using a financial health model that reflects vulnerability, viability and resilience, the authors examine sector data using a suite of metrics. The authors analyse differences between those universities in the Top 10 and Bottom 10 by revenue, as a window into the financial health of the sector at large.

Findings

While mostly financially viable, the sector shows signs of financial vulnerability, particularly in the areas of expense control and financial sustainability. Possibly in response to an uncertain funding environment, universities are managing long-term liquidity by growing reserves. Debt represents largely untapped potential for universities, while differences between the Top 10 and Bottom 10 universities were most evident in the area of revenue diversity, a strong predictor of financial viability.

Research limitations/implications

Focussing on a specific set of financial metrics limits the scope of the study, but highlights further research possibilities. These include more detailed statistical analysis of data, financial case studies of individual universities and the implications of revenue diversification on academic standards.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to higher education literature, providing empirical evidence of universities’ finances. It highlights the importance of universities’ financial resilience in an uncertain funding environment.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 16 September 2013

Helen Irvine

Abstract

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 26 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Content available
Article
Publication date: 19 July 2011

Abstract

Details

Accounting Research Journal, vol. 24 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1030-9616

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Article
Publication date: 20 September 2011

Helen Irvine

The aim of this paper is to examine the process of change in an Australian not‐for‐profit organization, from a cash‐based to an accrual‐based accounting system. Its…

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to examine the process of change in an Australian not‐for‐profit organization, from a cash‐based to an accrual‐based accounting system. Its particular focus is the relationship between the image portrayed by accrual accounting adoption and the technical realities of the new system.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were gathered from interviews, documents and meetings, and were contextualized and interpreted using institutional theory.

Findings

The decision to change to accrual accounting was made at the top of the organizational hierarchy in response to institutional pressure to present a corporate image. The implementation of the new system was poorly conceived, inadequately resourced, and hampered by an authoritarian structure that effectively ignored the technical incompetence and training needs of many accounting staff. This resulted in an accounting system half way between cash and accrual, and very different from the system as it had been promoted. The process caused conflict at all levels of the organizational hierarchy.

Research limitations/implications

Accounting in not‐for‐profit organizations is an under‐researched area offering potential for fruitful research in a changing institutional landscape. This institutional approach, while offering just one interpretation of the qualitative data gathered in this project, provides valuable insights about the process of change.

Practical implications

Not‐for‐profit organizations play a vital economic and social role, and need carefully to assess their responses to ongoing institutional pressures. In implementing change, they face the challenge of balancing the promotion of an institutionally acceptable image and the need for technical efficiencies.

Originality/value

The examination of change in an organization provides a rich context for the exploration of the dynamic, problematic process by which a new accounting practice is embedded and institutionalized.

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Article
Publication date: 20 June 2016

Tracy Artiach, Helen Irvine, Janet Mack and Christine Ryan

The purpose of this paper is to strengthen the theoretical understanding of the processes through which a new regulator seeks to gain legitimacy within an existing…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to strengthen the theoretical understanding of the processes through which a new regulator seeks to gain legitimacy within an existing regulatory space. The authors do this by investigating the case of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC).

Design/methodology/approach

Synthesising legitimacy theory with the concept of regulatory space, the authors analyse formal public discourse surrounding the establishment and operations of the ACNC.

Findings

Regulation is essentially a context-bound political process in which a new regulator needs to establish legitimacy to ensure its survival. It must convince its constituents that it has developed processes to operate effectively and professionally in addressing constituents’ needs, to bargain authoritatively with other regulators in establishing its operational boundaries, and to engage politically with government and constituents. Over a relatively short time, the ACNC built legitimacy, despite the political threats to its formal regulatory authority.

Research limitations/implications

The conclusions are based on the analysis of one case. There is scope for further investigations of the processes by which new regulators establish their legitimacy in different contexts.

Practical implications

The potential for a political threat to the authority of a new regulator, and the difficulty of achieving regulatory reform, particularly in a federated system such as Australia, highlight the necessity for a new regulator to develop a compelling discourse of legitimacy.

Originality/value

The authors synthesise regulatory space and legitimacy perspectives, contributing to an understanding of the processes of regulation.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 29 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2006

Hemant Deo and Helen Irvine

This paper aims to expose the gap between rationalist banking theory and actual practice within the Agricultural Lending Division of the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) by…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to expose the gap between rationalist banking theory and actual practice within the Agricultural Lending Division of the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) by focusing on the inter‐relationship between power and knowledge.

Design/methodology/approach

Data for this qualitative research project were gathered from archived documents, interviews, observation and reflection. A Foucauldian theoretical framework was used, which acknowledged the impact of social, economic and political factors within the bank's historical context.

Findings

In practice non‐rationalist factors play a vital role in decision making and the development of mechanisms of accountability within the FDB. The bank's policies and procedures have ultimately had to strike a delicate balance between the Fijian government's development goals, profitability requirements and the formal rationalities of new public management, and the cultural realities of agricultural lending in Fiji's traditional community‐oriented society.

Research limitations/implications

This study refutes a merely technocratic approach to banking research, opening up possibilities for further studies which focus on power within a socio‐historic context.

Practical implications

The findings of this study challenge banks to acknowledge the subjectivity of their lending processes and to improve the accountability of lending officers.

Originality/value

This paper demonstrates the credibility and usefulness of a theoretically driven qualitative research study in making visible issues that would otherwise be hidden.

Details

Asian Review of Accounting, vol. 14 no. 1/2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1321-7348

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Article
Publication date: 14 September 2010

Helen Irvine, Lee Moerman and Kathy Rudkin

The purpose of this paper is to expose the impact of the shortage of senior academics, particularly professors, in Australian accounting schools, to relate the way one…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to expose the impact of the shortage of senior academics, particularly professors, in Australian accounting schools, to relate the way one school addressed this shortage through a mentoring scheme, and to challenge existing institutional arrangements.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a contextualised qualitative case study of a mentoring scheme conducted in an Australian accounting school. Data collected from semi‐structured interviews, personal reflections and from Australian university web sites are interpreted theoretically using the metaphor of a “green drought”.

Findings

The mentoring scheme achieved some notable successes, but raised many issues and challenges. Mentoring is a multifaceted investment in vocational endeavour and intellectual infrastructure, which will not occur unless creative means are developed over the long term to overcome current and future shortages of academic mentors.

Research limitations/implications

This is a qualitative case study, which, therefore, limits its generalisability. However, its contextualisation enables insights to be applied to the wider academic environment.

Practical implications

In the Australian and global academic environment, as accounting professors retire in greater numbers, new and creative ways of mentoring will need to be devised. The challenge will be to address longer term issues of academic sustainability, and not just to focus on short‐term academic outcomes.

Originality/value

A mentoring scheme based on a collegial networking model of mentoring is presented as a means of enhancing academic endeavour through a creative short‐term solution to a shortage of accounting professors. The paper exemplifies the theorising power of metaphor in a qualitative study.

Details

Accounting Research Journal, vol. 23 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1030-9616

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Article
Publication date: 1 January 2006

Helen Irvine and Michael Gaffikin

This paper seeks to provide a behind‐the‐scenes view of how a qualitative research project was conducted. It is therefore a paper about the process of qualitative research…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper seeks to provide a behind‐the‐scenes view of how a qualitative research project was conducted. It is therefore a paper about the process of qualitative research from the point of view of a researcher, rather than a qualitative research paper about an organization.

Design/methodology/approach

Its approach is both theoretical and reflective rather than a description or analysis of what went on in the organization.

Findings

Because the focus of the paper is personal rather than organizational, it does not offer “findings” about the way in which accounting is practised, but rather reflections and insights about the way research was conducted, from getting into the organization (getting in), conducting the research (getting on) and finally exiting the organization (getting out).

Research limitations/implications

Even though this paper represents the reflections of one researcher conducting a qualitative study in one unique organization, the experiences shared emphasize the need for flexibility, reflection and reflexivity in any qualitative research project.

Practical implications

The intention of the authors is that this paper should be informative, but they do not view it as a manual of practice. It is hoped that it may help to prepare new researchers for what they may face as they conduct a qualitative research project, while at the same time providing resonances for experienced researchers.

Originality/value

While much qualitative research has been undertaken within the discipline of accounting, little or no attention has been paid to the way in which that research has been conducted. This paper addresses that gap, in the hope that it will enlighten both experienced and new qualitative researchers.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 19 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 1 April 2005

Helen Irvine

This study of budgeting practices and attitudes to budgeting in a local church uses Booth's (1993) framework to consider the potential conflict between the “sacred” agenda…

Abstract

Purpose

This study of budgeting practices and attitudes to budgeting in a local church uses Booth's (1993) framework to consider the potential conflict between the “sacred” agenda of the church and the “secular” nature of accounting.

Design/methodology/approach

Over a six‐month period, the author conducted a series of semi‐structured interviews with key church leaders, and studied financial reports and the minutes of church meetings.

Findings

Clergy and lay people alike, far from viewing accounting as an unwelcome intrusion into their church's sacred agenda, integrated belief in their church's mission with the need to raise and manage the money necessary to mobilise that mission.

Research limitations/implications

Religion and religious organizations occupy a greater importance in society than academic accounting research would indicate, and this paper represents a response to that academic blind spot. Opportunities abound for further studies of the contribution accounting makes to other religious organizations, and to non‐profit organizations whose goals are not primarily wealth creation.

Practical implications

All organizations, even those with a sacred agenda, need to confront the reality of money and accounting if they are to achieve success. If they are unable to obtain or account for the resources they need for their mission, their ability to fulfil that mission is likely to be compromised.

Originality/value

By portraying accounting as an enabling and liberating contributor to a church's fulfilment of its spiritual mission, this study demonstrates that attitudes to accounting are inextricably intertwined with religious beliefs, and that accounting can be a valuable tool in a cooperative attempt to implement a spiritual vision.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 18 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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