Research Seminars

Accounting the Accountants’ Way: The Role of Accounting in Public Sector Reforms

Speaker: Christopher Chapman
Imperial College, London

9 March 2012 - HEC Room H004 - From 2:00pm to 4:00pm

This study contributes to the stream of research looking at role of accounting in public sector reforms. Accounting is often seen as a vital tool to help inject the principles of marketization into public sector organisations. Extant literature has highlighted a number of significant barriers to successful reform in this regard. Our study highlights the significance of accountants’ knowledge structures (e.g. Vera-Muñoz 1998) as an important factor in shaping the way reform efforts develop. Based on an in-depth case study, we analyze how accountants’ knowledge structures condition the way marketization is mediated. In our case the accountants have difficulty in integrating new knowledge linked to marketization within existing knowledge structures stemming from public sector, when redesigning the cost system. The effect was therefore not a simple hybridization of market and public sector rationales, but rather a translation of both of these through the lens of accounting knowledge structures. The resulting cost system contained conflicting technical elements, which contributed to deteriorate performance and ultimately led to the failure of reform efforts

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