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Public sector to public services: 20 years of “contextual” accounting research

Listed author(s):
  • Jane Broadbent
Registered author(s):

    Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to review and critique the field of public sector accounting research. Many nation states deliver essential public services. In recent times, many of these nations have been involved in programmes of “modernisation”, which, in part, means that these public services now are significantly managed, delivered and governed by private and third sector organisations. Design/methodology/approach - The paper employs a literature-based analysis and critique of public sector accounting articles published in the selected journals from 1992 to 2006. From this, a descriptive meta-analysis of the characteristics of the research will be discussed. Finally, a conceptual analysis of the selected literature will be used to evaluate the field and address a possible future research agenda. Findings - The descriptive analysis highlights that among the research papers reviewed several interesting patterns emerged concerning public service research. Also, the dominance of Australasia and UK research was noted. The extent of research in different levels of government/jurisdiction indicated that the majority of research was organisationally based. Finally, when the various functional types of accounting are considered, management accounting remained the most researched area of interest. Research limitations/implications - The paper only considered research within eight selected journals and over the period 1992 to 2006. Therefore, for instance, US mainstream public sector accounting research has not been reviewed. Originality/value - The main implications of the paper are that “contextual” public service accounting research has a strong tradition and, through the process of reflection and critique of the body of work, several important insights are provided in order to highlight areas for further research and policy development.

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    Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal.

    Volume (Year): 21 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 2 (February)
    Pages: 129-169

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    Handle: RePEc:eme:aaajpp:v:21:y:2008:i:2:p:129-169
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    1. Anatoli Bourmistrov & Frode Mellemvik, 1999. "Russian local governmental reforms: autonomy for accounting development?," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(4), pages 675-700.
    2. Olov Olson & Christopher Humphrey & James Guthrie, 2001. "Caught in an evaluatory trap: a dilemma for public services under NPFM," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(3), pages 505-522.
    3. Neu, Dean, 2006. "Accounting for public space," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 31(4-5), pages 391-414.
    4. Christopher Humphrey, 2005. "The questionable nature of 'third hand' public sector accounting solutions: A case for change?," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(3), pages 475-485.
    5. Michael Habersam & Martin Piber, 2003. "Exploring intellectual capital in hospitals: two qualitative case studies in Italy and Austria," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(4), pages 753-779.
    6. Christopher Hood, 2007. "Public Service Management by Numbers: Why Does it Vary? Where Has it Come From? What Are the Gaps and the Puzzles?," Public Money & Management, Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, vol. 27(2), pages 95-102, 04.
    7. repec:eme:aaajpp:v:19:y:2006:i:1:p:82-95 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Ogden, S. G., 1995. "Transforming frameworks of accountability: The case of water privatization," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 20(2-3), pages 193-218.
    9. Peter Skaerbaek, 1992. "Accounting for a theatre: implementing a management accounting system in a cultural institution," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(2), pages 465-469.
    10. Llewellyn, Sue & Northcott, Deryl, 2005. "The average hospital," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 555-583, August.
    11. Iain McLean & Dirk Haubrich & Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero, 2007. "The Perils and Pitfalls of Performance Measurement: The CPA Regime for Local Authorities in England," Public Money & Management, Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, vol. 27(2), pages 111-118, 04.
    12. repec:eme:aaajpp:v:19:y:2006:i:6:p:82-95 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Johan Christiaens, 2004. "Capital assets in governmental accounting reforms: comparing Flemish technical issues with international standards," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(4), pages 743-770.
    14. repec:eme:aaajpp:v:19:y:2006:i:2:p:272-290 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:eme:aaajpp:v:19:y:2006:i:2:p:256-271 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Irvine Lapsley, 2001. "The changing public sector: from transition to transformation," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(3), pages 501-504.
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