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

  • Jane Broadbent
  • James Guthrie
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. Russell Craig & Joel Amernic, 2006. "The mobilization of accounting in preening for privatization," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 19(6), pages 82-95, November.
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    7. Russell Craig & Joel Amernic, 2006. "The mobilization of accounting in preening for privatization," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 19(1), pages 82-95, January.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. Ciaran Connolly & Noel Hyndman, 2006. "The actual implementation of accruals accounting: Caveats from a case within the UK public sector," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 19(2), pages 272-290, February.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. Allan D. Barton, 2006. "Public sector accountability and commercial-in-confidence outsourcing contracts," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 19(2), pages 256-271, February.
    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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