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Caught in an evaluatory trap: a dilemma for public services under NPFM


  • Olov Olson
  • Christopher Humphrey
  • James Guthrie


This paper presents a challenge to public sector managers, policy-makers and interested academics. Drawing on the findings of previous international comparative studies of new public financial management (NPFM) reforms, it concludes that public services and their providers are caught in an 'evaluatory trap'. The continual promotion of NPFM reforms, despite their evident repeated failure to meet specified achievements, is argued to be generating a cycle of ever-decreasing public services at ever-increasing costs per service unit. As the legitimacy of public services increasingly rests on the need to be seen as efficient and effective and as definitions of efficiency frequently demand adoption of the latest set of NPFM reforms, it follows that the future for public services is in question.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:10:y:2001:i:3:p:505-522
    DOI: 10.1080/09638180126799

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mellemvik, Frode & Monsen, Norvald & Olson, Olov, 1988. "Functions of accounting -- a discussion," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 4(3-4), pages 101-119.
    2. Kathryn Riley & Rob Watling, 1999. "Education Action Zones: An Initiative in the Making," Public Money & Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(3), pages 51-58, July.
    3. Christopher Hood & Oliver James & George Jones & Colin Scott & Tony Travers, 1998. "Regulation Inside Government: Where New Public Management Meets the Audit Explosion," Public Money & Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(2), pages 61-68, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mihaela Grubisic & Mustafa Nusinovic & Gorana Roje, 2009. "Towards Efficient Public Sector Asset Management," Financial Theory and Practice, Institute of Public Finance, vol. 33(3), pages 329-362.
    2. Mark Christensen & Peter Skærbæk, 2007. "Framing and overflowing of public sector accountability innovations: A comparative study of reporting practices," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 20(1), pages 101-132, March.
    3. Anne Riviere & Marie Boitier, 2011. "Liberté et responsabilité des universités : Comment le contrôle de gestion participe à la construction d'un système de pilotage de la performance ?," Post-Print hal-00650567, HAL.
    4. Jane Broadbent & James Guthrie, 2008. "Public sector to public services: 20 years of “contextual” accounting research," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 21(2), pages 129-169, February.
    5. Maria Antónia Jesus & Susana Jorge, 2010. "From Governmental Accounting to National Accounting: Implications on the Portuguese Central Government Deficit," Notas Económicas, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, issue 31, pages 24-46, June.
    6. Gudrun Baldvinsdottir & Inga-Lill Johansson, 2006. "Responsibility in action: expressions of values in a Swedish company," Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 3(2), pages 112-125, July.
    7. Gloria Agyemang, 2009. "Responsibility and accountability without direct control?: Local education authorities and the seeking of influence in the UK schools sector," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 22(5), pages 762-788, June.
    8. J. Christiaens & V. Van Peteghem, 2004. "Governmental Accounting Reform: Evolution Of The Implementation In Flemish Municipalities," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 04/256, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
    9. Dominique Bessire & Pascal Fabre, 2011. "Enjeux et limites du pilotage par les indicateurs en management public, l'exemple de la recherche en sciences de gestion," Post-Print hal-00646755, HAL.

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