Cost system design and cost management in the Spanish public sector
Cost systems have been shown to have developed considerably in recent years and activity-based costing (ABC) has been shown to be a contribution to cost management, particularly in service businesses. The public sector is composed to a very great extent of service functions, yet considerably less has been reported of the use of ABC to support cost management in this sector. In Spain, cost systems are essential for city councils as they are obliged to calculate the cost of the services subject to taxation (eg. waste collection, etc). City councils must have a cost system in place to calculate the cost of services, as they are legally required not to ‘profit’, from these services. This paper examines the development of systems to support cost management in the Spanish Public Sector. Through semi-structured interviews with 28 subjects within one City Council it contains a case study of cost management. The paper contains extracts from interviews and a number of factors are identified which contribute to the successful development of the cost management system. Following the case study a number of other City Councils were identified where activity-based techniques had either failed or stalled. Based on the factors identified in the single case study a further enquiry is reported. The paper includes a summary using statistical analysis which draws attention to change management, funding and political incentives as factors which had an influence on system success or failure.
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