What happens when you bring together top scholars and key practitioners in the field of public sector accounting, accountability, and performance management to share their ideas in the role of keynote speakers, provocateurs, facilitators, and critical discussants that work and talk shop in a beautiful historic city? Exactly. We are looking back on another rewarding Workshop of the Special Interest Group (SIG) on Accounting and Accountability of the IRSPM – International Research Society for Public Management.
While the beautiful historic city center of Siena may have sparked additional creativity, it is the participants who make this non-paper-presentation format a real success. Already in its 7th edition, the Workshop 2019 served as a platform to share knowledge, experience, and perspectives in a casual and open way.
Much of the academic debate happens in the virtual world, and academics and practitioners very often bounce ideas off each other when working on very specific questions and issues in project settings. The SIG Workshop is a contrast to that – an event where participants deliberately take time to get together in small groups focusing on a specific topic, but tackling grand issues.
This year’s Workshop was dedicated to the topic of “The Future of Auditing: Reaching Beyond Numbers”. Carolyn Cordery’s (Aston University) keynote set the stage for the two half-days, asking “Risks & Opportunities: the future of public sector audit”.
Participants then dispersed into breakout sessions, in which academics provoked discussions, questions, thoughts, and dared the groups to elaborate on and expand ideas generated in the room. While the first group concentrated on the Influence of Big Four Accountants in Accounting Standard Setting and in which terms they may be perceived as a ‘Friend’ or a Foe’, the second group looked at the peculiar question of whether international organizations are ‘too big to be audited’.
Practitioners delivered the provocations on the second day, challenging the participants with headscratchers in three different breakout sessions: “Auditing for performance in health care sector: The case of the Italian Piano esiti”, “Auditing of voluntary forms of accounts”, and “Auditing of reporting and the auditors’ capacities”.
The Workshop concluded with a keynote by Riccardo Mussari (University of Siena), who gave an insightful overview of “Auditing, performance and performance auditing in the Italian public sector”. After a plenary session with echoes from the different breakout sessions over the two half-days, we left a stunning city and dear colleagues and friends with a buzz of intriguing ideas, the feeling that audit in the public sector is far from being a straight-forward field, and with the certainty that the various facets discussed during the Workshop warrant a second look, a third thought, and sheer endless research endeavors.
What makes the experience of this small-group event even more enjoyable however is the possibility to mingle with colleagues from academia and practice over dinner, where people focusing on the similar, and more often than not, the same issues, sit no more than two tables away from you. We enjoyed exquisite Tuscan cuisine, seasoned with the famous Italian charm – well selected, Pasquale!
We give our compliments to the host team, first and foremost to Pasquale Ruggiero for putting together the program, and for directing all the bits and pieces needed to make a well-planned event a powerful and lively platform; but also to Roberto Di Pietra for welcoming us to the University of Siena, and to Pasquale’s colleagues who kept an eye out for anything we needed during the Workshop – thank you Vania Palmieri and the team from University of Siena! May thanks also to the provocateurs and facilitators in the breakout sessions – Tom Overmans, Roberto Di Pietra, Patrizio Monfardini, Giovanna Dabbicco, Marina Davoli, Milena Vainieri, Giuseppe Pancrazi, Matteo Balestracci, Hans-Juergen Bruns, Andrea Mazzillo, Nicola Tonveronachi, Andrea Cannavò, and Pascal Horni.
The host of next year’s Workshop of the Special Interest Group on Accounting and Accountability, Céline Du Boys, is already excited to welcome us to Aix-Marseille University – we will share with you the dates and the topic here soon!