IRSPM Conference 2017

The Special Interest Group on Accounting and Accountability had one of the largest panels in the conference, centered around the theme of ‘History, culture, politics and accounting in public services’.

Co-chairs: Enrico Bracci, Università degli Studi di Ferrara (corresponding); Adina Dudau, Glasgow University; Laurence Ferry, Durham University; Iris Saliterer, Albert-Ludwigs Universität Freiburg; Mariafrancesca Sicilia, University of Bergamo; Ileana Steccolini, University of Newcastle; Ed Vosselman, Radboud University.

Accounting and performance measurement are embedded in the historical, cultural and political practices of organizations and society. Accounting thereby is not limited to re-present reality, but contributes to its construction by the activity or object being observed and measured and influences decision making. Also, it can become a mechanism for the hybridization of structures, practices and expertises, and help to create spaces and identities, and as such it may have (unexpected) societal influence (Vosselman, 2014). The highly institutionalized and professionalized domain of public services represents an interesting setting to observe such processes. This is because over the past three decades public accounting reforms and innovations have increasingly gained ground internationally in the name of their potential, but with promised benefits regarding better performance and accountability not always becoming visible.

This panel welcomed and encouraged papers which, inter alia, addressed the following questions:

  • How do historical, geographical, paradigmatic, disciplinary silos challenge public accounting studies?
  • What is the role of cultural distance in the diffusion and adaptation of public sector accounting reforms and innovations?
  • Why and how do historical, political, cultural, organizational and social variables shape and, in turn, are shaped by accounting and accountability systems, practices and uses?
  • What are the (unexpected) consequences of a functional use of accounting and accountability Systems?