The emergence of an accounting practice: The fabrication of a government accrual accounting system

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose - This study aims to add to our understanding of the nature of accrual accounting by examining the process involved in its construction, as a dynamic and controversial process. This paper reveals how it was built and constantly modified,reinforced or negated during the process of implementation.
Design/methodology/approach - this paper's focus on a government initiative with multiple actors present in the laboratory. Specifically, this study offers a close examination of the day to-day activities of a laboratory case study, it focuses on participant observation in video-conference calls. The discussions held by the project teams are analyzed to extend our enquiry into the most intimate aspects of fact construction (Latour & Woolgar, 1979). These excerpts illustrate the processes of accrual accounting construction and open up the possibility of studying the emergence of accrual accounting through the lens of an action net.
Findings - The evidence collected identified the absence of a well-defined template for implementing accrual accounting in government. These results revealed an elaborate process of improvisation and fabrication in the design of this accounting system and a fragile network in action.
Originality/value - Prior research on accrual accounting in government focused on the examination of existing accrual accounting systems with somewhat puzzling results on lack of use. In this study, the perspective has been shifted from focusing on accrual accounting as self-evident (Lapsley et al. 2009) to examining its construction. This paper examines this tension between the apparent certainties as espoused by practitioners and the problematic nature of accrual accounting in Government. It extends our knowledge of "black box accrual accounting," and shows that it is a fluid object with significant discretion in the determination of practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1066
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Volume31
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2018

Keywords

  • accrual accounting
  • public sector
  • fabrication
  • controversies
  • fact
  • artefact

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