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Transparency and accountability lost? : Full cost accounting reporting in the Swedish municipal solid waste business

Haraldsson, Mattias LU (2016) In Journal of Accounting and Organizational Change 12(3). p.254-280
Abstract

Purpose: The aim of this paper is to explore the causes of variations in financial accounting and disclosure practices in a municipal setting highly influenced by governance reforms - the Swedish municipal waste management sector. This focus is motivated by the claim that recent governance reforms have made the organization of public services delivery more diversified and fragmented, which may have had a negative effect on transparency and accountability. Design/methodology/approach: To document the accounting and disclosure practices of the Swedish solid waste management organizations, a questionnaire approach was selected. The study uses a conceptual theoretical framework that complements the basic variables considered to influence... (More)

Purpose: The aim of this paper is to explore the causes of variations in financial accounting and disclosure practices in a municipal setting highly influenced by governance reforms - the Swedish municipal waste management sector. This focus is motivated by the claim that recent governance reforms have made the organization of public services delivery more diversified and fragmented, which may have had a negative effect on transparency and accountability. Design/methodology/approach: To document the accounting and disclosure practices of the Swedish solid waste management organizations, a questionnaire approach was selected. The study uses a conceptual theoretical framework that complements the basic variables considered to influence public sector financial accounting and disclosure practices with factors such as competition and municipal governance forms. Findings: The results show that compliance accounting and disclosure transparency to some extent have different antecedents and that the external environment, including market competition, size and economic input, influences both. The governance forms, on the other hand, only influenced compliance accounting (negatively and positively) and not the willingness to disclose information in general. The overall conclusion is that changes to the economic and institutional context mixed with different municipal governance forms introduces a multiplicity of forces that makes the accounting practices themselves diversified and fragmented and not necessarily only in a "negative" direction. Practical implications: From a policy perspective the results indicate that the changing institutional and organizational environment has not been matched by attention to, and regulation of, reporting structures that secure external vertical accountability processes. The general implication for future regulations should therefore be to recognize the influence of different economic and institutional forces and develop accountability models that enable and preserve the benefits of governance reform initiatives without losing accountability and transparency. Originality/value: Few prior quantitative studies have theoretically related municipal accounting and disclosure practices to factors such as market competition and popular municipal governance forms (municipal corporation, regional cooperation, outsourcing, etc.). Knowledge of how reforms might influence municipal accounting practices might benefit future policy decisions on accountability models with aim of enable and preserve the benefits of governance reform initiatives without losing accountability and transparency.

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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Public sector accountability, Public sector accounting, Public sector reform, Waste management
in
Journal of Accounting and Organizational Change
volume
12
issue
3
pages
27 pages
publisher
Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.
external identifiers
  • scopus:84987850174
  • wos:000386143600001
ISSN
1832-5912
DOI
10.1108/JAOC-01-2015-0006
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
23d210cd-bcb7-4c9c-af16-eeadfe01fdd4
date added to LUP
2017-02-16 10:16:31
date last changed
2017-09-18 11:32:49
@article{23d210cd-bcb7-4c9c-af16-eeadfe01fdd4,
  abstract     = {<p>Purpose: The aim of this paper is to explore the causes of variations in financial accounting and disclosure practices in a municipal setting highly influenced by governance reforms - the Swedish municipal waste management sector. This focus is motivated by the claim that recent governance reforms have made the organization of public services delivery more diversified and fragmented, which may have had a negative effect on transparency and accountability. Design/methodology/approach: To document the accounting and disclosure practices of the Swedish solid waste management organizations, a questionnaire approach was selected. The study uses a conceptual theoretical framework that complements the basic variables considered to influence public sector financial accounting and disclosure practices with factors such as competition and municipal governance forms. Findings: The results show that compliance accounting and disclosure transparency to some extent have different antecedents and that the external environment, including market competition, size and economic input, influences both. The governance forms, on the other hand, only influenced compliance accounting (negatively and positively) and not the willingness to disclose information in general. The overall conclusion is that changes to the economic and institutional context mixed with different municipal governance forms introduces a multiplicity of forces that makes the accounting practices themselves diversified and fragmented and not necessarily only in a "negative" direction. Practical implications: From a policy perspective the results indicate that the changing institutional and organizational environment has not been matched by attention to, and regulation of, reporting structures that secure external vertical accountability processes. The general implication for future regulations should therefore be to recognize the influence of different economic and institutional forces and develop accountability models that enable and preserve the benefits of governance reform initiatives without losing accountability and transparency. Originality/value: Few prior quantitative studies have theoretically related municipal accounting and disclosure practices to factors such as market competition and popular municipal governance forms (municipal corporation, regional cooperation, outsourcing, etc.). Knowledge of how reforms might influence municipal accounting practices might benefit future policy decisions on accountability models with aim of enable and preserve the benefits of governance reform initiatives without losing accountability and transparency.</p>},
  author       = {Haraldsson, Mattias},
  issn         = {1832-5912},
  keyword      = {Public sector accountability,Public sector accounting,Public sector reform,Waste management},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {3},
  pages        = {254--280},
  publisher    = {Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.},
  series       = {Journal of Accounting and Organizational Change},
  title        = {Transparency and accountability lost? : Full cost accounting reporting in the Swedish municipal solid waste business},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/JAOC-01-2015-0006},
  volume       = {12},
  year         = {2016},
}