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The institutional change in the role of the public sector accountant in facilitating accountability: a longitudinal study of Australian local councils


Williams, B and Lodhia, S and Arora, MP and McManus, L, The institutional change in the role of the public sector accountant in facilitating accountability: a longitudinal study of Australian local councils, Managerial Auditing Journal, 36, (2) pp. 314-333. ISSN 0268-6902 (2021) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2021 Emerald Publishing Limited

DOI: doi:10.1108/MAJ-02-2020-2558


Purpose: With an increased focus on the need for higher levels of accountability and transparency in the public sector, this study aims to provide insights into non-financial reporting (NFR) practices as a mechanism in facilitating accountability. This study also aims to investigate the changing role of the public sector accountant in this process, specifically focusing on the Australian local government sector.

Design/methodology/approach: The authors used a mail survey across two time periods, 2009 and 2017, to analyse the role of accountants in NFR practices. Institutional theory provides a theoretical framing for the study.

Findings: The findings reveal an increase in the use of accountants across time in the preparation of voluntary information, being used in a variety of roles because of their financial abilities and analytical skills. The results also indicate a shift has occurred with more emphasis being placed on cross-departmental approaches to NFP incorporating the accountant. These results suggest a greater recognition of the role of accountants in NFR and a dilution of accountant's boundaries in relation to their existing traditional focus.

Research limitations/implications: This study contributes to the academic NFR literature by providing evidence of an institutional shift that is occurring with the accountant's role widening to a broader context beyond their traditional roles.

Practical implications: This longitudinal study provides practical evidence to management of the potential offered by accountants as the public sector seeks to achieve higher levels of accountability and transparency. Policy implications also arise in relation to the need for development of quality assurance guidelines and further education and training as the public sector embarks on the journey of NFR.

Originality/value: To the best of the authors' knowledge, this study is the first that has explored the evolution of NFR over a period of time through its focus on the role of accountants.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:accountability, public sector, non-financial reporting, local government, accountant
Research Division:Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Research Group:Accounting, auditing and accountability
Research Field:Sustainability accounting and reporting
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in commerce, management, tourism and services
UTAS Author:Williams, B (Associate Professor Belinda Williams)
ID Code:145151
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:TSBE
Deposited On:2021-07-03
Last Modified:2022-08-29

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