Conclusion and globalising accounting, accountability and governance
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This final chapter reflects on some of the main findings within each theme in the book and extends those findings to the rest of the world. It is not meant to replicate what is in each individual chapter but, rather, to extend our knowledge by laying the trail for future research by academics throughout the world. In Chapter 1, we introduced the three main themes of the book—accounting, accountability and governance—themes which are relevant to the public sector in all countries. Accounting can be traced as far back as Pacioli and Cotrugli (Yamey 1994) and today continues to develop as new standards, policies, procedures and legislation are introduced into both the private and public sectors. Under New Public Management (NPM), the distinction between these two sectors became blurred as private sector performance criteria and ideas were transferred to the public sector. This blurring was very evident with the world-wide shift in the last 40 years or so from cash accounting to the accrual basis of accounting in much of the public sector—in particular, governments (Carlin 2005; Tickell 2010). The alleged reason for the introduction of accrual accounting was to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of management practices and reporting in the public sector. The development of NPM was seen as a means by which to enhance accountability and transparency of governments and this, in turn, required financial information that was more comparable, relevant and useful for decision-making within the public sector. Following on from this, according to Bolivar and Galera (2007), the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) could provide the benchmark for improving the quality of financial reporting. Hence, we have (allegedly) improved financial reporting and generated more transparent and accountable organisations, all under the umbrella of improved governance. In the private sector there was an attempt to define corporate governance and establish guidelines with the release of several reports, including Cadbury (1992); Greenbury (1995), Hampel (1998) and OECD (1999). According to Goddard (2005), the principles contained in these reports and underlying the private sector guidelines were extended to the public sector by Nolan (1995), Sharman (2001) and Langlands (2005), to name a few. Traditionally, governments have used cash-based accounting systems and input-based budgeting systems. New Zealand (NZ), Australia, Canada and the United States (US) were the first to transition to accrual accounting. They were closely followed by the United Kingdom (UK), Europe and Sweden (van der Hoek 2005). So, in the Western world at least, accrual accounting in some form has been adopted by governments. These countries did so in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the public sector—and hence its accountability and transparency. Many other countries have also adopted a form of accrual accounting, but here we are concentrating on developed countries.
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