Accounting, accountability and ethics in public sector organizations.docx

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Accounting, Accountability, and Ethics in Public Sector Organizations: Toward a Duality BetweenInstrumental Accountability and Relational Response AbilityAbstractThis article challenges the performativity of organizational economics in the construction of “nexus-of-contract” organizations (or market bureaucracies) and inherent frames of instrumental accountability inthe public sector. It argues for a duality between instrumental accountability and relational response-ability, and it shows how such a duality is related to a conceptualization of the public organization as amoral community rather than a market bureaucracy. Relational response-ability originates from theinterconnected intentions of individuals at local positions. It encourages and channels intrinsicmotivation, virtuous behavior, and stewardship. In a duality with instrumental accountability it mayprevent a performance management paradox from occurring.IntroductionAccounting refers to counting and measurement to calculation and valuation. Although it has an elementof narration in it,1 at core it consists of distinctive practices that quantify not only in mere financial termsbut also in non-financial terms. As a consequence of the latter, accounting has the potential to deeplypenetrate in the organization and to provide vital knowledge for the governance and control of theorganization, also of spaces in the organization that remained invisible under a purely financial mode ofaccounting (Vaivio, 2006). In this sense, accounting has also deeply penetrated in public organizations. Itis implicated in the more encompassing construct of accountability (Ahrens, 1996; Ezzamel, Robson,Stapleton, & McLean, 2007; Roberts, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2009; Roberts & Scapens, 1985).A rather “technical” view of accountability is that it concerns an individual’s capacity and willingness torender an account, explanation or reason in relation to conduct (Munro, 1996), or in process terms asthe giving and demanding of reasons for conduct (Roberts & Scapens, 1985). To become accountable forone’s activities one needs “to explicate the reasons for them and to supply the normative groundswhereby they may be ‘justified’” (Giddens, 1984, p. 30). Applicable norms can be, and sometimes are,grounded in discourse and narrative (Ezzamel et al., 2007).Essentially, a shift in attention from accounting to accountability entails a shift in focus from accountingas a technology toward a focus on accounting as social and institutional practice (P. Miller, 1994; Roberts,1996). It brings a mechanism for social and economic management (Burchell, Club, Hopwood, Hughes, &Nahapiet, 1980) into focus that creates “governable persons” (P. Miller & O’Leary, 1987) or calculableselves, and that pervades “the audit society” (Jones & Dugdale, 2001; Power, 1997). An important toolfor such management is responsibility accounting (Anthony, 1965, 1988). Responsibility accountingsystems are cybernetic and instrumental of nature: “ex ante” individual targets are set in terms of moneyor other quantitative dimensions, and “ex post” individual performance is measured against these

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Term
Fall
Professor
ekoganis
Tags
Test, moral community

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