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Type: Thesis
Title: NSW public sector accrual accounting: Why did it happen and has it mattered?.
Author: Christensen, Mark
Issue Date: 2009
School/Discipline: Business School
Abstract: In 1988 the New South Wales (NSW) Government was the first in Australia, and amongst the first in the world, to commit to implement accrual accounting for its General Government Sector. Subsequently, accrual accounting has been implemented by numerous governments, including all Australian governments. This thesis examines why the NSW Government decided to implement accrual accounting and the impact of this accounting change on decision making within a General Government Sector organisation. The historical account is derived from a combination of archival and oral data sources whilst an organisational learning theoretical frame is used in a single-site case study to understand the impact of accrual accounting on managerial decision making. The history of the NSW Government adoption of accrual accounting is characterised by five notable features. First, the whole-of-government initiative was implemented with remarkable speed. Second, the change was aided by the actions of an epistemic community, in which private sector consultants were most active. Third, the change was justified through expected improvements in accountability and management. Fourth, a period of resistance to the change was followed by an absence of critical discussion on the implications of the change as forces supportive of the change synergistically combined. Fifth, the change is explained by mimetic forces that initially coalesced around phantom images, presented by consultants, and subsequently recognised self-interest as an integral part of the change to accrual accounting. The impact of accrual accounting on management decision-making at an organisational level from has been mixed. Information acquisition has expanded in that new sets of accounting data are collected. However, information distribution has been unchanged by accrual accounting whilst information interpretation only marginally changed at a top management level with no discernible change at operational levels. Organisational memory has been altered by accrual accounting in that additional accounting skills and information are now held. However, use of that organisational memory is severely impeded by organisational objectives and constraints that effectively render accrual accounting information irrelevant to public sector managers’ concerns. Policy implications arising from this project are that an alternative model of accrual accounting is required together with the dual recognition that centrally imposed change may produce unpredicted change at an operational agency level and that accounting change needs to be matched to organisational characteristics. Additionally, improvements in asset management, as sought by advocates of accrual accounting, could have been delivered by non-accounting means and there is little prospect for improved managerial decision-making from the current model of accrual accounting.
Advisor: Parker, Lee David
Guthrie, James
Lightbody, Margaret Gaye
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of Adelaide, Business School, 2009
Subject: Finance, Public Australia Accounting.
Accrual basis accounting Australia.
Finance New South Wales
Keywords: Accrual accounting; Public sector; Accounting history; Organisational learning
Provenance: Copyright material removed from digital thesis. See print copy in University of Adelaide Library for full text.
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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