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Purpose - This paper aims to provide a multilevel institutional analysis of public sector accounting change. It seeks to explain the implementation of changes to state-sector budgeting systems, taking into account the complex of factors that drive and shape the cumulative processes of accounting change. Design/methodology/approach − The study presents the results of an interpretive case study set in a Jordanian public organization, Jordan Customs. It uses triangulation of data collection methods including interviews, observations, and documents and archival records. The study adopts a multilevel analysis of institutions to better understand the implications of public accounting changes for the re-engineering and improved delivery of public services in Jordan. Findings − The paper concludes from its analysis of public sector organizations that change in their accounting systems has occurred on three institutional levels. New budgeting methodologies were produced and reproduced based on re-consideration and re-enacting of theoretical accounting bases and procedures. Through this process, accounting change was itself reformed and new accounting routines further embedded extant accounting institutions and norms. Budgeting change, as a fundamental accounting change, is in this conception generated by external pressures and institutionalized in accounting routines over time. Research limitations/implications − The paper is subject to the limitations of the case study approach. The propositions presented from the case studied need to be confirmed in further research into accounting system changes in other public organizations. The authenticity of the conclusions of this study would be greatly enhanced if supported by findings from other studies. The study has significant implications for the ways in which the dynamics of accounting change emerge at three levels of institutional analysis. By explaining the interaction between the ‘external' sources of and ‘internal' responses to change, accounting practice is shown to be both formed by and formative of broader socio-economic processes. This overall sensitivity to the nature of accounting has significant implications for how accounting change can be studied. Originality/Value − The paper presents an interpretive case study of the practical issues of organizational change in a multilevel analysis that considers the experience of institutional pressures from the perspective of organizational actors. The study contributes to both management accounting literature and institutional theory by providing further understanding of the dynamics of accounting change in a developing nation’s public sector.
The paper discusses the impact of new public management reforms in a developing economy. NPM prescribes a results orientation supported by strategic planning and evaluation of performance against declared objectives. Integral to this reform, budgeting is influenced by and influences changes in accounting practice, as observed in the case study of Jordan Customs. Accounting change was itself reformed and new accounting routines were inculcated in the organization, which further embedded existing institutions and norms (Siti-Nabiha and Scapens 2005). In an organizational change context, accounting and budgeting reform are reflected in internal decision making processes that manifest in management accounting practices as routines which may serve to maintain organizational coherence, given the capacity of accounting to accommodate anomalies. Thus, management accounting is important in “binding structures [which] produce and reproduce the internal unity of the organization” (Llewellyn 1994: 14).
The case study findings suggest there is some basis for arguing that Jordan’s National Agenda reform program may represent a renewal of the processes of NPM models of outcomefocused management. The institutional analysis, which has described the processes of change from a multi-level perspective found that the prevailing rationalities of NPM as recognized innovations helped to establish their legitimacy and, influenced by widespread adoption in the organizational field, became taken for granted ways of thinking and acting within the organizational culture. Organizational field-level practices changed from an input-process orientation to a results orientation, as adopted and diffused at the political-economic level, describing congruence at three levels of institutionalization analysis. At the organizational level, the institutions and values tend to reflect those of the organizational field criteria. Hence, resources were allocated to develop representations, actual or illusory, of the apparent best practices. This resulted in the adoption and reinforcement of these institutional practices. Institutionalization, being closely related to diffusion and institutionalization confers legitimacy, but also supports the dominant position of the state and its links with external agencies. This may prevent public organizations seriously challenging their institutionalized position (Pierson 2000) when tied to national economic and political objectives.