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Public sector reforms and the public interest: A case study of accounting control changes and performance monitoring in a Ghanaian state-owned enterprise

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Purpose ‐ Aims to examine the changes to budgetary control and performance monitoring in the context of a series of World Bank sponsored public sector reforms. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper uses a longitudinal study of a state enterprise (the Ghana Food Distribution Corporation (GFDC)) in which the World Bank-sponsored reforms were imposed. This paper especially draws on the dialectic of control from structuration theory. Findings ‐ The paper shows that budgetary practices at the GFDC did not change substantially, with the exception of the reporting practices. Budgeting remained politicised, delayed, directionless and ineffective. Reporting to the monitoring agency did not make any positive changes to accountability and performance and was thereby unable to serve public interests. Research limitations/implications ‐ With hindsight, the authors wished they had undertaken more in-depth investigations of workers' and farmers' roles in whole performance contracting scenarios and public sector reforms at the GFDC. The failure so to do was mainly because of a shortage of time and the difficulty of obtaining relevant data. Practical implications ‐ This paper has raised a number of important but neglected issues concerning the public sector reforms in less developed countries (LDCs) for aid agencies and policy makers. Originality/value ‐ This paper demonstrates the usefulness of Giddens' idea of the dialectic of control in the contextual study of management controls, including budgeting and performance in the public sector in LDCs. Also, the paper makes an important contribution highlighting the public interest role of management controls especially in the context of public sector reforms.
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Keywords: Aid agencies; Control; Ghana; Management accounting; Public interest

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2005

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