Introduction: The Gordian knot of public sector accounting and the role of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Sandra Cohen Hot
Uploaded by Sandra Cohen     Uploaded date: October 28, 2016    
Publication date
October 28, 2016
Paper language
The European countries, as well as other countries worldwide, have recently witnessed profound changes in their accounting systems in all levels of government. These reforms have at their core the need for high quality and relevant financial information that would eventually be used for transparency and accountability purposes. The three studies presented in the Symposium pave the way for further reflections and studies on the future steps needed in order to adopt a common set of accrual-based standards for the public sector, possibly developed considering the specific features and reporting needs of European countries. The experiences presented highlight that the adoption of IPSAS is well received in those contexts where the need for credibility is stronger. Another obstacle to the introduction of a common set of accrual accounting standards is the consideration devoted to the budget: in many countries, politicians and managers consider the budget as the basis for decision-making and this tool is often prepared according to the cash or modified-cash basis. Unless accrual accounting information gains equal importance in policy and decision-making, its prioritization is not self-evident.
The move towards accrual-based international accounting standards has to overcome a long list of obstacles related to the high costs of implementing a different accounting system, the costs of educating civil servants in accrual accounting, investments in proper information and communication technologies, and so on. Not all European countries start the journey from the same point and the time and resource requirements are therefore significantly different.
Moreover, another area deserving investigation refers to the effects caused by austerity measures and budget cuts on accounting reforms: while in some cases, they may have slowed down the resource-consuming reform processes, in others they may have acted as accelerators to reforms as a means to overcome the crisis.
Finally the fact that changing accounting standards is not only a technical matter, but also a cultural issue, should be taken into consideration. Should IPSAS or EPSAS replace national standards or is there a possibility of a beneficial coexistence? This would open a new research agenda, urging scholars to empirically test the effects of the coexistence of two parallel systems, one attuned to favour harmonization and integration – and consequently consolidation – and the other supporting the definition of national policies and decision-making.
Preferred Citation
Manes Rossi F., S. Cohen, E. Caperchione and I. Brusca, "Introduction: The Gordian knot of public sector accounting and the role of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards", International Review of Administrative Studies, forthcoming, p. 1-6.
IPSAS; EPSAS; Accrual Accounting; Accounting Harmonization
  • Financial accounting
  • International Accounting / Accounting Harmonization
Type of Paper
Published paper

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