The use of budgetary and financial information by politicians in Parliament: a case study Sandra Cohen

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Uploaded by Sandra Cohen     Uploaded date: January 10, 2020    
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Publication date
October 14, 2019
Paper language
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to research the use of accounting information by politicians. Based on
the Portuguese Parliament setting, it seeks to understand how useful politicians consider this information to
be, what type of budgetary and financial information they use, and for what purposes. Finally, the research
also seeks to find out whether politicians resort to expert intermediaries or advisors help them in the use of
this information.
Design/methodology/approach – Following a qualitative and interpretative methodology, the study
draws upon interviews with Members of Parliament in Portugal (and their technical advisors (TAs)) from all
political parties, in particular the members of the Budget, Finance and Administrative Modernization
Committee (COFMA) of the Parliament.
Findings – Research shows that, due to the general lack of knowledge and the complexity of the accounting
information, politicians in the Parliament do not use it frequently, only occasionally. To be better or worse
informed for the debates and other activities depends on each Member of Parliament’s personal willingness to
prepare oneself, notwithstanding some aggregated and previously analyzed information made available by
official technical support units. Parliamentarians may also resort to TAs, who prepare the information at their
request. Both intermediaries and TAs are deemed important to support parliamentarians’ understanding of
more technical budgetary and financial issues.
Practical implications – This paper shows that politicians acknowledge there is room for improving the
role of information intermediaries and advisors, who would support them to better understand and use
accounting information. Parliamentary groups incharge of hiring advisors, as well as accounting
professionals, in Portugal and in other countries, must be aware of the very useful role accountants play in
this process.
Social implications – While allowing to understand whether and how politicians use accounting
information, this research contributes to the process of public sector accounting reforms in Portugal,
and at an international level, inasmuch as public sector accounting and reporting standards should
better address these users’ information needs. Assuming that these reforms would foster more
accurate, transparent and useful information for accountability and decision making, it is essential that
politicians acknowledge and become real users of accounting information, in order to accomplish
those objectives.
Originality/value – This study contributes to the general knowledge of how politicians use accounting
information. Academic studies so far have not gathered enough evidence about the type of accounting
information that is actually important for politicians. This paper highlights that use of such information by
politicians depends on individual skills and their willingness to receive the appropriate advice.
Preferred Citation
Jorge, S., Jesus, M. and Nogueira, S. (2019), "The use of budgetary and financial information by politicians in parliament: a case study", Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 539-557.
Keywords
Members of parliament; Accounting advisors; Accounting information needs; Information understandability
Email
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Category
Financial accounting
Type of Paper
Published paper

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