There is evidence of three main public administration paradigms since the 20th century - Traditional Public Administration; New Public Management (NPM); and more recently Public Value (Gains and Stoker 2009). This study seeks to explore by means of a detailed review of the literature, the complex and changing role Accounting has played in each of these three main public administration paradigms. The public sector confronts a perennial difficulty in balancing efforts to quantify the financial efficacy of government performance on one hand with its social democratic role and responsibility of creating Public Value on the other. Within this conundrum, Accounting-based metrics are critical to provide transparency over the spending of public monies and objective measures of performance, yet by their nature are inadequate to capture the social value inherent in the bastion role of government as protector of justice, equality and provider of education and health. This paper seeks to unravel the role Accounting has and accountants have played within the central paradigms of Public Administration, New Public Management and Public Value and evaluate what contribution is envisaged within the latest development of public theory - Public Value.