Conference Publication Details
Mandatory Fields
Robbins, G. and C. Busco
8th International European Institute of Advanced Management (EIASM) Public Sector Conference,
Governing across boundaries through incomplete accounting technologies.
Optional Fields
Governmentality, programmes of government, technologies of government, hospital, Ireland
Edinburgh, Scotland.
Abstract  The present paper contributes to the debate on New Public Management by exploring why and how accounting practices participate in the enactment of public policies and reforms despite their supposed incompleteness. In pursuing this aim, we build first on the literature of Governamentality to interpret the role that technologies of government – such as accounting practices - play in the implementation of programmes of government. Studies on Governmentality have illustrated the intertwined relationship between programmes and technologies of government, emphasizing how the representation of policies and reforms through programmes is inextricably linked to the intervention of the technologies that seek to give effect to them. However, despite a significant number of works having researched this interconnectedness in operationalizing large-scale reforms and changes in ‘modes of governing’, the literature has given only limited attention to situations where a lack of management and accounting tools are experienced by local managers in the implementation of programmes of government. Aiming to address this gap, our study analyzes the enactment of incomplete technologies of government in practice, and discusses the mechanisms that underpin local engagement and responses. In doing so, we leverage studies that have highlighted two combined features of accounting in action: the first refers to the lack of effectiveness of accounting in generating complete guidance, control, and accountability; the second relates to its role in enabling organizational action, despite its incompleteness. The paper draws on the insights offered by a longitudinal case study of Ashford, a large public hospital in Ireland that during the last fifteen years had to cope with the challenges of implementing a number of reforms with limited resources and technologies at work. In this context, we focus primarily on planning and budgeting to illustrate the way in which incomplete accounting practices recursively engage a number of heterogeneous users in rituals across boundaries. Our paper contributes to the current debate in the literature by illustrating why and how accounting practices can be interpreted as ritualized spaces where (dis)trust, hope and belief are recursively created and sustained in practice to organize, question and fill this supposed incompleteness, and aliment users’ ongoing appetite for continuous improvement.
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