Legitimacy and parliamentary oversight in Australia: the rise and fall of two public accounts committees

Journal article


Jacobs, Kerry and Jones, Kate. (2009). Legitimacy and parliamentary oversight in Australia: the rise and fall of two public accounts committees. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal. 22(1), pp. 13 - 34. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513570910922999
AuthorsJacobs, Kerry and Jones, Kate
Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to address the question of whether two early Australian public accounts committees were established for the purpose of legitimating governments of the time.

Design/methodology/approach
The paper addressed these issues through a study of the establishment, early work and abolition in the 1930s of the Victorian Committee of Public Accounts (VCPA) and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts (JCPA).

Findings
Clear evidence is found that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts (JCPA) had been copied from the VCPA and that the VCPA had been copied from the UK House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, which was established in 1861. This would indicate that the primary objective in the establishment of both these committees was legitimation rather than control. It was found that the subsequent work of both the VCPA and the JCPA showed a drift away from an accounting focus towards a policy focus. This is similar to the JCPA experience described by Degeling et al. in relation to the JCPA, which also supports the legitimation argument. It was also found that both committees could be disestablished with relative ease because their legitimating purpose was no longer strong enough to demand their continuation and that, in fact, their abolition became the factor that served a legitimating purpose for governments.

Originality/value
The paper suggests that the ideas of legitimation and mimetic isomorphism provide a more convincing explanation for the nature and work of these two public accounts committees than the idea of accounting colonisation.

KeywordsPublic sector accounting; Australia; Regulation; Modern history
Year2009
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Journal citation22 (1), pp. 13 - 34
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN0951-3574
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1108/09513570910922999
Scopus EID2-s2.0-57849130320
Page range13 - 34
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Controlled
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
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