Accounting has been viewed, especially through the lens of the recent managerial reforms, as a neutral technology that, in the hands of rational managers, can support effective and efficient decision making. However, the introduction of new accounting practices can be framed in a variety of ways, from value-neutral procedures to ideologically-charged instruments. Focusing on financial accounting, budgeting and performance management changes in the UK central government, and through extensive textual analysis and interviews in three government departments, this paper investigates: how accounting changes are discussed and introduced at the political level through the use of global discourses; and what strategies organisational actors subsequently use to talk about and legitimate such discourses at different organisational levels. The results shows that in political discussions there is a consistency between the discourses (largely NPM) and the accounting-related changes that took place. The research suggests that a cocktail of legitimation strategies was used by organisational actors to construct a sense of the changes, with authorisation, often in combination with, at the very least, rationalisation strategies most widely utilised. While previous literature posits that different actors tend to use the same rhetorical sequences during periods of change, this study highlights differences at different organisational levels.
- accounting change
- legitimation strategies
- central government accounting