The objective of this paper is two-fold. First, it assesses existing local accounting and financial reporting practices in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), focusing on the extent to which recent government financial statements published by ten selected countries adhere to mainstream qualitative features of public sector reporting. Second, it investigates the multiple institutional logics at play in the context of government accounting reforms (GARs) in SSA, involving international organisations, epistemic community members, policy makers and local actors. Data for the study are drawn from a content analysis and disclosure scoring of ten SSA government financial statements, supplemented by forty semi-structured interviews carried out in Nigeria and Tanzania. Our findings demonstrate how the generalised assumptive logics of international organisations, coupled with the market and professional logics of epistemic community members and state logics of local politicians, have led to the marginalisation of ‘good’ existing accounting and financial reporting practice in SSA (as reflected by the extent to which government financial statements adhere to mainstream features of public sector reporting) - while providing the countries with a strong impetus for undertaking a transition towards large-scale GARs involving accrual accounting and IPSASs. The role of the epistemic community in selectively ignoring the positive aspects of local accounting practice is a significant impediment. In this way, members of this epistemic community continue to execute their ‘relational power’ generated through professional knowledge, expertise and elite connections over the local actors, hence upholding the generalised assumptive logics. The paper argues that public accountability and transparency can be strengthened in SSA countries provided there is an ‘intelligent’ application of existing regulations and accounting systems, rather than seeking to merely replace them with externally imposed large-scale GARs.
- Epistemic community
- Government accounting reforms
- Institutional logics
- Sub-Sahara Africa