Category Archives: Government accounting

The relationship between accounting and shell shock in British Army Medical Units 1914-18

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2017). The relationship between accounting and shell shock in British Army Medical Units 1914-18. Paper presented at the 40th Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association, Valencia.

This paper is an updated version of:

  • Accounting and medicine: British Army medical units and shell shock during the First World War
  • “Broken and mad”: Accounting, shell shock and the British Army medical unit 1914-18

Abstract:  This research examines the role of accounting in creating and enforcing stigma.  To do this, we consider the accounting practices used by British Army Medical Units during the First World War and the way those practices contributed to the stigmatisation of soldiers suffering from shell shock.  At the time shell shock was a little understood disease.  Many questioned whether it was a real illness or whether sufferers were actually malingerers and cowards and medical units.  The introduction of onerous accounting procedures for men treated for shell shock and ineffective budgeting methods that led to inadequate resourcing of medical units created tensions that added to the stigmatisation of men with shell shock. We examine how the complexity of accounting by medical units intermediated between those imposing stigma and those stigmatised.  Accounting procedures can both contribute to and alleviate stigma.  We conclude that the relationship between accounting and stigma is complex and multi-faceted and should be considered in its societal context and conjunction with other stigmatising aspects of society.

Full paper is available from ResearchGate

The purgatorial shadows of war: Accounting, blame and shell shock pensions 1914-23

Miley, F.M. & Read, A.F. (2015). The purgatorial shadows of war: Accounting, blame and shell shock pensions 1914-23. Paper presented at eighth Accounting History International Conference, Ballarat.

Abstract: This research is a qualitative analysis of the role of accounting in British disablement pensions awarded to men who sustained shell shock during their Army service in the First World War. It suggests that accounting classification of shell shock for pension determination purposes supported a view of shell shock which made men with shell shock scapegoats of a system that was often unsupportive. Accounting classification contributed to the lack of support by distancing pension decision-makers from the moral consequences of pension determinations. This was able to occur because the British government used accounting classification as part of a mechanism to avoid blame for its pension determination choices. This research contributes to an ongoing debate about the role of government by suggesting that the functions of government provide opportunities for accounting to simultaneously serve a neutral role as mere inscription while being a social and moral construct.

Paper available through Andrew Read’s ResearchGate page.

Hiding who pays: When disaster relief becomes a disaster

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2015). Hiding who pays: When disaster relief becomes a disaster. Paper presented at the Asia-Pacific Economic and Business History Conference, Canberra. http://www.acsacs.unsw.adfa.edu.au/news-and-events/apebh2015/

Abstract

Accounting can be a tool of cultural hegemony. In this research we examine the history of the interplay between the New Zealand government and local governments in the management of the recovery from earthquakes. We examine the management of the recovery from two earthquakes, Murchison and Napier, which occurred prior to the introduction of new public management and compare them to the management of the recovery from the recent Christchurch earthquakes. We conclude that accounting arrangements associated with the introduction of new public management permit the shifting of costs of earthquake recovery from the national government to local government while simultaneously hiding the hegemonic control the national government has over local government.

Link to paper

Cartoons as alternative accounting: front-line supply in the First World War

AHR coverMiley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2014). Cartoons as alternative accounting: front-line supply in the First World War. Accounting History Review, 24(2-3), 161-189. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21552851.2014.967932

Abstract

The accounting system that supported the provision of supplies to the Western Front during the First World War had some inadequacies from the perspective of the soldier on the front line. These inadequacies are revealed through the cartoons drawn by Bruce Bairnsfather, a front-line officer in the British Army. Our examination shows that cartoons can provide source material for accounting histories. It also shows that cartoons can be considered as a form of accounting themselves and, in doing so, stretches the epistemological boundaries of accounting.

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After the quake: The complex dance of local government, national government and accounting

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2013). After the quake: The complex dance of local government, national government and accounting. Accounting History, 18(4), 447-471.

Accounting History CoverAbstract

This research considers accounting for post-earthquake recovery in New Zealand. New Zealand’s most devastating earthquakes are considered to be the Murchison earthquake of 1929, the Napier/Hawke’s Bay earthquake of 1931 and the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010–11. At the time of the Murchison and Napier earthquakes, government accounting information was an ex post record of expenditure. Contemporary government accounting in New Zealand is accrual based and comprehensive, and so accounting information has played a more prominent role in the management of Christchurch’s earthquake recovery. Apart from evidencing the significant change to government accounting, an historical comparison of accounting in the context of the Murchison and Napier earthquakes vis-à-vis the Christchurch earthquakes indicates the extent of change in the interplay between national and local government in New Zealand. The relationship between national and local government, though legally unchanged, has become more complex, but the financial reports do not reveal this complexity. Through historical analysis the extent of this change is made visible.

Link to article

De-facing power: Towards understanding power in accounting history

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2013). De-facing power: Towards understanding power in accounting history. Paper presented at the 7th Accounting History International Conference, Seville, Spain.

Abstract

The purpose of this research is to introduce Hayward’s concept of de-facing power to historical accounting research.  The value of de-facing power analysis for historical accounting research is considered in the context of a Catholic school strike that occurred in Goulburn, Australia in 1962.  The strike was a response to a dispute concerning minor building works at a Catholic school in Goulburn but was construed as a battle for government funding of Catholic parochial schools.  We examine the contribution of accounting information to this dispute and demonstrate that historically constructed events determine the application of power in this case rather than the agency of current participants in the dispute.  We conclude that de-facing power is a useful methodological approach for understanding historical accounting research because it forces researchers to consider whether power can be an unintended consequence of circumstance rather than something exercised by those more powerful against those less powerful.

Link to paper

Link to conference

7AHIC

Accounting in the service of genocide: stolen wages in Australia 1897-1972

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2013). Accounting in the service of genocide: stolen wages in Australia 1897-1972. Paper presented at the 7th Accounting History International Conference, Seville, Spain.

Abstract

This research considers accounting in the context of wages earned by indigenous Australians between 1897 and 1972.  Up to 75 per cent of these wages were compulsorily placed into government trust accounts.  The remainder of the wages money was to be paid in cash to indigenous workers.  “Stolen wages” refers to the systemic failure to pay this money to indigenous Australians.  We examine the failure of accounting practices and audit processes in the management of indigenous wages held in trust and to be paid in cash.  These failures led to widespread financial mismanagement and fraud of indigenous wage money, created severe economic hardship among the indigenous population and contributed to genocidal outcomes consistent with the definition of genocide.  Cultural hegemony provides a framework for understanding that accounting failure is not accidental when it contributes directly to the oppression of indigenous Australians.  Previous accounting research has considered the use of accounting as a control mechanism to support genocidal policies.  Our research suggests that the culpability of the accounting for supporting genocidal outcomes should be broadened to include cases of deliberate failure to implement accounting control mechanisms and audit processes required by law and government policy.

Link to paper

Link to conference

7AHIC

The implications of supply accounting deficiencies in the Australian Army during the Second World War

AHR coverMiley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2012). The implications of supply accounting deficiencies in the Australian Army during the Second World War. Accounting History Review, 22(1), 73-91. doi: 10.1080/21552851.2012.653131

Abstract

The oral histories of veterans who served in the Australian Army during World War II are used to comment on the practical deficiencies of Army supply accounting procedures during that conflict from the perspective of those in the field. Although the Army thought these procedures were appropriate, the oral histories indicate that they had inadequate feedback loops and reporting mechanisms. This research highlights the critical importance of a military accounting system geared to enhancing war-fighting efficiency and effectiveness. It extends prior research on military accounting by introducing the end-user perspective. This historical research has contemporary relevance as studies continue to identify deficiencies in military accounting. The study highlights the potential consequences for a fighting force on active deployment when deficiencies in military accounting systems are not identified and remedied.

Link to journal

Accountability for sovereign debt management

Read, A. F., & Miley, F. M. (2003). Accountability for sovereign debt management. Paper presented at the 9th Comparative International Government Accounting Research Network Biennial Conference, Bodo, Norway.

Abstract

Australia has been using derivatives to manage its sovereign debt since 1988.  Cumulative losses of approximately USD 2.5 billion were reported from the use of cross-currency interest rate swaps by the Australian Office of Financial Management.

Management of sovereign debt is an important issue for government as it is a significant liability for most countries and the service of the debt is a significant expense.  The use of derivatives to manage this debt has the potential to significantly increase or decrease the level of risk incurred.  Consequently, the agency responsible for sovereign debt management needs to be accountable to parliament and the people.  Extant  financial accounting practice, in government and private enterprise, is inadequate for this purpose.  This paper examines the nature and extent of this problem using the case of the Australian Office of Financial Management’s investments in swaps contracts.  Proposals for improving the accountability of sovereign debt management are developed from the case study.

Link to full paper

Link to CIGAR Network

Financial Management Reforms Under the Howard Government – Advance then Retreat

Read, A. F., Miley, F. M., & Hughes, M. D. (2006). Accountability in the Howard Government – advance and retreat. Paper presented at the John Howard’s Decade – Political Science Conference, Canberra.

Abstract

The Howard government introduced major reforms to government financial management at the beginning of their first term.  These changes were based on the philosophy of public choice theory where competition and private sector management processes were to be encouraged and monopoly delivery of government services was to be discouraged.  The reform program has stalled and been reversed:  some of the changes have been abandoned and other policies have been weakened – the Howard government, through its actions, can be seen to have abandoned public choice theory.  The reasons for this abandonment are varied and include failure to deliver, costs of the reforms and poor change management.  The retreat from public choice theory leaves government financial management in a policy vacuum.

Link to full paper