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Accounting Practices in the Tanzanian Local Government Authorities (LGAs): The Grounded Theory of Manipulating Legitimacy

By Siasa Mzenzi


This research investigates accounting practices in four Tanzanian Local Government Authorities (LGAs). It seeks to understand how accounting is practiced and the situations which sustain its undertaking. The peculiar role of local governments in the delivery of public services and the influence of accounting on the same has motivated this study (Lapsley &amp; Mussari, 2008). It has also been driven by the inadequacy of interpretive theoretically based informed studies into public sector entities, and the limited accounting research in the emerging economies (Goddard, 2010).<br/><br/>The study applies an interpretive approach to investigate accounting in the organisations in which it operates (Ahrens &amp; Mollona, 2007), and executes a grounded theory method to develop a theory systematically from the raw data (Glaser &amp; Strauss, 1967). In order to ensure the general application of the emergent theory beyond the case studies, the development of a formal grounded theory was sought.<br/>This research revealed that the operations of the Tanzanian LGAs were constrained by factors such as deficient regulatory systems, political interference, donors’ influences, and funding uncertainties. These conditions forced the technocrats to use important accounting practices, such as budgeting, auditing, financial reporting, and performance measurement to manipulate the organisational legitimacy. The process of legitimacy manipulation ensured the availability of resources for the LGAs and the attainment of the individual interests of the Councils’ officials.<br/><br/>This study contributes to the interpretive approach in emerging economies. Also, meta-coding, intra-relationships of categories, and development of formal grounded theory, add new insights to the grounded theory analysis. It is also worth noting that the study integrates the emergent theory within the New Institutional Sociology (NIS) framework. It was not intended to test NIS, but rather, to adopt it as a theoretical lens that assisted interpretation of the research findings. In the NIS framework, the study establishes the simultaneous achievement of legitimacy and efficiency, recognises multiple sources of loose coupling, and the influence of performance management on shaping accounting practices in the public sector organisations. It also offers the micro reactions of the Councils’ officials, and recognises the different patterns of the officials’ responses across Councils and service deliveries. The study argues that in emerging economies considerations of a country’s local contexts has the potential to minimise any counter-productivity of reform programs. Moreover, this research appeals for a holistic approach to the reform programs, harmonization of laws and regulations, the institution of efficient financial management and reporting mechanisms, and the improvement of employee welfare in the Tanzanian Councils

Topics: HF5601
Year: 2013
OAI identifier:
Provided by: e-Prints Soton

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