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Accounting and Accountability in the Field of Social Services - A Multi-level Investigation

Accounting and Accountability in the Field of Social Services - A Multi-level Investigation

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Title: Accounting and Accountability in the Field of Social Services - A Multi-level Investigation
Author: Chawla, Akhila
Abstract: Roberts (1991, p.355) remarked that the analysis of accounting in systems of accountability (also) offers alternative ways to conceive of the transformation of accounting. This dissertation aims to improve multi-level understanding of accounting and accountability within the field of social services. Focusing on Indias Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), one of the worlds largest social services programs, I examine the role of accounting in accountability practices and change processes at macro, meso and micro levels.
Current social services literature, straddling public, private and third sectors, reveals accounting-accountability research to be underexplored (Bracci & Llewellyn, 2012) and conspicuously lacking in diversity of research sites, yet undergoing significant change (Ebrahim, 2003; Brinkerhoff & Brinkerhoff, 2004; Llewellyn, 1997; Walz & Ramachandran, 2011). This facilitates a unique set of observations and understandings as program delivery and implementation evolve.

This dissertation specifically uses Bourdieus notions of field, habitus and capitals, also linking to literatures on management control systems, budgeting, routines and sense-making. Following the unfolding of MGNREGS over eight years, I raise two main research questions: How are accounting practices and artifacts intentionally enlisted in MGNERGS towards notions of accountability across multiple levels of program governance? What role do accounting practices in MGNREGS play in larger organizational and social change processes?

I examine accountings enlistment in an enabling role to frame and diffuse accountability and program structure on a macro level; in a strategical role, to construct accountability at the meso level; and in a learning and sense-making role to implement accountability at the micro level, where the programs accounting and accountability practices intersect with rural villages. My analysis argues that accounting can be mobilized towards emergent change processes both within public organizations and wider social practices to impact the daily lives of underprivileged rural citizens. In MGNREGS, accounting as an organizational and social practice is not only shaped by organizational objectives but also in turn shapes these objectives and the fields material structure, players, powers, logics and habitus. Accounting practices are, thus, an important part of the ordering, (re)organizing and multi-level change processes in the field of social services in India.
Subject: Accounting
Keywords: Accounting
Social accounting
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/34236
Supervisor: Neu, Dean
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Administration
Exam date: 2016-12-09
Publish on: 2018-03-01

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