Governing the Public Sector E-Performance: The Accounting Practices in the Digital Age

Governing the Public Sector E-Performance: The Accounting Practices in the Digital Age

Carlotta del Sordo (Department of Management, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy), Rebecca L. Orelli (Department of Management, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy) and Emanuele Padovani (Department of Management, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/ijpada.2015100105
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Over the past several decades the demand for accountability in the field of public administration has been growing exponentially in Europe. The particular emphasis for this theme was the stimulus for the significant adoption and use of information technology systems in the public sector. Thus, the main focus of European countries has been e-government that provides process reform of the manner in which governments work, share information, and deliver services to external and internal clients. Therefore, accountability has become more critical for improving the economic, financial and organizational management of public matters. The need for accountability has pushed the Italian legislature to produce a sequence of legislative and regulatory interventions towards increased transparency in public administrations. This paper presents an account of the likely consequences that performance monitoring systems have, through e-government technology, on public service transparency and accountability. This research utilizes a study on the Brunetta reform (from the Ministry of Public Administration) to foster public sector productivity; that study's key principles are efficiency, meritocracy, accountability, and transparency.
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2. E-Performance And Public Sector

Performance measurement is established based on the idea that each public organization formulates its own envisaged performance by defining specific performance indicators that are used to steer and control activities to attain strategic goals (De Bruijn, 2002). Hatry defines performance measurement as the “measurement on a regular basis of the results (outcome) and efficiency of services or programs” (1999, p. 3). Bouckaert and Halligan (2008) consider performance as “not a unitary concept … [which] must be viewed as a set of information about achievements of varying significance to different stakeholders.”

In explaining how and why the performance concept is volatile in the public sector, we can use the “performance regime” concept of Talbot (Talbot, 2008). Talbot suggests that a multitude of actors, such as government departments, ministries, legislatures, and audit, inspection, judicial, and regulatory bodies may be involved in defining the context within which a government may be engaged in developing and adopting a performance measurement system. Thus, a multitude of actors are involved in shaping the prevailing idea of the performance that must be accomplished.

Similar to any other government program, performance measurement does not work alone (Miller & Rose, 1990), but requires “technologies” to be made operable. Technologies are devices for intervening (Hacking, 1983), and they include notation, computation and calculation, and examination and assessment procedures. Today, these technologies are identified with information technology (IT). More specifically, during the last 10 years, web-based applications have given rise to what has been labelled as e-government. e-government has acted as the fundamental IT tool in public sector reform strategies (Reddick, 2010) and has proved to provide more efficient and effective public services (Biancucci et al., 2001; Palvia & Sharma, 2007), transparency (Cho and Byung-Dae, 2004) and interaction between government and its stakeholders (Palvia & Sharma, 2007).

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