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Accountability Perspectives in Italian Municipality Accounting Systems: The Gap Between Regulations and Practices

PAQ, Vol. 34 No. 4, (2010)

elected officials on one side, elected officials and public managers on the other. These kind of relationships are discharged by means of three “accountability codes” – financial, managerial and professional – which use different accounting tools and whose evolution is studied within the NPFM. Basing on the Italian Local Governments – LGs – case, this paper analyses the effects of the NPFM reform on LG accountability, inquires whether a gap exists between the accountability codes at the normative level and the practices, and tries to find out possible reasons that seek to explain this gap in order to create a framework to be tested in other countries’ case. To this end a survey carried out on a statistically representative random sample of Italian municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants together with semi-structured interviews to privileged observers are used.
The analysis on the information provided and on the use of the new accounting tools revealed that, despite at the normative level the managerial and professional accountability codes are prevailing, the actual Italian LGs’ accountability code is still the financial one. This result points out discrepancies between regulations and practices.
As regards the reasons for this gap the study findings suggest the hypotheses of a direct correlation between accountability practices and respectively isomorphic pressures affecting the introduction of the new accounting tools – New institutional sociology (NIS) –, municipality organisational culture – Old institutional economics (OIE) – and LGs’ size.

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