The versatile role of accounting in making programs stronger and weaker – The case of military (out-)sourcing strategies

Accounting

Speaker:Peter Skærbæk , Copenhagen Business School
Date: Wednesday 24 January 2018
Time: 14:30 - 16:00
Location: Kolade Teaching Room, Building One

Further details

Abstract

In accounting research there is an extensive literature on post-1980s public and private sector
reforms that are theorized as programs aided by accounting as mediating technologies. But
what roles are played by accounting vis-a-vis programs and their implementation? Our case
and analysis of the Danish Defense Forces traces four different implementations of a public
outsourcing program, and the more or less faithful and versatile roles played by accounting
calculations. We show how accounting calculations emerge and dynamically mediate between
a European Union outsourcing program and its local Danish Defence projects so that goals,
program decision options and objects of calculation are both detoured and stabilized in
unexpected ways. Utilizing Actor-Network-Theory and the concepts of trials of strength and
the mediator/intermediary distinction, our study makes three contributions. First, we
demonstrate that calculations can play more versatile roles as mediators vis-a-vis programs
and both faithfully support and unfaithfully undercut the development of alternative programs
in different points of time. Second, we complement ANT-inspired literature by following
Callon’s (2009) suggestion to consider how projects become sites for calculations and
experiments with programs and third, we contribute to the recent literature that questions new
public management reform programs and promises of ‘working better’ and ‘costing less’ by
illuminating the role of accounting and transaction cost economics in shaping its costly and
paradoxical outcomes.
Keywords: Trials of strength, experiments and accounting calculations, projects, program
change, public outsourcing reforms, Danish Defence Forces.