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Using management control to understand public sector corporate governance changes : localism, public interest, and enabling control in an English local authority.

Ferry, L. and Ahrens, T. (2017) 'Using management control to understand public sector corporate governance changes : localism, public interest, and enabling control in an English local authority.', Journal of accounting and organizational change., 13 (4). pp. 548-567.


Purpose: Within the context of recent post-localism developments in English local government the paper shows firstly how management controls have become more enabling in response to changes in rules of public sector corporate governance, and secondly how changes in management control systems gave rise to new corporate governance practices. Design/methodology/approach: Theoretically the paper mobilises the concept of enabling control to reflect on contemporary changes in public sector corporate governance. It draws on the International Federation of Accountants’ (IFAC) and Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) new public sector governance and management control system model and data gathered from a longitudinal qualitative field study of a local authority in north east England. The field study used interviews, observation and documentation review. Findings: This paper suggests specific ways in which the decentralisation of policy making and performance measurement in our case local authority gave rise to enabling corporate governance, and how corporate governance and management control practices went some way to aid in the pursuit of the public interest. In particular it shows that the management control system can be designed at the operational level to be enabling. We notice the significance of global transparency for supporting corporate governance practices around public interest. This paper reaffirms that accountability is but one element of public sector corporate governance. Rather, public sector corporate governance also pursues integrity, openness, defining outcomes, determining interventions, leadership and capacity, and risk and performance management. Practical implications: Insights into uses of such enabling practices in public sector corporate governance are relevant for many countries in which public sector funding has been cut, especially since the 2007/08 global financial crisis. Originality/value: This paper introduces the concept of enabling control into the public sector corporate governance and control debate by fleshing out the categories of public sector corporate governance and management control suggested recently by IFAC and CIPFA drawing on observed practices of a local government entity.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is © Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Date accepted:09 June 2017
Date deposited:13 June 2017
Date of first online publication:22 September 2017
Date first made open access:No date available

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