Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Accounting and Finance


This thesis is about the exploration of the role of accounting technologies in the context of the public sector reform initiatives in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW). A Government Department of the NS W has been adopted as a field of investigation for the purpose of this exploration.

The organisation which is investigated has undergone tremendous organisational and cultural changes which were prompted by the public sector reform initiatives of the NSW Government during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Consequently the Department adopted new management and financial practices. This study investigated how accounting discourses and practices are contributing to and are being transformed by the introduction of new management practices in this organisation. In addition, in this study, the dysfunctional consequences of the public sector reforms, as raised in various scholarly writings, are also highlighted. Overall, this study explored the position of this Department in the light of success or failure to face such organisational and cultural changes. This study is based on the methodology of naturalistic and interpretive interests. An amalgam of organisational change models proposed by Laughlin and Geertz's interpretive culture are adopted as the theoretical and analytical frameworks for this study.

Although the Department is involved in commercial operations, it did not give up the social obligations expected of a Governmental Department. Profit maximisation is not a goal but rather satisfying customers. The Department is a success story of the NSW Government's public sector reform initiatives. This Department now regards itself not only as being a commercial organisation, but also as being in the business of delivering quality services to customers in a largely competitive market where the majority of the Department's customers have freedom of choice in their service provider. The Department has aligned its goals with an ethic of best practice in service delivery and a motto that the needs of the customer should be paramount. The shift has definitely delivered significant tangible and intangible results to the government, to the tax payers and to its customers. Nevertheless this Department remains in the unique position of having the legal status of a Department of State and yet operating competitively and commercially.

Accounting technologies in this Department have played both instrumental and non- instrumental roles in its reform processes. Accounting technologies are well placed in this Department to facilitate the organisational and cultural changes that are required to respond to the public sector reform initiatives. New accounting technologies which were introduced to meet the demands of its reform processes have certainly found an effective foothold in the new commercialised culture of the Department and have also become the dominant language in the new culture. Considering the experiences of this Department, it can be said that there are positive examples of public sector reforms where accounting technologies can play a very significant role.