Year

2003

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Accounting and Finance

Abstract

This thesis is an investigation of accountability and accounting practices in a Pentecostal Church in Indonesia. The church is an Indonesian-based organisation with an international operation. With approximately 8200 local churches scattered around the country as well as overseas and two million members, the church is currently regarded as one of the biggest Indonesian-based church organisations. To cope with increasing organisational needs, a multilevel organization structure is inescapable. In general, there are three major financial and organizational levels in this church, namely Central Board, Regional Boards, and Local Churches.

For the purpose of this study, three units of interest representing these three levels of the organisation units are selected as the researched sites. These units are the Central Board (CB), the North Sulawesi Regional Board (NSRB), and the Local Church of Bahu. Since accounting practices are related to and located with the financial elements of the organisation, the financially related issues of the researched units become the focus of investigation in this study. As a result, six different systems of funds, namely the tithe, offering, church reserve, condolence, regional board, and central board funds, are identified at the researched units. The first four involve the financial systems at the Local Church level.

Using an interpretive methodology coupled with an ethnographic research method to investigate, it is revealed that the accountability dynamics of these funds vary and are influenced by the religious belief system as well as the social and organizational dynamics of the church. These, in turn, implicate the role of accounting information and accounting practices in administering these funds. To analyse these phenomena, a model of accountability proposed by Laughlin (1996) is used as the theoretical model. This model which recognises the role of the 'higher principal' in the accountability relationship is used to analyse and provide explanation on the nature of the accountability dynamics of these funds as well as explanation on the how and why accounting is practised in the researched units of the organization.

Based on the determinants underlying the dynamics of the accountability relationship of the church's funds it is concluded that the need for the accountability to these funds varies from ex-post communal to ex-ante contractual forms of accountability. For the funds requiring an ex-post, communal account, the role of accounting information is not evident and, therefore, the need for accounting practices is very minimal. The tithe and offering funds belong to this category. For the funds requiring an ex-ante, contractual account of accountability, on the other hand, the role of accounting information is evident. Therefore, the need for accounting practices is significant. The Central Board, Regional Board, and the Condolence funds belong to this group.

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