Doctor of Philosophy
School of Accounting, Economics and Finance
Xu, Geyi (Shirley), Constructing greenhouse and energy auditing: an analysis of its translation process, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance, University of Wollongong, 2014. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4388
In approaching this interesting topic, the first step was to collect all public submissions and government documentation to the greenhouse and energy audit legislation and greenhouse gas assurance standards. The initial method used was discourse analysis particularly focused on the terms ‘audit’, ‘auditor’, ‘greenhouse and energy audit and auditor’. More than 71 submissions and documentations were examined from a diverse array of people and organisations, including the Government, three of the Big 4 audit firms, some second-tier auditing firms, a number of engineering firms, many large polluters, a range of professional bodies and other interested stakeholders, particularly the accounting and engineering professional bodies. The purpose of this thesis was to ascertain how the greenhouse and energy audit legislation was translated by a heterogeneous group of interested parties. The theoretical lens used for the analysis was actor-network-theory (ANT).
The term ‘audit’ has become increasingly inscribed on a wide variety of subjects. In Australia, the recent emergence of greenhouse and energy audits provides a rare opportunity to revisit auditing and auditing professionalisation in action. Problematised from an integral part of the projected Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS, which failed politically) and the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) Act 2007 in Australia, the construction of greenhouse and energy audits was subject to an extensive consultation process due to political, scientific and technical uncertainties. The longer than expected lobbying processes involved the Australian Government, and a group of stakeholders who represented the interests of large emitters, the accounting and engineering professions. The lobbying was surrounded by the boundary of greenhouse and energy audits and auditor expertise. Inspired by the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of ANT and its key analytical approach of ‘translation’, this thesis followed the processes of transferring and transforming greenhouse and energy audits from its attached terminology and vocabularies, to what finally is a ‘new’ type of audit that involves multidisciplinary ‘assurance practitioners’.
In comparison with extant ANT-inspired auditing and lobbying studies, this thesis provides additional and detailed empirical evidence of the controversies and contestations that occurred in the four moments of ‘translation’ from problematisation, to interessement, to enrolment, and finally to mobilisation. This thesis relates the way that greenhouse and energy audits were derived from Climate Change policies since the Rudd Labor Government took power in December 2007. It also shows how these policies were eventually interpreted as ‘clearly distinguishable from financial or environmental audits’ by the Department of Climate Change (DCC). The four moments of translation from ANT are used in the analysis of the process of lobbying and the eventual registration of Greenhouse and Energy Auditors.
This thesis reveals a wide resistance and challenge to the involvement of financial auditors in greenhouse and energy audits. Unlike previous ANT-inspired auditing studies, fewer non-accounting actors recognised the expertise of the financial auditors as a context-free ‘general’ knowledge. Rather, financial auditors were painted as specialists in verifying bad debts and value within the ‘financial’ boundary. However, the accounting actors were capable of aligning explicit interests with the DCC as well as the public, or making detours to bypass the obstacle of ‘technical’ and/or subordinate it, while the engineering actors and their supporters’ claim to technical expertise had to yield to the established black boxes and inscriptions of auditing terms, standards and notions.
In conclusion, through tracing back and following the controversies among the actors and actants in translating greenhouse and energy auditing from the existing types of financial audits, environmental audits and greenhouse gas verifications, this thesis contributes to our understanding of the trials of strength between the accounting and engineering professions in this new ‘turf battle’. The registration of the auditors up to July 2014 also shows the rising number of multidisciplinary ‘assurance practitioners’ from the emerging Big 8 greenhouse and energy auditing firms (including both accounting and engineering firms) in Australia. This thesis also argues that auditing is a knowledge boundary object attached to many established black boxes and inscriptions that mobilised the interests and goals of different actors in trials of strength, and contributed to the temporary settlement of hierarchical relations concerning auditor expertise.