Year

2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Accounting, Economics and Finance

Abstract

Purpose: Although it is a country with abundant natural resources, Nigeria suffers poor economic, social and development conditions as one of the resource curse countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In order to work towards a solution, Nigeria embarked on the journey by adopting the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) to fight corruption and provide transparency and accountability in its extractive industry. However, after more than a decade, the domestic attempt through the Nigerian Extractive Transparency Industry Initiative (NEITI) has failed to deliver on its stated objectives to promote open and accountable management. NEITI is a disclosure regime mandated through Nigerian legislation with weak compliance protocols, thus rendering it a hybrid accountability device. The social responsibility literature in accounting is replete with examples of reporting frameworks as legitimating devices or mere exercises in impression management for a range of known and unknown spectators. This thesis critically examines the process of embedding transparency within NEITI as part of a broader framework of accountability as a spectacular production.

Theoretical and Methodological approach: This thesis adopts a discourse approach to understand how the spectacle of transparency and accountability is delivered in NEITI published reports. The thesis adopts Debord’s (1967) Theory of Spectacle to explain how NEITI maintains the ideals of global capital through a false impression of originality. Debord initially developed the idea of spectacle, from the French term for theatre, to explain the rise of neoliberalism and capital in the 1960s. Spectacles serve to reinforce a dominant ideology, while concealing others, through the production of spectacles totalising “images” of society for an audience of spectators. Since then, scholars have identified the spectacle in a wide variety of events and circumstance, using a range of techniques, including accounting disclosures and the reporting process. Since language and discourse are at the centre of understanding social phenomenon, Clegg and Kornberger’s (2015) approach to critical discourse analysis (CDA) is used to analyse the rhetorical features found in NEITI reports within their broader legislative and political context.

Findings: The transparency provided by NEITI is limited, the quality of information in the reports is questionable, and conceals several important aspects in the extractive industry. Therefore, the delivery of promised accountability is undermined. Given the unequal power relations in the NEITI governance framework, the inability to initiate criminal prosecution, and many other legal loopholes; this finding is not unexpected. Therefore, this thesis provides an insight into the process that creates the spectacle of transparency as a pseudo-reality to mediate accountability (the spectacle of transparency-as-accountability) and maintain the status quo.

Research Contributions: This thesis contributes to the accounting literature in several ways. First, by studying the use of a hybrid global disclosure regime to foster transparency and accountability it extends the application of the Theory of Spectacle. Prior studies using spectacle as a means of understanding disclosures and reporting have focussed on managerial tools, such as budgets, or corporate social responsibility reports. Second, the thesis offers empirical support to theoretically informed application of the spectacle in society (see Boje (2001; 2001a). Third, describing a form of spectacular accountability borne out the spectacle of transparency, the spectacle of transparency-as-accountability, and its implications for poverty alleviation and mitigation of the resource curse. Finally, the thesis methodologically contributed by applying Clegg and Kornberger’s (2015) unique approach to critical discourse analysis (CDA) in the field of accounting for the first time. Through its three levels of analysis including visualisation, valuation and mobilisation Clegg and Kornberger’s (2015) approach helped to untangle the complexities of transparency and accountability discourse.

Research Limitations: While NEITI publishes financial, process and physical audits, the analysis was limited to the financial audit. Including the process and physical audits provide further understandings of the process of NEITI to ameliorate corruption. In addition, the data is limited to publicly available documents, interviews with NEITI officials, managers of CSOs involved in NEITI work and directors of MNCs affected by NEITI will provide a spectator perspective on NEITI.

Future research: several research opportunities exist including: the work of CSOs in Nigeria in the process of a ‘watchdog’; and. a comparison between NEITI and the EITI implementation in a developed country EITI, such as Norway where different spectators exist. The analysis also highlighted the use of images of calculative practices, such as graphs and charts, as a form of rhetoric. Further analysis of the process of calculative presentations would add additional insight into the process of the spectacle.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.