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Journal cover: Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Online from: 1988

Subject Area: Accounting and Finance

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Accounting and the move to privatize water services in Africa

Document Information:
Title:Accounting and the move to privatize water services in Africa
Author(s):Abu Shiraz Rahaman, (University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada), Jeff Everett, (University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada), Dean Neu, (University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Citation:Abu Shiraz Rahaman, Jeff Everett, Dean Neu, (2007) "Accounting and the move to privatize water services in Africa", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 20 Iss: 5, pp.637 - 670
Keywords:Accounting, Ghana, Government, Privatization, Water
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/09513570710778992 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – Using the recent attempts by the Ghanaian Government to privatize its urban water services, this paper seeks to understand the role and functioning of accounting within the global move to “reinvent government.”

Design/methodology/approach – Unlike the attempts made in other African countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, the case of Ghana is interesting because of the vociferousness and length of the debate that has been going on. Using Bourdieu's notion of field and capital and Foucault's idea of governmentality, and relying on a variety of archival documents and interviews with 27 key participants, the study examines the positioning of accounting practices, vocabulary and experts in this debate.

Findings – The study shows how accounting is enlisted at an almost sub-conscious level, how its use can engender significant resistance and how accounting can be used to position the debate in various terms, including “profitability” “affordability” and “accountability.”

Research limitations/implications – The paper shows that within new democracies such as Ghana policy-making requires the enlistment of technologies of government – including accounting – to articulate and justify divergent policy options.

Practical implications – The findings of the paper have implications for regional policy-makers and their various development partners.

Originality/value – Researchers and practitioners working in the area of public sector management and reforms should find significant value in the paper.

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