Accountancy & Finance (Scholarly Articles)

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  • Publication
    Management control practices and pragmatism
    (Emerald, 2023-06-28) Curtis, Emer; Sweeney, Breda
    Purpose Pragmatism is very relevant to workplace management and performance measurement, yet in the accounting literature, it is a term used loosely and in a colloquial manner. By drawing on a framework based on classical pragmatism, this study aims to examine how a pragmatic perspective is discernible in the form and use of management control (MC) practices. Design/methodology/approach This study collects data using a case study of a firm in the green energy construction sector. Findings Building on the analytical framework, this study provides evidence that a pragmatic perspective is discernible in both form and use of MC practices, through a clear focus on targets rather than variance analysis, the presence of mutable local MC practices characterised by interaction and problem-solving and the absence of other common MC practices with no clear links to ends-in-view. This study also provides evidence of the potential limitations of a pragmatic perspective including myopia and an exacerbation of the inherent bias in organisations towards exploitation. Originality/value This research brings analytical clarity to the study of pragmatism in the accounting literature and insights into how a pragmatic perspective is discernible in the form and use of MC practices. Further, the study shows the potential limitations of a pragmatic perspective for management.
  • Publication
    Gender and proposed Auto-enrolment in the Republic of Ireland: Lessons from the UK
    (Wiley, 2020-06-18) Foster, Liam; Wijeratne, Dinali; Mulligan, Emer
    The introduction of “soft” compulsion in the form of Auto‐enrolment into non‐state pensions has been seen as a key policy response to the challenges presented by an ageing population and concerns about under‐saving for retirement in the UK. Since its introduction in 2012, amongst eligible employees in the private sector, pension participation had risen by over 31 percentage points to 73% of eligible employees in 2016. Despite these trends, Auto‐enrolment in the UK has not been without criticism, particularly in terms of its exclusion of certain groups, including carers, amongst whom females are over‐represented. The Republic of Ireland (ROI) has recently announced its intention to implement an Auto‐enrolment pension scheme. As such, this article examines the UK's experience of rolling out Auto‐enrolment policy and considers lessons that could be learned by the ROI from the UK in its pursuit of Auto‐enrolment, with a particular focus on women's pensions. Initially it outlines the current Irish pension system, the gendered nature of pensions, and the proposed Auto‐enrolment system in ROI. Then it discusses the UK's experience of Auto‐enrolment, with a particular focus on gender, before examining the lessons the ROI can learn from the UK's Auto‐enrolment policy in relation to women and pensions. Finally, it concludes that Auto‐enrolment alone will not resolve the gendered nature of pensions in the ROI and calls for a gender‐based assessment of the proposed policy of Auto‐enrolment in the ROI.
  • Publication
    Performance measurement systems as generators of cognitive conflict in ambidextrous firms
    (Elsevier, 2018-06-21) Bedford, David S.; Bisbe, Josep; Sweeney, Breda; Chartered Accountants Ireland Education Trust; Irish Research Council
    This study explores the decision-facilitating role of performance measurement systems (PMSs) in firms attempting to translate competence ambidexterity (i.e., the simultaneous pursuit of exploration and exploitation) into innovation ambidexterity outcomes (i.e., the achievement of both radical and incremental innovations). Drawing on paradox and organisational conflict literature, this study emphasises the role of cognitive conflict, generated by PMSs, in shaping the relationships between competence ambidexterity and innovation ambidexterity. Based on survey data from a sample of 90 Irish firms, our findings indicate that competence ambidexterity is associated with (a) the choice to have a balanced set of performance measures, and (b) the use of PMSs for frequent and intensive debate between top managers. Furthermore, the study reveals that these choices are interdependent, as they function as complements in generating cognitive conflict, which in turn drives the realisation of innovation ambidexterity outcomes. The results also show that cognitive conflict is not directly associated with the development of competence ambidexterity, but is instead generated through the conjoint action of a balanced PMS design and the use of PMSs for intensive debate. Overall, this study demonstrates the interdependent nature of choices concerning the design and use of PMSs, and the significant role of PMSs as generators of cognitive conflict in firms attempting to achieve ambidexterity. (C) 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
  • Publication
    Simons' levers of control framework: Commensuration within and of the framework
    (2017) Curtis, Emer; Lillis, Anne M.; Sweeney, Breda
    Abstract Purpose Despite extensive adoption of Simons’ Levers of Control (LoC) framework, there is still considerable diversity in its operationalization which impedes the coherent development of the literature and compromises its value to researchers. The purpose of this paper is to draw researchers back to the conceptual core of the framework as a basis for stable, consistent definitions of the domain of observables. Methodology/approach We derive the conceptual core of the framework from Simons’ writings. We highlight instability in existing operational definitions of the LoC, weaknesses in the extent to which these definitions reference this conceptual core, and inconsistencies in the restriction of LoC to formal information-based routines. Findings We draw on the inconsistencies identified to build the case for commensuration or a “common standard” for the framework’s use on two levels: the constructs within the framework (through reference to the conceptual core of the framework) and the framework itself (through explicit inclusion of informal controls). Research implications We illustrate the benefits of commensuration through the potential to guide the scope of the domain of observables in empirical LoC studies, and to study LoC as complementary or competing with other management control theories. Originality/value Our approach to resolving tensions arising from inconsistencies in the empirical definitions of LoC differs from others in that we focus on the strategic variables underlying the framework to define the conceptual core. We believe this approach offers greater potential for commensuration at the level of the constructs within the framework and the framework itself.
  • Publication
    Audit quality threatening behaviours: perceptions of auditees
    (Irish Accounting and Finance Association, 2015) Sweeney, Breda; Pierce, B.; |~|
    Previous research has found that audit staff engage in audit quality threatening behaviours (QTB). Auditee personnel interact with audit staff during fieldwork, and their perceptions of QTB are reported in this paper. Interview findings reveal that auditees (particularly those with previous audit experience) perceive themselves as being in a position to detect some shortcomings in audit work; however, few consequences were perceived as arising from the behaviours and they reported a general reluctance to report the behaviours externally, should they be detected. Implications of the findings and areas for future research are discussed in the paper.
  • Publication
    Tax and performance measurement: an inside story
    (EmeraldInsight, 2016) Mulligan, Emer; Oates, Lynne; |~|
    Against the background of increasing regulation and spotlight on the tax position of MNEs, this study explores the relationship between tax and performance measurement. The paper is informed by a series of in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted in 2006 with 26 senior tax executives from 15 Silicon Valley-based companies. We also draw on documentary evidence including the relevant 10K reports and take an interpretive approach to the analysis. Many of the performance measures referred to in prior literature were employed in the companies. There was no evidence to suggest the profit centre performance measurement model is being adopted by MNEs for their tax departments. Two distinct aspects particularly exercised the interviewees, that is, the effective tax rate (ETR) and post-tax versus pre-tax performance measurement. Many interviewees did not perceive the ETR as being an appropriate measure of performance, yet they recognised its importance internally and externally. Many companies worked on the basis that there is an ‘acceptable range’ of ETRs which won’t give rise to any unwanted questions. Most interviewees shared the view that a post-tax basis of measuring performance of business units might only serve to increase tax risks, preferring instead for the in-house tax executives to remain the exclusive tax knowledge experts. This study contributes to the diversification of tax research within accounting by demonstrating how qualitative work can provide unique insights. It enhances our understanding of how performance measurement of tax might influence the tax-planning behaviour of in-house tax executives and cautions against exclusive reliance on the ETR as a measure of the effect of tax planning.
  • Publication
    Managing different types of innovation: Mutual reinforcing management control systems and the generation of dynamic tension
    (Taylor & Francis, 2016-11-17) Curtis, Emer; Sweeney, Breda; |~|
    Using a single case study of a highly innovative medical device company engaged in two types of innovation (technological and customer-oriented), this paper examines the nature of the relationship between mutually reinforcing management control systems (MCSs) and the generation of dynamic tension between the different types of innovation. Findings show how mutually reinforcing MCSs create a push for consistency but fail to generate a dynamic tension between different types of innovation, thus crowding out one type of innovation. While the literature to date has been unclear on how mutual reinforcement and the generation of dynamic tension are related, this study makes a distinction between mutually reinforcing control systems that support each other in driving momentum around a particular strategic objective (consistent reinforcement), and control systems which are reinforcing in creating dynamic tension, thus reducing momentum in one particular direction (countervailing reinforcement). It also contributes to the literature by highlighting the protective role that MCSs can play in the management of innovation. Feedback and measurement systems reduce the vulnerability of resources to diversion to other areas by stimulating action on projects, driving accountability around the use of the resources, and commanding management attention.
  • Publication
    Ireland's introduction of transfer pricing: a new institutional theory perspective
    (Irish Accounting and Finance Association, 2014) Collins, Tom; Mulligan, Emer; |~|
    This article explores the rationale for Ireland’s introduction of transfer pricing legislation in 2010. For most multinational corporations, tax planning involves structuring the business in a way that justifi es the location of profi ts in low-tax jurisdictions, underpinned by transfer pricing methodologies/legislation. This may involve the use of tax haven locations or the use of hybrid structures to reduce a group’s effective tax rate. The continuing facilitation of such structures by tax authorities may impact on Ireland’s legitimacy internationally. Such an appeasement may bring into question the State’s ‘organizational identity’ (Dhalla and Oliver, 2013, p. 1804). Drawing on new institutional sociology (NIS), a theoretical framework is established of the context and processes connected with designing, endorsing and diffusing transfer pricing policies. It draws on the work of Dillard, Rigsby and Goodman (2004) and Mulligan (2008, 2012) in developing the framework. NIS is ‘primarily concerned with an organization’s interaction with the institutional environment, the effects of social expectations on the organization, and the incorporation of these expectations as refl ected in organizational practices and characteristics’ (Dillard et al., 2004, p. 508). The evidence in this study was collected using semi-structured in-depth personal interviews with thirteen senior tax advisors. The recurring evidence emerging from the research was that Ireland’s need to achieve and protect its international legitimacy as a mature fi scal jurisdiction underpinned the rationale for the introduction of transfer pricing. Both coercive and normative isomorphism forces were also at play in the introduction of the rules, emanating from mounting institutional pressure from various parties including the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD),1 Group of Twenty (G20), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other governments.
  • Publication
    Tax professionals at work in Silicon Valley
    (Elsevier, 2015-10-21) Mulligan, Emer; Oats, Lynne; |~|
    This paper analyses a previously unexamined but nonetheless important facet of modern society the nature and impact of the relationship between in-house tax professionals in large multinational organizations, and the external business, tax and regulatory environments within which they operate. Drawing on face-to-face interviews conducted with senior tax executives in US multinational enterprises (MNEs), we uncover the social reality of the world in which MNEs' tax executives operate, and find that these tax professionals are a powerful, elite group of knowledge experts who can significantly shape tax law and practices. We analyze the activities of these experts who, although working largely in. the shadows of their organizations, are very much engaged in constructing and shaping the wider institutional environment. From a theoretical perspective that brings together institutional work and the endogeneity of law, we find these elite professionals engaging in subtle and diffuse exercise of power at a micro level within their organizations, a meso level between organizations within the field and at a macro level within the wider external environment. This has important implications for our broader understanding of the tax and regulatory environments which corporate actors inhabit. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
  • Publication
    Benchmarking the financial performance of local councils in Ireland
    (De Gruyter Open, 2016-04) Turley, Gerard; Robbins, Geraldine; McNena, Stephen; |~|
    It was over a quarter of a century ago that information from the financial statements was used to benchmark the efficiency and effectiveness of local government in the US. With the global adoption of New Public Management ideas, benchmarking practice spread to the public sector and has been employed to drive reforms aimed at improving performance and, ultimately, service delivery and local outcomes. The manner in which local authorities in OECD countries compare and benchmark their performance varies widely. The methodology developed in this paper to rate the relative financial performance of Irish city and county councils is adapted from an earlier assessment tool used to measure the financial condition of small cities in the US. Using our financial performance framework and the financial data in the audited annual financial statements of Irish local councils, we calculate composite scores for each of the thirty-four local authorities for the years 2007 13. This paper contributes composite scores that measure the relative financial performance of local councils in Ireland, as well as a full set of yearly results for a seven-year period in which local governments witnessed significant changes in their financial health. The benchmarking exercise is useful in highlighting those councils that, in relative financial performance terms, are the best/worst performers.
  • Publication
    E-Government in the Irish Revenue: the Revenue On-Line Service (ROS) - a success story?
    (Wiley, 2015-09-16) Robbins, Geraldine; Mulligan, Emer; Keenan, Fiona; |~|
    e-Government in the Irish Revenue: The Revenue On-Line Service (ROS)  a success story? AbstractThe Revenue Online Service (ROS) is one of the first e-government initiatives introduced in Ireland. The primary purpose of this paper is to examine this reform initiative in the Irish Revenue, assess it through the lens of the New Public Management (NPM) and e-government literatures and to critically assess whether its implementation can be deemed a success story . Many of the components of NPM were evident in the introduction of ROS which facilitated its implementation: decentralisation, the use of private sector styles of management, an emphasis on performance measurement and a search for efficiencies. ROS has, inter alia, transformed both access to taxation information for taxpayers and their agents, and the system of tax payment and filing in Ireland. Assessing its implementation in terms of the objectives of an e-government initiative, ROS is a success story , and the Irish Revenue organisation has clearly benefited from its introduction in many ways.  Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that tax/accounting practitioners are also beneficiaries of this e-government initiative. However, a critical analysis of the findings of this study contests the idea that ROS is an unqualified success story. 
  • Publication
    Financial policies and practices of companies listed on the Irish Stock Exchange
    (vLex Ireland, 2010-12) Robbins, Geraldine; |~|
    This paper reports the results of a recent comprehensive survey of the chief financial officers of companies listed on the Irish Stock Exchange. The survey focused upon three major areas of financial policy and practice: capital structure, dividends and capital budgeting. In the area of capital budgeting, discounted cash flow methods are used by the listed companies in our sample to a much greater extent than reported for Irish companies in previous surveys. Responses in this survey on capital structure policy are generally consistent with the pecking order hypothesis, whilst Lintner's lagged partial adjustment model continues to be generally consistent with the dividend policy and practices of listed Irish companies.
  • Publication
    A Delphi study on collaborative learning in distance education: The faculty perspective
    (2011) O'Neill, Susan; Scott, Murray; Conboy, Kieran; |~|
    This paper focuses on the factors that influence collaborative learning in distance education. Distance education has been around for many years and the use of collaborative learning techniques in distance education is becoming increasingly popular. Several studies have demonstrated the superiority of collaborative learning over traditional modes of learning and it has been identified as a potential solution to some of the weaknesses of traditional distance education courses. There are a rapidly growing number of technologies in use today and educators and practitioners face an increasingly difficult challenge to successfully implement collaborative learning in distance education; precipitated not only from technical advances but also from wider social and organisational concerns. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to investigate the factors that influence collaborative learning in distance education, by eliciting the opinions of an expert panel using a Delphi survey. The aim was to produce an integrated list of the most important implementation factors and to investigate the role that technology is perceived to contribute. The findings identified 17 of the most important factors; these factors cover a range of themes including course rationale and design, instructor characteristics, training, group dynamics, the development of a learning community and technology. The potential of technology, however, does not seem to be fully realised and newer technologies such asmulti-user environments would seem to be of limited use in practice according to the expert panel.
  • Publication
    Perceptions of information system success in the public sector: Webmasters at the steering wheel?
    (Emerald, 2012) Scott, Murray; |~|
    Purpose - This study explores the relationships between constructs of Information System (IS) success in the public sector, as perceived by webmaster intermediaries, and investigates how user testing affects these relationships. Design/methodology/approach - Questionnaire, online survey with webmasters in Denmark and Norway that participated in the public sector web award contests organized by the government. N=1,237, n=541 (response rate 40%). Findings - The frequency with which webmasters carry out user testing affects their perceptions of IS success, with those who conduct no user testing displaying the weakest associations among success variables. Findings also suggest that webmasters who do little or no user testing conveniently assume that citizen users are satisfied, while webmasters that are more knowledgeable of the user experience have a greater perception of levels of success. Research limitations/implications - There is a need for supplementing the study with longitudinal data. Secondly, more research could be done on the explanatory variables behind one of the main findings of this study: webmasters who know their users tend not to see a correlation between website quality and user satisfaction. Lastly, there is a need to focus on the difference in significant associations between IS quality, user satisfaction and net benefits, and whether and how unique features of public organizations impact perceptions of success. Practical implications - The fact that the majority of webmasters do not perform any type of user testing triggers a reflection on the need for such important intermediaries to enhance 2 their feedback channels. User involvement in assessing IS success cannot be overlooked, especially considering that user empowerment in the design, implementation, and evaluation of information systems matches a window of opportunity originating in the ongoing growth of web interactivity. Originality/value - This study is one of the few that investigates constructs of IS success in the public sector, and arguably the first one that focuses on the impacts of user testing on the relationships between constructs of IS success in a public setting.