A futile exercise of transparency? The case of UK Political Party Accounts
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Thursday 12 May 2022
03:30 PM - 04:30 PM
Teerooven Soobaroyen is Professor of Accounting and Deputy Dean Partnerships at the University of Essex. His research focuses on the interplay between accounting, accountability, and governance, and considers diverse empirical settings such as companies in developing/emerging economies, public sector, and non-governmental organisations. He has published in a number of internationally recognised journals, such as Accounting, Organizations and Society, Accounting and Business Research, Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, Accounting Forum, Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Financial Accountability and Management, and Journal of Business Ethics. He is an Associate Editor of Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal and Journal of Accounting in Emerging Economies.
The UK 2000 Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) mandated political parties to submit an annual statement of accounts (SOA) to the Electoral Commission (EC). The EC is responsible for establishing the detailed requirements on the form and content of the SOA, for determining the appropriate accounting methods and principles and additional disclosures to be provided by the political parties to ensure public accountability, comparability and consistency across the political spectrum. Yet, there have been a number of criticisms of this regulatory regime and about the quality of the submitted accounts. Consequently, this paper asks the following three questions: (i) What have been the consequences of this accounting regime towards achieving ‘transparency’ perspective and why (ii) To what extent did this accounting regime serve, if at all, the interests of its ‘users’? (iii) What are the factors that led to an apparent failure of the SOA? Informed by Meijer’s (2003) analytical framework of transparency initiatives, and drawing on documentary evidence, annual reports, and interviews, we analyse the range of strategic, cognitive, and institutional complexities that appear to have effectively inhibited the intended outcomes of this transparency project.