Public sector budgeting: a European review of accounting and public management journals


Public sector budgeting: a European review of accounting and public management journals

Abstract

Purpose

– Budgeting is central in public organizations. From a research viewpoint, it is an extremely multifaceted and potentially rich field to investigate and develop. The changing institutional and socio-economic landscape, moreover, requires a profound reassessment of its roles and features in accounting studies. The purpose of this paper is to review the existing European literature on public budgeting, looking at how public administration, public management, and accounting contribute to current budgeting theories and practices and to advance a proposal on how they can individually and jointly contribute in the future.

Design/methodology/approach

– The authors collect and analyze all the papers on public budgeting in the European context that were published in all the issues of 15 major accounting and public-management journals since 1980.

Findings

– Budgeting has so far played a rather marginal role in European public management and accounting research. Among the existing papers, most focus on the Anglo-Saxon context, look at the intra-organizational aspects of budgeting, emphasize its managerial and allocative functions, either adopt an interpretive theoretical framework or make no explicit reference to theory, and rely on qualitative analyses. Public budgeting lies at the intersections between different disciplines and professions, but this multifacetedness has been largely neglected by the existing literature. These intersections thus offer significant opportunities for future research. Building on the distinction between the intra- and inter-organizational foci of budgeting, between its different functions (i.e. allocative, managerial, external accountability), and between the accounting and the public administration and management perspectives, the authors propose possible future research topics.

Originality/value

– Budgeting plays a central role in public organizations and is used to allocate a large share of national incomes. This paper explores the existing literature and puts forward some potentially fruitful avenues for future research.

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