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Accounting and accountability for financial, social and environmental issues within public-private partnerships

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posted on 2023-01-19, 09:28 authored by Lachlan McDonald‐Kerr
Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Department of Accounting, La Trobe Business School, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, La Trobe University, Victoria.

The emergence of Public‐Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a preferred model for delivery of public infrastructure is profoundly connected to public sector reforms in many countries. Under the banners of “neoliberalism” and “New Public Management” (NPM), these reforms have redefined the nature and role of public institutions and produced major reconfigurations in public accountability. The novel conception of accountability associated with PPPs has been a major source of contention and remains poorly understood. This thesis explores accountability in relation to public policy frameworks underpinning PPP decision‐making processes, examining tensions between public and private logics, values and principles, in the context of policy frameworks, reporting, and decision‐making for PPPs. It investigates how financial, social and environmental issues are reported on and accounted for within contemporary PPP policy in the Australian state of Victoria–a recognised leader in PPP sphere. A range of accountability issues pertaining to public disclosures are examined in a case study setting. The analysis leads to numerous key conclusions. First, the public policy framework exhibits many problems of financial accountability within PPPs–including accuracy, manipulability, and reliability of evaluation tools. Second, the policy framework entrenches calculative approaches to social and environmental accounting, encouraging an output‐focused perspective on accountability that aligns with the logics, values and principles of neoliberalism and NPM. Third, the case analysis finds only limited and partial evidence and explanation supporting decision‐making in financial, social and environmental arenas. Finally, contemporary public decision-making processes surrounding PPPs assign significant importance (and power) to financial factors, even though the accounting for these issues is contentious. The contributions of the thesis relate to the investigation of a phenomenon otherwise overlooked in prior research, the derivation of insights into contemporary financial, social and environmental accounting and accountability, and the demonstration of the utility of research informed by silent and shadow accounting principles.


Center or Department

College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce. La Trobe Business School. Department of Accounting.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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This thesis contains third party copyright material which has been reproduced here with permission. Any further use requires permission of the copyright owner. The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over all other content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

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