The Relevance of Critical Accounting Theory (CAT) to Effectiveness of Public Financial Accountability in Emerging Economies

Emmanuel Oluwadare, Martin Samy


In the past, researchers of financial accountability have relied on Agency and Stewardship theories to explain the phenomena that may hinder the exchange of financial information in the accountability process. This article examines the relevance of CAT to effective public financial accountability.Public sector in developing countries has accountability mechanism that is based onagency model. Accountability mechanism following the assumptions of principal-agent theory will most likely focus on monitoring procedures in order to reduce information asymmetry. This can enhance the disclosure of information but may result in an information overload problem on the part of the accountors’ and the accountees. Extant literature asserts that the theory is not anappropriate framework for contractual services that are difficult to be measured and observed, and that the theory fail to address the issue of relevance of environment, competition, management capability, and availability or lack of strong incentives, particularly financial, for aligning an agent’s actions. As research in public financial accountability emerged, the issue of the most appropriate theoretical framework to adopt remained unanswered. Critical Accounting Theory (CAT) is gaining wider acceptability among scholars in their quest to address the problem of the conflict of goals between the principal and the agent and the difficulty or the inability of the principal to verify what the agent is doing.Extant literature established thepaucity of studies on critical accounting literature that focus on developing countries.This theoretical paper exalts CAT and its relevance to modern day developing societies.


Accountability; Critical Accounting Theory (CAT); Public financial accountability; Principal-agent theory; Culture; Accountee; Accountor.

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