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Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

Indonesian public sector accounting reforms: dialogic aspirations a step too far?
Harun Harun Karen Van-Peursem Ian R.C Eggleton
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Harun Harun Karen Van-Peursem Ian R.C Eggleton , (2015)," Indonesian public sector accounting
reforms: dialogic aspirations a step too far? ", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 28
Iss 5 pp. 706 - 738
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Indonesian public sector
accounting reforms: dialogic
aspirations a step too far?
706 Harun Harun
School of Information Systems and Accounting,
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The University of Canberra, Bruce, Australia

Karen Van-Peursem
Department of Accounting, Victoria University of Wellington,
Wellington, New Zealand, and
Ian R.C. Eggleton
School of Accounting and Commercial Law, Victoria University of Wellington,
Wellington, New Zealand

Purpose Drawing from an interest in the changing Indonesian political and regulatory history, the
purpose of this paper is to provide an understanding of the role that accounting reform can play in
nurturing, or failing to nurture, a more dialogic form of accounting in a local Indonesian municipality.
Design/methodology/approach To collect the data, the authors undertook a case study of a local
municipality and drew from patterns found in Indonesias long colonial history. Data were acquired
from official and publicly available documents and interviews with 29 key figures, including those
involved in formulating and disseminating laws and also those affected by the accounting reforms
from 1998 to 2009. Document collection and interviews were conducted at national and local levels.
Findings This study shows that Indonesia has undertaken significant economic and political
reforms for the intended purposes of fostering democracy, strengthening accountability, and creating
transparency in relation to public sector practices. As part of these reforms, accrual accounting is now
mandatory, independent audit is conducted, and disclosure is required by Government offices at
central and local levels. Nonetheless, drawing from dialogic accounting principles, this study
demonstrates the limitations of legislation and regulation in countering patterns that have long been
laid down in history. Essentially, there is limited opportunity to question the elements of these reforms,
and the study has also found that centralizing forces remain to serve vested interests. The root of the
problem may lie in traditions of central control which have played out in how a dialogic form of
accounting has failed to emerge from these important accounting reforms.
Research limitations/implications The findings of this study should be understood from
historical, political, and cultural backgrounds of the site of the study.
Practical implications The implications of the findings should be taken into account by public
sector policy makers, particularly in emerging economies where political realities, economic, social,
political, and cultural backgrounds set different historical patterns and result in unique circumstances
that may tend to retain traditions of the past even under rules and regulations of the present.
Originality/value A key contribution of this study is to show how the political traditions of a nation
can permeate and divert the intent of, in this case, engaging a broader public in discourse about
accounting reform in the public sector. In addition, this study also provides an understanding of public
sector reform in the context of a diverse and unsettled nation which has been long subject to colonial,
Accounting, Auditing &
top-led, and military leadership. The findings demonstrate complexities and unintended outcomes that
Accountability Journal can emerge in public sector accounting reform and how, in this case, they appear to be influenced by
Vol. 28 No. 5, 2015
pp. 706-738
historical traditions of centralized control.
Emerald Group Publishing Limited Keywords New public management, Public sector accounting, Dialogic accounting, History
DOI 10.1108/AAAJ-12-2012-1182 Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction Indonesian
We are witness to a sustained interest in the role of accounting within public sectors public sector
worldwide (e.g. Uddin and Hopper, 2003; Everett et al., 2007). Claims that democracy is
served by accounting practices bring discussion into the political realm as well
(Rahaman, 2009; Dey, 2003). As Lapsley and Skrbk (2012) state:
The complexity of the public sector as a study site is evident as [it is shaped] by wider
influences such as democratic entitlements, social responsibility, social justice and pressures 707
within society for equity and social change (p. 355).
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Accounting practices and fiscal probity have thus become associated with the quality
of national governance. The World Bank recognizes this relationship in its recent
pronouncements about the role of governance in the economic stabilization of nations
(Rios-Morales et al., 2013). The Bank includes such governing aspects as voice,
decentralization, as well as accounting transparency in its aspirational goals for a
capable state (Nunberg, 2007; World Bank, 2000 in Kulshreshtha, 2008).
Yet, accounting systems employed in the public sector may be directed towards far
more narrowly defined goals. New Public Financial Management (NPFM), for example,
relies on neo-classical economic and business-competition rationales to focus on
economies and efficiencies in government (Ryan, 1998; Lapsley and Pallot, 2000;
Qian et al., 2011; Christensen and Parker, 2010). The implementation of NPFM in public
sector spheres has stirred wide debate, however, raising serious questions about its
value (e.g. Olson et al., 2001). Experiences of accounting accrual adoption are part of
that discourse, and little evidence can be found of real accountability improvements
from its incorporation into public sector entities (Connolly and Hyndman, 2006;
Ter Bogt and Van Helden, 2000; Arnaboldi and Lapsley, 2008; Pollanen and
Loisselle-Lapointe, 2012). The impact of such reform in developing nations may be even
more pronounced. While accounting reform may enable new conversations to occur
(Morgan, 1988, p. 484; Brown, 2009) the politics of accounting may intervene in ways
not fully understood.
Indonesia is one such developing nation; it has undergone dramatic social, political
and economic reforms in the post-Suharto Government of 1998 through to the present.
This paper is concerned with how these reforms were carried out and with the role and
potential for engagement of local citizens with a government now concerned with
democratic principles and ideals.
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the potential for local citizens to participate
in fiscal aspects of their government, as facilitated or constrained by recent accounting
reform. The focus is on whether accounting reform, which includes elements of
NPFM, has enabled local citizens to voice their concerns in a free and open manner.
The fieldwork comprises a case study of one Indonesian municipality in the context of
its larger political environment of provincial and central (national) government
structures. The contribution of the study is in coming to an understanding of how
accounting reform can reflect or detract from the giving of voice to Indonesian people.

2. Background
Indonesia is a highly populous state, comprising thousands of islands spread over
thousands of miles. It is diverse both ethnically and geographically and has a long
history of externally imposed rule (King, 2003). In all, 300 years of Dutch colonialism
and traditions were reflected in the imposition of a central, one party, military-backed,
autocratic rule (Seymour and Turner, 2002; King, 2003). Public pressure caused
AAAJ Indonesias President Suharto to step down following the 1998 Asian financial crisis.
28,5 Although Indonesia achieved independence in post-war 1945, it was only in 1999, for
the first time in its history, that Indonesia was introduced to the democratic principles
of civil rule, public elections, ethnic tolerance policies, and citizen pluralism (Effendi
and Hopper, 2007, p. 232). As part of larger democratic reforms, the Indonesian Central
Government also introduced public sector financial reporting reforms, including
708 accrual accounting, public reporting, and independent audits (Wanandi, 2002; McLeod,
2005; Baswedan, 2007; Law 17, 2003).
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The mandate for these changes was established in statute, and the reforms
were claimed to express a widespread public call for the rule of law, improved
accountability, and respect for human rights (Prasojo et al., 2007). They reflected
essentially the principles adopted by the World Bank concerning definitions of
good governance:
The [World Bank Good Governance] indicators encompass voice and accountability, political
stability, rule of law, government effectiveness, regulatory quality and control of corruption
(Rios-Morales et al., 2013).
The World Banks interest in granting voice to citizens was an important part of this
statement (World Bank, 2002):
Voice [as employed by the World Bank] refers to the willingness and ability of the citizens of
a society to exert pressure on public service providers to perform or deliver social services
effectively (Kulshreshtha, 2008, p. 561).
Indeed, voice was closely associated with democratic and public sector reform:
In pressing for greater accountability in borrower countries, the [World] bank emphasized
voice rather than votes. Civil society consultation and participation stood in for
electoral rights (Nunberg, 2007, p. 74).
Decentralization was also an important element of the World Banks interpretation of
good governance:
Promoting decentralizing decision making through the voice mechanism allows local
communities, civil society and the poor to participate in decision making (Kulshreshtha,
2008, p. 561).
That is, decentralization was regarded as bringing real resources to the services of its
citizens (Nunberg, 2007, p. 85; Rios-Morales et al., 2013). Where a nation has historically
been run from the centre, as in Indonesia, decentralization represents a significant
change and important objective of reform. Indonesias accounting reforms have thus
been embedded within larger moves towards democratization:
The shift toward pluralism [] [generally] in the late 1980s and early 1990s raised awareness
of good governance virtues. Even where formal democracies were not in place, rhetoric calling
for increased accountability, transparency, and rule of law in the public sphere was now
audible (Nunberg, 2007, p. 71).
Voice and decentralization provide a useful framework within which public sector
accounting reform in Indonesia can be understood. The concept of dialogic
accounting contributes a theoretical informant, and one Indonesian municipality
provides the real experiences in which these influences and practices are carried out.
First, the concept of dialogic accounting will be introduced to tease out its
relationship with governance and accounting reform. Our research approach will then
be explained, and information will be provided on Indonesias political and accounting Indonesian
history. Findings and discussion about the case analysis will follow, and suggestions public sector
for research and policy will conclude this study.

3. The dialogic: voice and decentralization

Monologic accounting is associated with the production of traditional financial
accounts and reports, and incorporates assumptions under which they are produced. 709
Monologic accounting tends to be justified in terms of its claims to neutrality, and is
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implicitly legitimated by capitalist assumptions (e.g. see Cooper and Sherer, 1984;
Bebbington et al., 2007, p. 360); where employed to satisfy demands for accountability,
it effectively depoliticizes accounting, even if proponents deny the politics of accounts
and disclosures. Monologic accounting is therefore criticized because it masks the
negative effect of powerful actors (Dillard, 2003, p. 610) on the less powerful or
disenfranchised. The accountability it can provide may have only a distant
relationship to real social or political practices (Owen et al., 2001). Nonetheless, its
employment has no particular national borders:
The limitations of a monologic accounting are great and acknowledged to exist even where
democratic principles are long-established (Dillard, 2003, p. 15).
Accounting researchers, including those in public sector accounting, have in recent
years offered alternative understandings as to what held to account can mean; they
incorporate social, political, environmental, public, as well as economic interests (e.g.
Bebbington et al., 2007; Christensen and Parker, 2010; Brown, 2009; Dillard and Brown,
2012; Brown and Dillard, 2013a, b). Dialogic accounting, or forms of it, is one of these
alternative understandings.
Proponents of dialogic accounting assert that the stakeholder voice should be
privileged, as it can inspire democratic-style processes of engagement (see Brown, 2009,
2010; Dillard and Brown, 2012; Brown and Dillard, 2013a, ba). There can be an intent of
inclusion and, while not to be confused with direct democracy, an endeavour to have
democratic-style interaction and engagement among stakeholders (Brown, 2009,
p. 314). Inspired by Habermasian concepts of ideal speech or Rawlsian calls for justice,
one branch of the dialogic accounting literature seeks to achieve emancipatory dialogue
and consensus across a wide swathe of participants (e.g. see Chambers, 2003, p. 317;
Van Peursem, 2005):
Decisions need to be taken and fair decision rules need to be in place, but a deliberative
approach focuses on qualitative aspects of the conversation that precedes decisions rather
than on a mathematical decision rule (Chambers, 2003, p. 316).
However, such idealism is criticized for the perhaps unrealistic expectations they
may nurture concerning peoples behaviour and willingness to cooperate (see ODwyer,
2005; Dillard and Brown, 2012); for example, it may not be possible to hold discussions
that are fully inclusive or to achieve results which are consensual (Brown and
Dillard, 2013a). A critical understanding of this process recognizes that power plays a
dominant role in discourse (Lehman, 1999; Power and Laughlin, 1996; Unerman and
Bennett, 2004).
Browns (2009) analysis distinguishes therefore between this deliberative model
and what is termed an agonistic model of dialogic accounting. The latter recognizes
that differences should be expressed, but that they are ultimately irreconcilable.
It recognizes that the voices of the empowered are likely to be dominant and that
AAAJ privileged players may have little interest in real consensus. Nonetheless, Dillard and
28,5 Brown (2012, p. 5), citing Mouffe (2000), conclude that accountings should enable
citizenship through an agonistic process of discourse:
[] the constitution of an ensemble of practices that make possible the creation of
democratic citizens, which is dependent upon the availability of democratic forms of
individuality and subjectivity (p. 95, emphasis in original).
Molisa et al. (2012) point out that such a critical accounting framework can reveal the
complexities of accounting reform and shed light on the [] way in which the micro-
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functioning of accounting in specific locations is always mediated by processes of

hegemony, power and political economy (p. 14; see also Neu, 2001, p. 326); that is, it is
important to understand interpretations of accounting and reform so as to examine
their real social and political effects. Critical interpretations help to obtain a sense
of the social and political impact of such reform, and look beyond the promises of
transparency and value to see what lies beneath those claims. A dialogic accounting
framework is relevant for both public sector and private sector accounting studies
because where there is a use of public resources, the public has the right to know how
the public is or is not being served.
Within Indonesia, given its long colonial history, a dialogue among stakeholders is
not a tradition to which its long-enduring public is accustomed. Furthermore,
Indonesias adoption of NPFM may not nurture the sort of public engagement it
experiences in nations with democratic traditions. Whether and how the Indonesian
reform has opened up opportunities for local dialogue is, thus, worthy of study. With
particular interest in the decentralization of power, and looking to the potential for an
agonistic form of the dialogic, we will analyse accounting reform in one municipality in
Indonesia. Inspired by the critical branch of this literature, we will be concerned with
how these reforms have the potential to facilitate, or prevent, public discourse.

4. Approach
Methodologies employed in public sector reform research now include alternatives to
traditional economic and agency informants to include institutional theory, political
economy and a variety of critical perspectives (e.g. Gray et al., 2006; Broadbent and
Guthrie, 2008; Guthrie and Abeysekera, 2006; Moll and Hoque, 2011; Pollanen and
Loisselle-Lapointe, 2012; Lapsley and Skrbk, 2012). In looking to dialogic
accounting for interpretation and given our concern for the potential of nurturing
voice in a local region, we employ a case-based qualitative approach.
Our data were acquired from internal and publicized documents of and by the
Indonesian government. We analysed publicly available information relating to the
reform of public sector accounting before, during, and after the collapse of Suhartos
regime in 1998. This comprised regulations, statutes, media reports and publications
issued by the Ministry of Finance of Indonesia, the State Audit Board, and also
international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World
Bank, and Transparency International.
To complement the document sources we conducted interviews with 29 participants at
the national (central), provincial, and local levels. Participants were chosen because they
were either part of forming policy, implementing policy, or were directly affected by the
process of accrual accounting reform in post-1998 Indonesia. Participants were asked to
discuss their experiences and hopes for the new system. Most interviews were conducted
in 2009, with some additional local interviews conducted in 2013 to see patterns over time.
At the national level, the selection of interviewees was based on their roles in Indonesian
accounting reform, policy formulation or implementation. Nine key figures were public sector
interviewed from the Indonesian Ministry of Finance, the Indonesian Committee of
Public Sector Accounting Standards, and the State Audit Board. We also interviewed
20 local individuals, including senior financial and planning officials within our local
government (LG), local parliamentary members, and local consultants. Selection was
based on their roles as producers or potential users of the accrual-based reports 711
and audited financial statements now produced in our LG (see Table I).
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The interview questions and methods used were similar to, and inspired by, the
work of Ryan (1998), who explored the rationales behind the Australian governments
introduction of accrual accounting, by Lapsley and Pallots (2000) work in the UK and
New Zealand, and by Arnaboldi and Lapsleys (2008) work on accrual accounting
implementation in UK LGs.
Interviews were recorded and transcribed (in the local language), and translation
was carried out by one of the authors. Interviews ran from 65 to 130 minutes each.
Several of the transcriptions were reviewed by a second translator to ensure reliability.
Two interviewees refused to have their interviews recorded, but note-taking was
allowed and transcriptions of them were included in the results. Based on our
agreement with interviewees, their names, positions, and the exact location of the LG
are not revealed. A detailed list of participants is provided in Appendix 1.

5. Indonesia: context for reform?

Indonesias political traditions established rigid expectations around the rules for
public sector discourse. Most of the islands which are now part of Indonesia were
brought under central authority over time by its Dutch colonists during their 300 plus
years of rule (Manao, 2008).

Political history
The Dutch imposed a Dutch-Roman form of strict, top-down administration in which
accounting played a significant role in organizing the local administration of these
diverse islands. Dutch-Roman law established strict management over cash, accounts
payables (possibly receivables), and the funds needed for colonial government
operations (Sapiie, 1980). The first accounting legislation was the Indische Comptabilies
Wet (ICW) (1864) which created a cash-based system for budgeting and trade reporting.
As Indonesia was, and remains, diverse and politically disconnected, this system was
the first to be imposed on a pan-Indonesian society. Accounting thus played a crucial
role in maintaining the colonial administration (Sapiie, 1980).
A nation-level parliament of sorts (King, 2003, p. 15), or the Volksraad, had existed.
However, it included only Dutch officials and planters, primarily appointees, and

Organization (no. of participants) Level of government (no. of participants)

Ministry of Finance (3) National level (9)

The State Audit Board (3)
The Public Sector Accounting Committee (3)
One Local Government (20) Local level (20) Table I.
Total (29) Sources of
Note: See Appendix 1 for additional details interviewees
AAAJ colonialists (King, 2003, pp. 15-18). The indigenous population were not part of this
28,5 parliament and had no means of voicing their concerns. They were governed under a
completely different set of laws (the Adat). These practices, which were restrictive,
became well established.
The Japanese occupation (1941-1945) ended Dutch rule, but continued the tradition of
centrally imposed governance. The Volksraad was retained but had less authority, and
712 certainly gave no more opportunity for engagement to indigenous Indonesians (King,
2003, pp. 16-19). During the Second World War years there were fewer opportunities for
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public discourse than at any time in Indonesian history (McLeod (2005). While Sukarno
was appointed as the first Indonesian president (Wahid, 2001) with the support of
Japanese rulers, this was no democracy. He was later forced from office by a 1966
military coup; coups thus become established as means of achieving regime change.
While the end of the Second World War brought independence, and democratic
principles were publicly embraced, progress towards participation was slow (King,
2003). The Indonesian government was not formally recognized by the Netherlands, its
former colonial power, until 1950, and during this unsettled period (1945-1949) a
revolutionary, nonelected, Parliament ran the nation. Again, the new tradition did not
include smooth transitions of government.
There was wide dissatisfaction with the lack of public participation in government,
and armed rebellion followed in outlying regions (King, 2003, p. 17). Armed rebellion
remains a threat today, and fear of it is said to give leaders permission, as it were, to
appoint rather than elect public officials (King, 2003, p. 16). Circumstances of the time
engendered few possibilities for public engagement.
The first general election occurred in 1955. It was reasonably open and free, offering
full adult suffrage, and a competitive press. There was little violence and, according to
some, surprisingly little buying of votes (King, 2003, pp. 17-18). This opportunity to
participate in democracy was widely welcomed by the Indonesian public. Post-election
the new nation adopted a proportional representation system of parliamentary
democracy, modelled on the Netherlands. To convey a sense of the challenge this new
government faced, 15 electoral districts were formed which were, in population size,
equivalent to one district in the Netherlands. At this stage, each district had its own
ballot and there were more than 170 parties. Of these, 28 parties, primarily Islamic, won
seats in the new National Parliament. Provincial elections for representative councils
were held in 1957 and marked the first known instance in which Indonesians had a say
in their own LG (King, 2003).
However, this did not endure. In 1957, Sukarno overthrew the elected government,
with military backing, and returned to office (King, 2003, pp. 16-17). Military action
replaced Sukarno with General Suharto in 1966 (Wanandi, 2002). While both were
elected by the (non-elected) members of the Peoples Consultative Assembly, it was
military support which kept them in power. There was no real public participation and
the government retained top-down control over what had become an unstable nation
(King, 2003, pp. 16-17; Chomsky, 1998).
Under Suharto, most political parties were (forcibly) removed and reduced to two,
which were divided primarily along religious lines (King, 2003, p. 17). While mayors
and local parliamentarians were elected, Suharto retained authority over approving
the winner. Systems, regulations, and policies were imposed from a Central
Government, now based in Jakarta (Seymour and Turner, 2002).
The Peoples Assembly, an elected national body, attempted to restore democracy
through wider party representation, although under Suharto it was effectively a puppet
of the Presidential office (Wahid, 2001; Wanandi, 2002; Seymour and Turner, 2002). Indonesian
Some provinces sought a separation of powers among the (by then, American public sector
influenced) executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. While progress
was made, local control was limited by virtue of the fact that parliamentary members
were effectively appointed, not elected (King, 2003, pp. 17-19). Very little fiscal
information was made available to the public and there were few opportunities for the
public to express their views: 713
You know that during [the Suharto era] our national leader [President Suharto] controlled
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everything and did not allow audit opinions to be publicly available (NL6).
The Sukarno (1945-1966) and Suharto (1966-1998) regimes were therefore
essentially autocracies (Wanandi, 2002; Baswedan, 2007) and remained in place until
1998 (Table II). While democratic movements stirred in the provinces, the military kept
rebellions (mostly) in check. Sukarno drafted the nations constitution, but public
participation was highly restricted (Ricklefs, 2001). This was but an appearance of good
governance and democratic reform, therefore, in terms of World Bank ideals of a
capable state. Indonesia has throughout its long known history endured a top-down,
closely held and military-backed leadership.
After 1998, and Suhartos departure, the provinces became active. Heads of LGs
were now elected by a (local) parliament at both the provincial and municipal levels,
most on a one-person one-vote system (Baswedan, 2007). Change has been ongoing.
The offices of the President, Senators, local Governors and Regents (Districts), and
Mayors (municipalities) are now all elected. A bi-caramel political system exists today,
and a delegable democracy allocates control to elected members (Baswedan, 2007;
Diamond and Plattner, 2006). The resulting structure is depicted in Figure 1.
The system approved in 1999 was indeed a radical change and enjoyed wide public
support. The form it took was inspired and in some ways imposed by external parties.
From 1999 the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), among others,
provided significant financial support on the condition that public sector reforms
occurred (Wanandi, 2002). They included the production of accrual financial reports
and independent audits, both of which offered the potential for public disclosure of
fiscal public sector information for the first time. Overseas involvement was due to end
in 2003 (Hudiono, 2004).
Today, members of the (national) Peoples Consultative Assembly are elected
members of the Parliament and regional councils. This institution has a role similar to

President Era Process of instalment

Sukarno 1945-1966 A committee which prepared for Indonesian independence

(originally created by the Japanese occupation government)
Suharto 1966-1998 Peoples Consultative Assembly (under the control of the
armed forces)
B.J. Habibie 1998-1999 Suharto resigns, the presidential position handed over to
Vice President Habibie
Abdurrahman Wahid 1998-2001 Peoples Consultative Assembly (democratic election)
Megawati Sukarno 2001-2004 Peoples Consultative Assembly (democratic election).
Susilo B. Yudhoyono 2004-2009 General election (direct democratic election by people) Table II.
Susilo B. Yudhoyono 2009-2014 General election (direct democratic election by people) Presidents of
Sources: Derived from Baswedan (2007) and Sukma (2009) Indonesia since 1945
AAAJ Peoples Consultative Assembly
28,5 (Parliament Members and Regional Councils)

Executive Parliamenta Regional Supreme Constitutional State Audit

(President)a Councila Courtb Courtb Boardb
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Central Government High Courts (provincial level)


Local courts (district/municipality level)

Figure 1. Notes: ----, Coordinating relationship; , command line; , responsibility.

National government aElected, general election; bNominated by the President, approved by Parliament
structure Source: Derived from 1945 Indonesian Constitution

an electoral college in the USA, including an impeachment and constitutional

amendment power (Baswedan, 2007). Under the 1945 Constitution, parliamentarians
approve laws (and budgets) and are tasked with reporting to the Peoples Assembly,
should the President act in an untoward manner. Also, Presidential power is
restricted to a maximum of two five-year terms (Law 22). Limits on the number of
political parties were removed, parties proliferated, and citizens have participated
widely in general elections (Sukma, 2009).
There were also changes made to the way regions were governed. This was an
action driven by popular demand. As Seymour and Turner (2002) describe:
[] in an effort to gain the trust of the people and to be seen as distancing himself from the
Suharto regime, among the new laws were two [one of which was] concerning
decentralization, ratified on 21 April 1999. Law No. 22/1999, granting significant regional
autonomy was the Indonesian Governments answer to a long period of growing distrust and
antagonism from disgruntled people in [certain of] Indonesias peripheral provinces (p. 36).
This represents a significant shift away from Indonesian traditions of centrally
imposed government, and for the first time, in theory at least, LGs were allowed
legislative control over their own practices and resources.

Public sector accounting reforms

[] the Ministry of Finance was active in formulating the accrual standards [] because they
had a significant number of people with accounting backgrounds (NL6).
Under the (pre-independence) ICW system[1], government entities prepared and
presented cash-based, government-classified budget-realization reports to Central
Government. These systems and practices remained in place until well after Law 17
(2003) had been passed and after government accrual accounting standards were
approved (Table III) (Marwata and Alam, 2006; Prodjoharjono, 1999; Manao, 2008).
So, although new reporting requirements were regulated by 1992, they were not
Date Rules Scope agencies Note public sector
1945 ICW rule Basic rules for reporting system Dutch colonial Implemented
for Government agencies at government
central and local level
1992 President Decree The Presidents instruction to Ministry of Used to establish an
No. 35 reform public sector accounting Finance (MOF) accounting agency at 715
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1992 Central Government Rules for Government agencies MOF Not implemented
Accounting at central and local level
2002 Financial Minister Rules requiring accrual-based MOF Not implemented
Decree 308 reporting system at the central
and local levels
2002 Public Sector Accounting and reporting Gadjah Mada Only implemented as
Accounting standards University pilot projects
Standards (Draft)
2002 Public Sector Accounting and reporting Indonesian Not implemented
Accounting standards Institute of
Standards (Draft) Accountants
2003 Law 17: State Requiring production of MOF/ Used as basis for 2005
Finance repeated accrual-based reports Parliament standards
2005 Government Requiring production of MOF Implemented
Accounting accrual-based reports
2006 Decree 13: local Requires local government MOF Implemented
government finance financial management,
planning and accrual reporting
2007 Decree 59: local Revision of Decree 13 (2006) Ministry of Implemented Table III.
government finance Internal Affairs Accounting reforms:
Note: aSee Appendix 2 for additional detail purpose and timinga

instituted until sometime later (see Appendix 2 for details of reform regulations,
elements of which are summarized in Table III).
Claims were made that accounting reform would improve the transparency and
accountability of the government (Wanandi, 2002; McLeod, 2005; Marwata and Alam,
2006; Harun, 2007; Harun et al., 2012, 2013). After Suharto stepped down, Indonesia began
receiving financial support packages from the IMF. The IMF required banking and fiscal
system reform and this led to accountability change (Barclays Economic Review, 1998;
Harun et al., 2012). The legislation passed in the late 1990s (Appendix 2) was now in line
with World Bank expectations of good governance as it incorporated elements for
public accountability and transparency, respect for the rule of law, anti-corruption
measures, democratiziation, decentralization, and LG reform (Collingwood, 2004;
Kaufmann and Kraay, 2014). Mechanisms for institutionalizing the new laws included
training with the IMF, World Bank, and ADB support (Khambata, 2001; Lienert, 2007).
NPFM was also an influence (Ball, 2005), and the view that this would create a more
publicly informative accountability was accepted (Harun, 2007, p. 235; Nasution, 2008).
As a result, the post-1998 reform included the adoption of accrual accounting and
public reporting (Manao, 2008; Marwata and Alam, 2006; Mir and Sutiyono, 2014).
Selective accounting reform law is summarized in Table IV.
AAAJ Scope Pre-Suharto Post-Suharto: 1998-forward
Budgeting Budget formulation was focused on Budget formulation was based on targeted
system spending policies in accordance with the performances in accordance with the public
available resources aspirations
Reporting Cash-based reports Accrual and cash-based reports
716 Public The role of the State Audit Board was The State Audit Board has the authority to
sector limited, and audit and accounting examine the reports of all government
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audit information were treated as state secrets agencies and state-owned firms
Table IV. Audit reports which indicate unlawful
Indonesian practices must be reported to police or
accounting attorneys
systems: pre- and Audit reports are now available to the
post-Suharto era public

The authority of the Indonesian State Audit Board was also strengthened, giving it the
right to audit government reports, public sector spending, and any government
projects (Harun and Robinson, 2010). The only parties with access to State Audit Board
opinions in the past were president-approved members of National Parliament; audit
opinions were treated as state secrets (Nasution, 2008):
Under Suhartos regime the [State Audit Board], like Parliament, had no function in
overseeing the government (NL2).
So while the State Audit Board had, on paper, been an independent body since 1945, it
had provided no real public information. Post-reform, the State Audit Board became
independently empowered and was required to report to the broad public (Law 15,
2006, Article 2). Audit opinions and (now) recommendations from the Board were to be
used by Parliament to evaluate performance at all levels of government (Central,
Provincial, and Municipal). Notifications from the State Audit Board indicating fraud or
misuse of resources (common in Indonesian government practice, Harun et al., 2012)
were to be reported to the police or attorneys general, and were applicable to all levels
of government (Law 15/2006, Article 8).
The former Head of the State Audit Board, Anwar Nasution, pointed out that
accounting information and audit reports in government today are radically different
from those produced previously. He claimed this was due to the fact that information
was now available to the public (Nasution, 2006). These practices were clearly in line
with World Bank expectations of decentralization.
All central and LGs are now required to offer accrual-based balance sheets, income and
expense reports, and performance reports, in addition to the traditional cash flow and
budget statements (Law 17/2003, Article 33). Local authorities must employ a performance-
based budgeting system (Law 25, 2004, Articles 4 and 5), which takes into account Central
Governments strategic plan (Law 15/2004, Sections 4 and 5). A national executive
body including elected officials must now consult with Parliament and the public to set
programmes and budgets. Such consultations must be made available under formal public
meetings (Law 24/2004), and costs must be subject to local and public review. The potential
for local voice, concerning fiscal matters of government, is now legislatively empowered,
and opportunities for public discourse are required under law. Thus voice has been
facilitated for these local players, at least in theory.
Anyone can now access financial and audit reports as well as criminal and fraud Indonesian
report information from the State Audit Board. The adoption of NPFM business-style public sector
budgeting, reporting, and auditing policies expanded the information publicly
available. Government Regulation No. 24 (2005) stipulated that public engagement was
required to formulate government accounting standards. Overall, public engagement
about a LGs fiscal policies and practices was now enabled.
On the face of it, the Indonesian government supported these changes: 717
National Parliamentary Members supported the implementation of a more accountable and
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transparent [reporting system] in the country (NL2).

Even those for whom responsibilities would grow, or whose activities would be more
exposed, appeared to be in support:
[] particularly accountants in the Ministry of Finance [] I remember they were active in
promoting that [accrual-audit] kind of system (NL5).
Whether this openness could be similarly represented in practice had yet to be revealed.

6. A LGs experience
Indonesian LG is made up of provinces and smaller rural districts (kabupatan) or
municipalities (kota) (Figure 2). Our LG has jurisdiction over a small municipality of
300,000 people, with an economy primarily dependant on its service and manufacturing
sectors (see Table V).
As in other municipalities, our LG elects its own mayor and vice mayor, and
participates in the local (Provincial) Parliament (Figure 2).
LG in Indonesia has grown. Provincial administrations increased from 26 in the
Suharto era to 32 in 2009. The number of districts increased to 388 in 2014 from 175 in
1999. Municipalities almost tripled from 35 to 93 (KPPOD, 2009). The number of
government officials (e.g. planning managers or internal auditors), appointed by
governors or mayors, has also grown (Figure 2). According to the increase in the
number of local bureaucracies and their working members, decentralization appears to
be occurring.
Governors and mayors (as well as members of parliament) are now elected. Our
municipality shares in those reforms. However, participants were not necessarily
prepared for reform. Our LG received only one unqualified (clean) opinion in the first
four years of the new regulation. A local parliamentary member states:
We are actually disappointed with opinions by the Auditors [from the State Audit Board]. The
local government was only awarded a disclaimer opinion for the years from 2006 to 2008.
Although we managed to achieve an unqualified opinion again in 2009, this year [2010] we
only received the same [disclaimer] opinion that we had two years ago (LL13).
The auditors disclaimers were attributed to the poor quality of the LGs systems.
Clearly then, our LGs bureaucrats needed assistance:
Legislative members and executive in [the LG] are frustrated with the new [financial and
reporting] regulations (LL10).
This experience was not unusual. Compliance was low generally, as indicated by the
qualified status of many reports (see Table VI). In 2005, 5 per cent of LG reports
received unqualified opinions. This figure declined to 1 per cent in 2006 and 0 per cent
in 2007, and reached only 2.7 per cent in 2008 and 4 per cent in 2009. Additionally (see
AAAJ State Audit Boarda
Local Parliament (elected)
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Management and
Supporting Divisions:
Financial & asset
management div.
Human resource div.
Local revenue div.
Fire brigade
Local police
Agriculture and forest
Traffic and transportation
Operational Coordinating
Commercial entities
Planning and budget div.
Health div.
Education div
Public work div.
Internal audit div.

Figure 2. Notes: , Coordinating relationship; , command line.

Organizational aCentral government institution; bThe mayor is required to apply central
structure of government regulations in most of managerial aspect of LG
LG studied Source: Derived from BPS (2007)

Key information Indicator (2007)

Population 308,000
Total annual budget 376 billion rupiah
Central Governments contribution 345 billion rupiah (92.00%)
Table V.
Demographic and Key economic sectors
economic Service and manufacturing 41.70%
information about Mining and energy 20.00%
the local government Trading and hospitality 13.00%
organization studied Source: Derived from BPS (2007)

Table VI), 74.1 per cent of LGs were given adverse opinions in 2006, although this
improved significantly in 2007 (19 per cent), 2008 (7.2 per cent), and 2009 (13 Per cent).
Our LG was fairly typical of these poor results. In contrast, the State Audit Boards
opinions of 83 Central Government departments and agencies in relation to the
Government Accounting Standards (2005) resulted in 15 per cent receiving unqualified Indonesian
reports in 2006, 20 per cent in 2007, 42.7 per cent in 2008, and 57 per cent in 2009 (see public sector
Table VII).
The State Audit Board (2008a) identified a number of reasons for these failures,
including a lack of coordination within the government at all levels, a lack of skilled
employees, and rapid changes in regulations (pp. 2-3). Our LG experienced all three, and
its failure to produce clean reports would not appear to be entirely of its own doing. 719
Nor did it have control over its most significant form of funding.
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Power retained
Central Government grants were crucial to basic services. In 2007, for example, of a
376B rupiah budget, 345B (US$28.75 million), or 92 per cent was from Central
Government, with the remainder from local levies and revenues. Of the same 376B, 70
per cent (260B rupiah) was for operational and administration expenditure, with the
remainder allocated to capital expenditure or health care, education, and social welfare
subsidization (BPS, 2007). Compared with the USA, Australia, or New Zealand, LGs in
Indonesia are more dependent on central funding (Bahl and Wallace, 2004) and the
central control that accompanies those funds:
The salary of [our LG] employees is mostly funded from Central Government. It is beyond our
control (LL12).
So, in spite of increased reporting transparencies, fiscal power remains centralized. And
it is not the only source of power over the LG; there are costs to noncompliance in terms
that most may not be aware of:
Failure to prepare the financial statements [in a] timely manner also contradicts the intent of
laws and government regulations, and can make executives and officials in the municipal
government more vulnerable to being suspected of committing irregularities (LL6).

Opinion 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

Unqualified 5.00 1.00 2.70 4.00 Table VI.

Qualified 85.00 70.00 63.00 74.10 74.00 State Audit Board
Disclaimer 7.00 63.00 17.00 16.00 9.00 opinions for annual
Adverse 3.00 74.10 19.00 7.20 13.00 reports of local
Total (%) 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 governments
Source: State Audit Board (2010) agencies (per cent)

Opinion 2006 2007 2008 2009

Unqualified 15.00 20.00 42.70 57.00 Table VII.

Qualified 43.00 36.00 36.60 33.00 State Audit Board
Disclaimer 43.00 43.00 opinions for annual
Adverse 1.00 22.00 10.00 reports of Central
Total (%) 100.00 100.00 100.00 100.00 Government
Source: State Audit Board (2010) agencies (%)
AAAJ Ironically, the regulations designed to enable transparency for local participants have
28,5 become a source for sanction.

Human resources
Authority for human resources also continues to be centrally managed, which reduces
the ability of our LG to make input to its own basic functions:
720 It is not easy to hire new staff because we must first get the approval of Central Government
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The funding power of Central Government with respect to human resource decisions
was acknowledged:
The process of hiring new staff here [LG] requires the approval the Ministry of Human
Resources and the Ministry of Finance [because] wages are paid by Central Government. It is
beyond our authority to control (LL12).
The LG also lacks individuals with the necessary skills, leading to compliance
problems. In particular:
The main problem [in implementing the new accounting systems] in this country at the local
level is the lack of qualified accountants (LL1).
The problem is the lack of technical capability of the local government employees the
weakness in internal control [] (LL17).
In spite of the availability of World Bank, ADB, and IMF funding for training, members of
our LG were not able to acquire the necessary expertise to comply with the new legislation.
Ultimately, our LG hired consultants to prepare the reports (Harun et al., 2012), although
the systems behind the reports had not necessarily been proven to be reliable.

Budget rights retracted

There were also some retractions of local authority power over their own budgets in the
years following the original reform; that is, laws which enabled LG to be involved in
decisions about their budgets were clawed back within five years of inception. Law 22
and Law 25, issued in 1999, both decentralized authority by granting autonomy and
election rights to local authorities, giving them the right to determine their own budget
allocations. In 2004 this authority was returned to Central Government through Law 33
(2004) and Law 34 (2004). Government Regulation 58 (2005, Article 3) followed soon after,
which required local authorities to follow centrally determined budget structures, the
appointment of particular officials (e.g. central accounting managers), and particular
asset and cash management/internal control systems (Government Regulation 58/2005,
Article 3). Hence, by 2005, the potential effect of the 1999 legislation was reversed to some
extent (also see Fitrani et al., 2005, p. 60). This may in part have been necessary to ensure
consistency across authorities; but given central authority control over funding, our LG
had limited room in which to operate.

Central Government intervened in smaller issues, as well. Reforms were to be applied
equally to all levels of the Indonesian government: They were, in theory, fair.
Fairness is a recurring theme of the World Banks capable state aspirations and we
would expect it to be a part of LG reforms. However, fairness was not always evident
and on some occasions was conspicuously absent.
As an example, educational programmes for local participants were supported by Indonesian
the IMF, ADB, and World Bank (Ministry of Finance, 2001). In 2004 the ADB provided public sector
US$220 million for programme loans and US$250 million for investment loans to
improve financial management skills of Indonesians and to enable them to improve
their accounting and financial systems at the local and central levels (ADB, 2004).
Funding support also came from the European Union. In 2005 the ADB provided a
further US$330 million to implement public sector management practices at the local level: 721
The overall objective is to support the Government of Indonesia to enhance the public sector
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contribution to the socioeconomic development of its population. The projects purpose is to

improve the effectiveness and accountability of public finance management in Indonesia
(European Union, 2007, p. 1).
Two interviewees (LL2 and LL18) noted that this support was for the purpose of
implementing a performance-based budgeting system.
Several members of our LG took advantage of these opportunities, participating in
university courses, workshops, and overseas studies. By 2012, four LG financial
officials attended masters level programmes as well (LL12). The funding was also used
for improving coordination among government institutions and to upgrade financial
management systems (European Union, 2007). Under the coordination of the National
Planning Agency (Bappenas) one loan to our LG was used for the State Audit Reform
Sector Development Programme (STAR-SDP) to train LG employees in accounting and
financial functions of LG. The need for accounting knowledge clearly existed, as
indicated by some accounting contractors to our LG:
[My contracting] work was not only to provide technical guidance, but also [ultimately to
provide] direct involvement with the basic accounting work, including the collection and
classification of transaction evidence, preparation of general ledgers up to the writing of notes
to the financial statements (LL19).
We [contract accountants] were involved in the whole process of preparing financial
statements [] there was a low level of understanding among clerks and senior officials in all
units of the local government about the nature of financial information prepared on the
current [accrual] system (LL20).
Our LG also required basic support in budget preparation:
The consultants not only assisted the municipal government to prepare its reports, but they
were also required to assist the local government to formulate its budgets (LL20).
However, the programmes provided to our LG employees were not always effective in
teaching the practical, technical skills they needed:
Although our staff attend the programmes, the curriculum is not relevant for their job here
[] the course only provides knowledge about the state ideology and ethical issues, but not
about the technical aspects of their jobs (LL12).
[We] send our employees to courses every year, but these programmes are not sufficient to
cope with the job here (LL10).
While the funding was, to our knowledge, spent on the intended purpose, fairness
was not always apparent. For example, the European Union Commission, in
cooperation with the World Bank, provided a 14.3 million grant to implement
accounting standards at the local level (European Union, 2007). Some funding was
made available to our LG, but not all LGs received such funding. Although allocation
AAAJ would have been determined by an official in Central Government on the basis of
28,5 perceived need, we could find neither documentary evidence nor any participant who
could inform us as to how this need had been determined.
In 2006 and 2007 the Ministry of Finance and the (central) State Audit Board, with
the support of international donors, conducted workshops to introduce government
accounting standards to officials (World Bank, 2008). It appears that these funds were
722 made available to some LGs, but not to our LG. Again, local input into decisions about
who could and could not be included in these programmes could have been helpful.
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Another example concerned support from the State Audit Board, the Indonesian
Institute of Accountants, and CPA Australia for training (State Audit Board, 2008);
these funds were not made available to our LG (LL1). However, this particular fund was
known to be used for conferences and workshops at the Ministry of Finance (LL9 and
LL11). Again, we have to question how these allocations were determined, as their
potential for serving elites in Jakarta (Central Government) may explain the lack of fair
So while the regulatory scene in 1999 made some training and experience available
to our LG, additional training that could have helped produce compliant reports was
not made as widely available as perhaps it should have been. Significantly, none of our
participants complained directly to superiors or to the funders.

Provincial interference
With three layers of government Central, Provincial, and Local (Municipalities or
Districts) (Figures 1 and 2) it would seem possible to match a regions authority over a
budget to their responsibility for managing it. Again, however, follow-up legislation
interfered with this potential. The 2003-2005 legislation now required unnecessary
layers of approval. Our LGs budgets required approval from both the Provincial
Government (which provided no funds to the municipality), as well as from the Central
Government. As our LGs Vice Mayor stated:
With the issuance of the revision of the decentralisation laws [Law 33 and 34 in 2005], we are
now required to also obtain approval from the (Provincial) governor before we can implement
the annual budget (LL1).
It seems unnecessary to have required provincial level approval, a move which placed
further barriers on the potential for local participation. This problem was identified by
one of our local parliamentary members:
I think [the audit of reports of districts and municipalities by the Provincial government] is
beyond our role (LL16).
Hence unnecessary layers of approval provide another source of disempowerment for
this Indonesian local municipality.

Double standards
We also noted that the high standard expected of LG reports was not met, or was
actively resisted, by some Central Government divisions; a double standard was
employed. For example, according to the State Audit Board (2007) the Supreme Court
declined to have one of its revenue accounts audited. We do not, and perhaps cannot,
know why. In another example, on 15 May 2008, the Constitutional Court declined the
Boards request to review Law 28 (2007) on tax revenue relating to information about
the Ministry of Finance.
According to the State Audit Boards report (2008a), the Constitutional Courts Indonesian
refusal to allow an audit contravened the law. This occurred even under post-1999 public sector
amendments, and in particular Law 15 (2004), which stated that [] everyone [who]
intentionally prevents the audit conducted by the State Audit Board is considered [to
have committed] a crime (State Audit Board, 2008a). If the right to audit can be ignored
by the very central agencies and courts which impose it, then the criterion of fair
engagement is certainly not met and would effectively reduce the potential for informed 723
debate about Central Government functions.
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In 2006 the Indonesian Central Government created for unspecified reasons an
expanded role for the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) (Appendix 2). The MIA then
imposed yet further reporting requirements on LGs, requirements which did not exist
prior to reform. The MIA, by issuing The Ministry of Home Affairs Regulation No. 13
(2006) and No. 59 (2007, Article 110), regulated how LGs should determine budgets and
prepare annual reports. These standards were not based on international accounting
standards, but on those developed by a local university (Table III). LGs were compelled
to comply with these standards as well as with the Government Accounting Standards.
There was little coordination between the two:
The financial regulations issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs are not in line, in many
cases, with Law 17 or Government Accounting Standards (LL17).
Reporting under multiple sets of rules and systems of accounting was confusing to
local bureaucrats, who were only beginning to grasp the fundamentals of accrual
accounting. This was clearly disconcerting for them:
Local governments with only a limited number of qualified accountants are required to
present financial statements based not only on the Government Accounting Standards []
but also on regulations issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (NL5).
Unlike the past, we are now required to use not only the Government Accounting Standards,
but also the regulations issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (LL6).
We produce two different reports for the same organization (LL17).
[Local governments] have to prepare two types of financial statements based on two different
sets of rules (LL1).
They were not the only Ministry to introduce new standards:
The Ministry of Home Affairs in 2006 issued its own accounting standards for local
government (LL14).
This has made compliance a complex process for our LG (per LL9), although it has
strengthened effectively the authority of central ministries. They also distracted our LG
from potentially more useful compliance activities. Our LG thus had only limited
authority or input over the systems or accounts produced. The World Bank ideal for
decentralization of authority appeared further compromised by these actions.

Effects on discourse
Pressure-cooker deadlines, frequent changes to requirements, redundant requirements,
questionable distribution of support, and confusing reporting requirements placed
AAAJ unnecessary burdens on our LG. A local parliamentarian referred to some problems
28,5 that emerged from this shifting ground:
We consider the rules are required so as to make organizations more [financially] accountable.
But we are very concerned and disappointed with so many financial regulations being issued
by Central Government for the local administrations in a relatively short period [] Before we
have had the chance to become familiar with one regulation, [all of a sudden] a new one is
724 issued (LL14).
Whether intended or not, these regulations distracted our LG from contributing
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to the reports that were to inspire meaningful dialogue. As a deputy mayor

The regulations on financial reporting issued by the Central Government in the last few years
were so many and [they] rapidly changed. The [change] has placed us in a very difficult
situation as we have had to adjust to a new regulation without understanding entirely the
previous one. They [the Central Government] should understand that we need more time and
resources to implement a specific regulation before it can be replaced with a new one (LL1).
However, the Central Government appeared to lack such an understanding, as the
requirements have remained. Through intention or oversight, the failure to consult
with local bodies contributed to their failure to produce the very reports this
government was seeking.
Ultimately, we have to question whether there was a failure on the part of local
participants to speak up about these inequities and burdens. As there was no local
reaction, we will now consider indications from participants on why their voices were
not only not heard, but also not expressed so as to place pressure on the Indonesian
Central Government.

Culture and people

As time passed and the inequities increased, we might have expected complaints by
informed LG bureaucrats or elected officials. Based on the compendium of evidence
provided by our participants, we have come to the view that both the heady nature of
the times and a cultural reluctance to speak out may have kept participants silent for
the most part.

Riding the wave

To speak out about their government would be a new experience for these Indonesians:
The people wanted [Suharto] to go. If [Suharto were still in power] I believe you could not even
talk as we are now (LL18).
What we are enjoying right now [includes] a [new] freedom of speech, free elections (LL1).
To gauge from participants comments, an enthusiasm for reform existed, which was
associated both with the potential for democracy generally and with an interest in
accounting and financial reforms:
Recent reforms in [public sector accounting] are the result of democratic movements that
ended the Suharto regime (NL1).
I think [the reforms] reflected the aspiration of the public and students who were very
keen to protest against the past regime, which was renowned for its nepotism and
corruption (LL15).
This optimism was in some cases informed by a perception of the potential of Indonesian
accounting to be revealing: public sector
Initially the draft of the law had nothing to do with accounting, and I thought
I had to fight for this [] I insisted on three important things: [1] all government
agencies ought to be required to prepare a set of financial statements, which would
include budget realized reports along with balance sheets, cash flows, and notes on the
financial statements; [2] the financial statements must be prepared according to government 725
accounting standards, similar to private sector accounting standards; and [3] those
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standards have to be established by an independent body [] and audited by the State

Audit Board (NL5).
I need to ask how a country with hundreds of billions of rupiah [currency] expenditure has
only [cash-based] budget realization reports at the end of the year. It is just like a small partys
report. We cannot treat public money like that. Citizens must be informed about how their
money has been used and how much has been spent (NL2).
In other cases, given a general naivet about financial matters, our respondents were
drawn in by the excitement of the historical moment:
It is important to remember the spirit of the [1998-9 law reform] [] [and that] the bad things
of our administration [would be] in the past (NL9).
This is a population buoyed up by westernization and its association with
democracy; and in this excitement an enthusiasm can be found for programmes
associated with those democracies:
What Indonesia is doing is similar to what Australia or other countries have done in using the
system. If other [countries] use a good system, should we not follow it? (NL1).
Is it a good system? Perhaps, but these participants would not necessarily have been
in a strong position to know that. Nonetheless, our respondents expressed great pride
in being associated with a global practice:
In principle [the adoption of accrual accounting] is in line with international best-practices in
other countries (NL4).
[] our administration in the past [] simply lacked accountability and openness (NL9).

Our participants, who have been powerless for so long, now embrace democracy
and its accompaniments; their enthusiasm spills over into the NPFM accounting
reforms. It may not have been possible for them to recognize how much control Central
Government was reclaiming.

The language of NPFM formed a significant part of participants dialogue with
us and with each other, and was marked by clichs and expressions of surety as
to the blessings of accounting reform. Vague claims were exchanged with perhaps
too much ease:
We simply needed a better recording system to ensure that public money was properly spent
for a better result (NL3).
Implementing [] better accounting [] in the government is required because people in this
country need more transparent and accountable administrations (NL5).
AAAJ These were expressions of hope which did not recognize the limits of such systems to
28,5 facilitate reform. As our LGs Vice Mayor described:
The new accounting system is more informative, and can disclose all financial information of
the entities and divisions in this local government since [these entities] were established,
including their assets and liabilities (LL1) (emphasis added).

726 And as a manager of accounting in a financial division of our LG stated:

The current reporting system [] is more reliable and informative in providing you
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information about the governments assets and liabilities (LL6).

This language was commonly heard, and its unquestioning tone detracted from
the questions that perhaps should have been posed and the scepticism that should
have accompanied political claims. Experiences of participants may not have
exposed them to the limitations of NPFM or to the politics in which they can
become embedded.

User interest?
Respondents also expressed their appreciation of the new reports; again, perhaps the
newness of them may in part explain the less-than-questioning expressions of enthusiasm:
I think it is quite fair to acknowledge that the new reporting system is more transparent than
the old system. Now we can have information about assets and liabilities of our government.
We did not have this kind of information before (LL18).
Members of the local Parliament expressed their interest:
Financial statements are the most important thing we use when we are about to examine the
performance of the municipal government [] [and] accrual information is informative []
[and] I myself prefer balance sheets because [] we can see the information related to
government assets and [the LGs] capacity to fund the budget (LL20).
In the balance sheets [] we can see the accumulation of one year [of activity] (LL10).
There is a selective audience for these reports:
Information about money only concerns us as to inputs [resources] required to achieve the
goal. Our concern is elsewhere [] it is hard to find [officials in the division] who use accrual
information rather than budget-realized reports (LL8).
[Understanding of the reports] very much depends on [a parliamentary members] education
and professional background (LL20).
Only the Ministry of Finance and the State Audit Board would [use the accrual reports]
seriously (LL2).
Every audit report is now available for anyone [] but those who come directly to us and ask
for these reports are the policy makers, attorneys, court staff and the journalists (LL17).
As Indonesia now enjoys a delegable democracy, these users opinions policy makers,
attorneys, court staff, and journalists are understandable. However, the broad
publics attention is captured by other issues, a finding which is in line with user
studies in public sector accounting generally:
These reports can be accessed by the public after being audited by the State Audit [Board]
and formally submitted to the [local] Parliament. But in this office, I have never seen anyone
outside the [Audit] Office come here and ask for the reports (LL4).
I think most [of our people] seem to be more interested in reading news about corruption or Indonesian
alleged misuse of public money by the bureaucrats (LL10).
public sector
We are actually more concerned with [cash based] budget reports because we have been using
them for a long time (LL4).
It still seems that our participants enthusiasm for this change, and their bald acceptance of
NPFM, were grounded in recent socio-political events. Additionally, as noted below, given 727
their cultural reluctance to speak out, opportunities for voice may not have been taken.
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A senior financial official reminded us that Indonesians have little inclination to
speak up in public or to challenge central politics, although again this may not be
particular to Indonesia:
The local government [and local bureaucracy] are obliged to implement all regulations
imposed on them by the Central Government. We only use the systems [accounting rules]
issued by the Central Government (LL9).
There were no wider social movements from the people [] the Parliament and the State
Audit board [were those who] openly campaigned for the need to improve government
reporting systems (NL1).
However, a reluctance that is distinct to Indonesia is explained, in part at least, by a
former Chair of the Accounting and Finance Bureau in the Ministry of Finance:
[Particular local governments] do not provide such reports, and we cannot demand [them],
because if we were to try, [and since pro-independence movements in Aceh] political
movements might emerge (NL3).
This is not meant to suggest there were no frustrations. As a consultant to our
LG commented:
The legislative members and the executives in the municipal government are often frustrated
with the new regulations about the financial reporting system (LL20).
However, such frustrations did not translate into any wider expressions of concern, at
least not in our LG. Given the confusing regulations to which local authorities were now
subject, it is perhaps not surprising that their focus was more on complying with
regulations than questioning them:
[Preparation] is important as it indicates how we comply with [Central Government]
regulations (LL4).
This of course happens elsewhere, but we think the difficulties for those in our
LG are distinctive.

7. Discussion
Democratic reforms in post-1998 Indonesia provided opportunities for locals to
participate in Indonesian government for the first time in their long history. Local
voice was franchised through open and free elections. The introduction of accounting
reforms provided a means by which local citizens could be better informed. It also gave
the Indonesian public an opportunity to hold officials to account.
However, the reform process itself revealed central roadblocks and political barriers
to participation. Because Central Government, in particular, retained control over
AAAJ funding and budget structure, risks remained for those who may have spoken
28,5 out. Post-2003 statutes re-empowered the centre; Ministries and bureaucracies
increased reporting complexity; central departments defied audit requirements; and
training was not facilitated effectively. Public forums required under external
funding requirements did not eventuate and there was no clear avenue by which
concerns could be generated upward. Through a combination of confusion and
728 resistance, incompetence and self-service, local participants had no more real basis to
express their voice over these events than they had before.
Nonetheless, the excitement of the moment and public support for democratic
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reform moved accounting reform along with a tide of support. In post-Suharto

Indonesia, reform was a golden word. Irrespective of its power to do so, these reforms
came to be associated with hopes embedded in the ideals of democracy,
transparency, and accountability. This imposed a heavy burden on what are no
more than systems, and may have allowed a post-reform reversion of power to the
centre to carry on reasonably unobserved.
Also observed was a reluctance to speak out against the government or its policy.
Military threats were a historical precedent as was a customary reliance on central
authoritarianism. Indigenous Indonesians colonial experiences were as servants and
suppliers of raw materials and they grew accustomed to centralized, distant governments
(Crane, 1995; Wanandi, 2002). There was little precedent for local control (King, 2003) and
local participants had reasons to hold their views close. Armed rebellions, such as
occurred in Aceh, East Timor, and in the ore-rich district of Papua, reveal the power of
the Indonesian military to restrain voice (Chomsky, 1998; Seymour and Turner, 2002).
Such rebellions and threats of secession provided reasons for strengthening the centre
at the cost of real decentralization (Fitrani et al., 2005). Restraint on the part of locals
surely fed from a history of military rule which restricted local discourse. Fitrani et al.
(2005) suggested that the large number of small LG units were in fact created for the
purpose of controlling local input through a divide and rule strategy (pp. 60-61).
Wanandi (2002) and Seymour and Turner (2002) similarly claim that the
independence movements following the Suharto regimes collapse were the logical
expression of a history of political oppression. The imposition of overnight controls
by President Habibie (1998-1999) soon after democratization seems a habitual
reaction to a local voicing of concerns (Seymour and Turner, 2002; Wanandi, 2002).
Systems would be challenged to overcome such a history, as democracy depends on the
willingness of participants to find their voice.
As we also discovered, centralizing tendencies flowed through to fiscal policy, even
when such policy is under reform. So while not overtly excluded from participating in
LG, pathways were blocked and there were few ways by which reluctant and poorly
informed participants or publics could be brought into the fold, allowing true participation.
There was always pressure to remain centralized therefore, even after Suhartos
departure. While neither effort at secession, nor militaristic responses, indicated a
lowering of public enthusiasm for democracy, neither these participants nor their
local constituents would appear to have been be able to easily translate that enthusiasm
into the expression of voice about their own fiscal matters.

8. Concluding remarks and suggestions for policy makers

The purpose of our study is to evaluate the potential for local citizens to participate in
the fiscal aspects of their government as facilitated, or as constrained, by recent
accounting reform. The contribution is in coming to an understanding of how
accounting reform reflects, or detracts from, the giving of voice to its people at Indonesian
the local level. public sector
Ironically, we found that public sector accounting reforms undertaken to-date had
strengthened, in some respects, Central Governments control over our LG. Dialogic
opportunities were held in check by the manner in which power over decision making
bypassed LG. While the enthusiasm for reform was high, the need to comply with
contradictory and confusing requirements removed our local participants from 729
the potential to offer informed voice and made it more difficult for the public to
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participate as well.
As a result, the conditions needed for improved engagement at the LG level have not
yet fully emerged. The officials we interviewed stated that recent public sector
accounting reforms were launched to support moves by post-Suharto regimes to
democracy; yet, and somewhat surreptitiously, powerful central interests remained
powerful and central leaders managed to circumvent some of the intent of accounting
reform legislation. Hopes for decentralization, empowerment and voice expressed
by the World Bank and other funders were not experienced by members of our LG.
At this point it is useful to compare our findings with those of Dixon and McGregor
(2011) and to draw on their analysis to provide a deeper understanding of the aid
development process we observed. Dixon and McGregor report on their study of the
aid funding and redevelopment process undertaken in Aceh, a northern province of
Indonesia, following the December, 2004 earthquakes and consequential tsunamis,
which devastated their shores and virtually destroyed their life-sustaining fishing
industry. Moreover Dixon and McGregor undertook their interviews in the same
country and around the same time as us (2007/2008 vs 2009). Although there are
significant differences in the scale and seriousness of the events studied by Dixon and
McGregor compared to our study of the implementation of accrual accounting reforms,
similarities in features of the unfolding of the development aid projects and resultant
problems encountered are apparent.
First, Dixon and McGregor comment on the multitudinous aid webs in which local
communities become enmeshed when numerous international donors, INGOs, and
local NGOs and CSOs, along with national, provincial and LG agencies are involved in
the funding and delivery of services and other outputs. As our LG also discovered, the
involvement of the World Bank, the ADB, the IMF, and CPA Australia as donors,
and various arms of the Central Government including the Ministry of Finance, the
MIA and the State Audit Board, along with a local university and contractors, created
a conflicting set of goals, priorities, deadlines, and accountabilities, which resulted in
confusion amongst members of our LG.
Second, Dixon and McGregor, drawing on Mosse (2004), and Harts terminology
relating to big-D and small-d development projects (Hart, 2001, 2002, 2004), comment on
the tension created by inherently conflicting upward accountabilities required for big-D
short-term development project implementation (in our study the implementation of
accrual accounting reforms) and the downward accountabilities which lie at the heart
of small-d goals (in both studies) of broader long-term democratic reforms relating to
transparency, decentralization involving local decision making, local participation
and empowerment, and the giving of voice to local communities enabling upward
learning (Cowen and Shenton, 1996; Bebbington et al., 2008). As in Dixon and
McGregors study, our study revealed a clear domination of functional big-D goals
over small-d goals. One unfortunate consequence of this accountability bias is the
sublimation of local communities values, cultural traditions, plans for the future, goals
AAAJ and priorities, and needs assessments, to those of the powerful, westernized elite.
28,5 As Ebrahim (2003) has noted, there are powerful incentives to favour big-D
accountabilities over small-d accountabilities; the former often involving specified
quantifiable outputs, transparency, efficiency, and short-term value for money.
In contrast, small-d goals are often related to difficult to define and measure outcomes,
which are played out in multiple domains, gradually, over longer time periods.
730 Finally, Dixon and McGregor direct attention to the dysfunctional impact of
contractors hired to direct and implement reforms and related development projects.
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Drawing on Fowler (2000) they note that:

Development agencies valued contractors highly for their skills and ability to produce []
[deliverables] [] in short timeframes, assisting INGOs and NGOs to meet their upward
accountability requirements for quantifiable project outputs. The widespread use of
contractors, however, proved controversial. It appeared that communities had limited agency
or capacity to shape the type of participation or style of engagement they had with
contractors that were delivering their aid (p. 1363).

Moreover, the use of contractors alters the role of local communities in the aid web from
participant- providers to recipient-clients. Motivated by commercial goals and
lacking training and experience in participatory, grassroots driven modes of
development processes, contractors often focus only on the efficient and. timely
delivery of outputs, with scant regard for their quality and for broader, longer lasting
citizen outcomes, such as skills enhancement and empowerment. Dixon and McGregor
report widespread citizen discontent with the poor quality of fishing boats delivered by
contractors who paid little heed to locals particular needs. Similarly, despite some
training, accounting managers in our LG expressed frustration caused by their lack of
understanding of the accrual accounting systems contractors were implementing on
their behalf. Paradoxically, their experience with the contractors left them more
dependent on them for assistance in the actual preparation of their financial statements,
rather than empowered to move forward with confidence. Even with the contractors
assistance, the great majority of LGs financial statements, including those of our LG,
failed to achieve unqualified audit reports.
What can we learn from this experience? The collapse of Suhartos regime in 1998
provided an opportunity for political and economic reform which lacked the usual
accompaniment of armed rebellion. Yet, even in an era of reclaimed democracy, an older
and more subtly conveyed history played out here. Good governance is not a
condition automatically absorbed by a society. Accounting may be no more than a
rhetorical device (Hassan, 2008, p. 295). Without stronger measures to adopt full
democratic practices and thereby facilitate public participation and debate, actions may
continue to reflect centralized patterns from the past. Moreover, it is essential that
providers of services (including contractors) for particular aid projects must be trained
in grassroots participatory process. Shah (2007, pp. 4-5) notes that even where
governments are hostile to public participation, the use of NGOs in the aid web can
increase the likelihood of successful local engagement and project outcomes.
Additionally, training, monitoring, and evaluation must be conducted throughout the
project cycle, from the design phase through the implementation phase and beyond, if
small-d as well as big-D goals are to be achieved.
Another contribution of this paper is in illustrating how an accounting system can
be diverted and mythologized (Mouristen, 1994). Despite public hopes for the
introduction of democracy, the effects of historical, social, and organizational patterns
and their inhibiting influence remain and place pressure on the potential for real change Indonesian
(e.g. see Molisa et al., 2012, Burns and Scapens, 2000; Moll and Hoque, 2011). In this case public sector
at least, and at this time, members of central Ministries, judiciary and other central
leadership showed themselves to be capable of using that history to avoid their own
confrontation with public voice.
There are limitations to our study. Our findings should be understood in the
historical, economic and political contexts of this developing country. We recognize 731
that the selection of the interviewees may not fully represent the diversity of the
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Indonesian public as suggested by Brown, 2009; Brown and Dillard, 2013a, b).
However, the purpose is to reflect the potential for their engagement in the new reform
and within a delegable democracy.
Ultimately, these concerns should be taken into account by policy makers, the public
and social activists, especially in other developing nations, where institutional
capacities, historical, economic, political, and cultural backgrounds of a nation differ
and are unique. In the case of Indonesia, the dialogic aspirations of global funding
agencies (such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the ABD) with respect to both big-D
and small-d projects, appear to have been a step too far.

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Appendix 1 Indonesian
public sector

Source of Roles as to LG
No. Position/role Level appointment reports Code

1 General secretary of the MOF National President Regulator NL1 737

2 General directorate at MOF National MOF Regulator NL2
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3 Senior official, former chair of accounting and National MOF Regulator NL3
reporting bureau MOF
4 Director of research division and development National State Audit Auditor NL4
unit, State Audit Board Board head
5 Senior auditor at the State Audit Board National State Audit Auditor NL5
Board head
6 Part-time consultant, State Audit Board National State Audit Contract NL6
Board head
7 Academic advisor at the Public Sector National MOF Contract NL7
Accounting Committee
8 Working group member at the Public Sector National MOF Standard NL8
Accounting Committee setter
9 Senior technical consultant at Public Sector National MOF Standard NL9
Accounting Committee setter
10 Deputy mayor at LG Local General Preparer LL1
11 Manager of planning and budgeting unit: LG Local Mayor of LG Preparer LL2
12 Senior official: planning and budgeting unit Local Mayor of LG Preparer LL3
13 Senior official: planning and budgeting unit Local Mayor of LG Preparer LL4
14 Senior official: planning /management unit Local Mayor of LG Preparer LL5
15 Manager of financial and accounting unit Local Mayor of LG Preparer LL6
16 Senior official of financial affairs unit Local Mayor of LG Preparer LL7
17 Senior official: financial and accounting unit Local Mayor of LG Preparer LL8
18 Senior official: financial and accounting unit Local Mayor of LG Preparer LL9
19 Manager of internal audit Local Mayor of LG Internal LL10
20 Senior (internal) auditor Local Mayor of LG Internal LL11
21 Manager of human resource division Local Mayor of LG Preparer LL12
22 Local parliamentary member Local Election User LL13
23 Local parliamentary member Local Election User LL14
24 Local parliamentary member Local Election User LL15
25 Local parliamentary member Local Election User LL16
26 Manager of health division Local Mayor of LG N/A LL17
27 Manager of education division Local Mayor of LG Contract LL18
28 Senior certified accountant: accounting Local Contracted Contract LL19
consulting firm Table AI.
29 Manager: accounting and consulting firm Local Contracted Contract LL20 Participant details
AAAJ Appendix 2
Law or regulation Pertaining to Actions

ICW Rule: Dutch Basic rules for cash reporting system: central and Implemented
government 1945 local
738 Presidential Decree 35 (1992) Instructions to reform public sector accounting Establishes MOF
(MOF initiated) accounting agency
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MOF 1992 Accounting standards: central and local Not implemented

Law 22 (1999) Roles and status of local governments
Law 25 (1999) Financial arrangements between central/ local
Law 43 (1999) Civic employees
MOF Decree 308 Requires accrual reporting: central and local Not implemented
Gadjah Mada University Requires accrual reporting: central and local Only piloted
Indonesian Institute of Public Sector Accounting Standards (Draft) Not implemented
Law 30 (2002) Establishes anti-corruption commission
Law 17 (2003) State finances, setting governmental accounting Used as basis for
standards 2005 standards
Law 1 (2004) State treasury obligations
Law 5 (2004) Audit and financial accountability
Law 24 (2004) National development planning
Law 33 (2004) Financial arrangements between central and local
governments (revision of Law 22 1999)
Law 15 (2004) Supervision and accountability of State finances;
State Audit Board
Law 34 (2004) Roles and status of local governments (revision of
Law 22 1999)
Presidential Decree 2 (2005) Establishing committee for governmental
accounting standards
Regulation 23 (2005) Financial management of public agencies
Regulation 24 (2005) Government accounting standards
MOF Decree 13 (2006) Requires local governments to conduct financial Implemented
management, planning and accrual accounting
Regulation 15 (2005) Financial management of public agencies
Regulation 58 (2005) Local government financial management
Regulation 8 (2005) Financial reports and performance measures:
Central Government
Ministry of Home Affairs Financial accountability for Provincial and
(MHA) Regulation 13 (2006) Municipal (and District) governments
Table AII. MHA Regulation 59 (2007) Financial management for local governments Implemented
Post-1998 (Revision of 2006 requirements)
accountability- Regulation 39 (2007) Financial management of central and local
related laws and governments
regulations Regulation 60 (2008) Internal control systems in government

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