Authors: Cletus Agyenim-Boateng
Purpose – Public Private Joint Venture Partnership (LIFT) financial accountability and governance studies have widely reported that LIFTs are highly geared, namely that, they are excessively debt-dependant. Such studies find that as a result of the excessive debt, considerable rentier incomes such as tax shield are appropriated for shareholders and interest income to debt providers. However, this paper argues that the debt and equity capital components of LIFTs’ capital structure provide structures that uncover the complexities, contradictions and conflicts in financial accountability and account giving practices and processes in LIFTs. Design/Methodology/Approach – The paper adopts a case study approach and focuses on two Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) schemes under the Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) scheme in the UK’s health sector. It investigates the extent to which the debt and equity capital components of the capital structure of the LIFT scheme complicate financial accountability and account giving practices and processes; and how the accountability and account giving complications can be better explained using the social-institutional context of LIFT to uncover conflicts and contradictions in PPPs. The paper draws on Giddens’ structuration theory and relies on publicly available data and interview data. Findings – This paper finds that LIFT financial accountability and account giving practices are socio-technically complex and complicated as they are mediated by multiple interpretive schemas, sanctioned by the financialisation norms, that is, placing a great deal of primacy on financial return for shareholders and finance capital; and facilitated by the allocative resources of finance capital and authoritative resources of the private sector - representing directors. Accordingly, contradictions, conflicts and inconsistencies are created in LIFT. Research limitations and implications – To explain why governments continue to use PPPs despite the long standing concerns in the literature, researchers may need to go beyond the dominant dualist theoretical approaches. That is we need to reconsider the various dichotomies underlying accounting and governance research. This direction may have the potential to help financial accountability, accounting and corporate governance researchers take seriously the complex socio-technical configurations that entail contemporary hybrid organisations in the public sector. Originality/Value – Socio-technical theories such as Giddens’ structuration can be used for theorising the accountability, account giving and governance practices, particularly, the manner in which allocative and authoritative resources facilitate the power of finance capital and the private sector experts at the expense of the taxpayers.
Keywords: Accounting, Accountability and Corporate Governance research, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), Joint Venture Partnerships, Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) Giddens’ Structuration Theory.