Accounting Practices: Participatory Budgeting

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Question :

ACC8000 Research in Accounting Practice


 You work with an accounting firm that offers taxation and advisory services to clients. The firm has offices in all the state capital cities, as well as Canberra, Cairns, Newcastle and Toowoomba. Recently, your firm decided to try to improve the productivity and the worklife balance of their staff. More than 1000 taxation and advisory staff are employed along with 500 administrative staff. After reading about organisations that cut working hours to 20 hours per week, your office has decided to have a six month trial. On Monday each week staff at each office meet to nominate the days and hours they will work in the following week. The aim of the meeting is to enable staff to collaborate to ensure there is an adequate staff presence at each office during the opening hours of Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. The partners want to find out the staff’s opinions about their experiences in servicing clients as the staff work reduced hours. Staff have also been asked to talk with clients about how the change in accounting staff hours may have affected the service they receive. They ask you to conduct a qualitative research to answer the following questions concerning the taxation and advisory staff:

  What do staff believe are the advantages of the 20 hour work week?

  What problems have staff encountered in 20 hour work week? 

 What comments have staff received from clients about services after the 20 hour work week was introduced?

  What suggestions do staff have to improve client services while maintaining the 20 hour work week?


 You have been asked to write a research plan for the research. Your plan should include the following issues and provide a justification for the choices that you have made. Write your research plan as a report, with appropriate headings for each section.

 a. the objective of the research (3 marks)  

 b. why a qualitative approach is more appropriate for addressing the research objectives (4 marks)

 c. the population from which participants will be selected (2 marks)

 d. How the sample size will be determined, (how will you determine the number of participants?) (3 marks)

 e. How the sample of participants will be selected from the population (once you have determined the number of participants, how will you select them?) (4 marks)

 f. How will the data be collected from participants. (4 marks)

 g. Provide examples of three questions to participants; for each question explain how it is linked to the research objectives. (9 marks) 

h. What steps should be taken to analyse the collected data? (9 marks) 

i. What are the possible limitations to applying the findings to other nonaccounting organisations that are considering implementing a 20 hour work week?  (4 marks) 

Question 2 (6 marks)

 Explain how the answers to qualitative interview questions might be used in a mixed methods study. Explain which type of mixed method approach would be used: explanatory sequential mixed methods; exploratory sequential mixed methods or convergent parallel mixed methods.

 Question 3 (52 marks) 

This question focuses on writing an academic paper. To aid students in their learning, the task of writing a paper is broken down into steps. It is highly recommended that you use the resources from USQ that are linked through the Writing and Grammar section of the Learning Centre. Your answers to question 3 will be evaluated using information from the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Students are required to answer each question separately, you do not need to write a report. The topic is about participatory budgeting (participative budgeting, participation in budgeting). The organisation you work for employs 450 staff, evenly spread at two locations: Toowoomba and Springfield. The organisation provides advisory services for clients who wish to restyle and refurbish their offices. 

 3 a. Definition (4 marks) 

Define participatory budgeting in your own words, ensuring you provide an in-text reference to your source. Explain why the source you have chosen is reliable. 

b. Finding literature (6 marks)

 Find four academic research articles published since 2007 that have discussed the advantages of participatory budgeting in for-profit organisations. List your four articles using Harvard referencing. 

c. Summarising article findings (8 marks)

 Using the four studies that you found in question 3 part b. above, summarise the findings of each article using no more than five sentences per article. Ensure you use in-text referencing. 

d. Writing an argument (8 marks) 

Rewrite your information from question 3 part c. above to present an argument that integrates the findings of the four articles to outline the advantages of participatory budgeting in for-profit organisations. Ensure you use in-text referencing.

 e. The significance of culture (8 marks) 

Using the work of Hofstede, explain the cultural dimensions of power distance and individuality. Ensure you use in-text referencing. 

f. Culture and participation in budgeting (6 marks) 

What do researchers suggest regarding the influence of the power distance cultural dimension on budgetary participation? Ensure you use in-text referencing. 

g. Factors that influence participation in budgeting (9 marks) 

Briefly explain three factors (other than culture factors) in the academic literature that may contribution to enhancing employee engagement in participatory budgeting. Ensure you use in-text referencing.

 h. Writing an introduction (7 marks) 

Write the introduction paragraph to an essay that would address the topic “successfully introducing budgetary participation”.

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Answer :

20 hour work week & Participatory Budgeting

Question 1: Research Objective 

The objective of the research is to understand feasibility of a 20-hour work week. More specifically, the following questions need to be answered:

  1. What are the advantages of a 20-hour work week?
  2. What issues may be encountered by introducing a 20-hour work week?
  3. What are the client thoughts about the change?
  4. How can the client services be improved after introduction of a 20-hour work week?

Justification for Qualitative Research

The tool used will be focus groups since it is the most appropriate tool for this kind of research. The research involves implementation of a new idea and an investigation needs to be carried out about feasibility of this idea. The focus group will help respondents to brainstorm with each other and provide in-depth analysis of their views. Moreover, the moderator present can turn the discussion around if it goes astray. Depending on availability, focus groups can be done face-to-face or through web conferencing.


The population is the employees of the company. Hence, all of 1000 taxation and 500 administrative staff constitute the population.

Sample Size

The sample size should be such that it is representative of the entire population. It should also provide a level of confidence as required by the organization. Multiple focus groups can be held with each group comprising 10-12 people. At least 10-15 focus groups should be conducted to get a fair and broad view of opinions.

Sample Selection

The sample selection should be such that it is free from bias as far as possible. For this, random selection can be done within various stratas. Hence, people from both departments and various levels should be included. Further, those with unique requirements or relationships with client should also be included.

Data Collection

The main method of data collection in focus groups is through visual observation. The moderator will be the main data collector. It should be ensured that different moderators are used to avoid personal bias of any kind. Further the focal groups can be video recorded for a later reference.

Sample Questions

  1. Why do you think company is thinking of introducing a 20 hour work week? 
    1. This question will help moderator to assess respondent’s perception of the idea of 20 hour work-week
  2. What is the appropriate length of a work week (in days)? Why? 
    1. This question is quite straight forward as it asks for employee’s opinion as to how many days is appropriate and why.
    2. This will also bring out pros and cons of the change, as perceived by the employees
  3. How do you think your client will respond to this change? 
    1. Perhaps some of the employees have an insight to client’s views about this. Or, they may have such a rapport that they are able to predict their reactions. This will help company to take a decision accordingly.

Data Analysis

The analysis of focal group data is fraught with challenges due to it being subjective. It requires a high level of judgement and experience to ensure that analysis is accurate. First of all, various interviews and moderator’s observations need to be transcribed. Then, the observations should be cleaned of any biases that might be there and then synthesised to throw coherent results. Varous graphic tools may be of assistance to gather common and frequent responses.


The results may not be applicable to other non-accounting organizations due to difference in nature of work. While a 20-hour work week may be suitable for one, it may not be so for the other due to reasons such as, where the organization provides live support to the client, a 20-hour work week may not be a possibility. Further, in cases where work flow is not predictable, it may be difficult to carry on with a shorter work-week.

Question 2: Mixed Methods Study

As the name suggests, mixed methods study involves conducting research through both quantitative methods of research (such as, surveys) as well as qualitative methods of research (such as, interviews, focus groups). This helps to overcome limitations that may occur when only quantitative research is used or only qualitative research is sued. Since in mixed method study, elements of both types of research are included, it is far more comprehensive than using any of the single method. This method can also help when a single method is throwing an unexpected result or an outlier.

Question 3: Participatory Budgeting


Participatory Budgeting refers to an innovative and democratic decision (policy) making process where the employees (citizens) decide how the available budget should be allocated. They get to voice their opinions and vote on what area requires budget allocation. This is a win-win situation as employees (citizens) are happy to get involved and management (government) will achieve desired results that are to people’s satisfaction (New York City Council, 2018)

The source is reliable as it is a government website that is using the concept. They have tied up with a participatory budgeting organization also.

Finding Literature

  1. Gabriela Lidia Tănase (2013), " An Overall Analysis of Participatory Budgeting Advantages and Essential Factors for an Effective Implementation in Economic Entities,” Journal of Eastern Europe Research in Business and Economics, Vol. 2013 (2013), Article ID 201920, DOI: 10.5171/2013.201920. 
  2. Simmons, Cynthia V. (2012) Participative Budgeting, Budget Evaluation, and Organizational Trust in Post-Secondary Educational Institutes in Canada. [online] Retrieved on 11th May, 2018:
  3. Xlerant (2016). Avoiding potential pitfalls of Collaborative Budgeting [online] Retrieved on 11th May, 2018:
  4. Kokemuller, Neil (2018) Advantages and Disadvantages of Employee Involvement [online] Retrieved 12th May, 2018:

Summarising Article Findings

The use of participatory budgeting motivates employees, increases their performance, their satisfaction, and may help the entity to attain more realistic budgets. Due to the involvement in decision-making process, the employees become more committed and devote more time in attaining organization’s objectives. The budgeting exercise itself gains a positive perspective in the eyes of the employees (Tanase, 2013).

Use of participative budgeting improves performance – both individual and organizational. The fact that employee is listened to or if suggestion not accepted, an explanation is given, improves the level of trust. The attitude towards budgeting also becomes positive (Simmons, 2012).

The benefits of collaborative budgeting approach include increased employee engagement, increased motivation level of employees, the quality of forecasts improves as managers are aware of what is realistically achievable, better results are achieved for the organization (Xlerant, 2016)

Employee involvement in organizations increases employee commitment, produces better ideas, increases productivity as well as communication (Kokemuller, 2018).

Writing an argument

Participatory budgeting approach leads to increase in organizational performance as well as individual’s performance or productivity (Tanase, 2013 & Simmons, 2012 & Kokemuller, 2018). The approach improves employee’s motivation level (Tanase, 2013 & Xlerant, 2016). The employees also become more committed and engaged (Tanase, 2013 & Kokemuller, 2018). The employees start looking at budgeting exercise as a positive process (Tanase, 2013 & Simmons, 2012). The organization is able to forecast more realistically (Xlerant, 2016).

The significance of Culture

Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory is perhaps the first theory that explained observed differences between cultures. He argued that countries can be categorised on these dimensions basis their core values and institutions, including work-related attitudes. The usual approach was to compare responses and observations from one country with that of another country to identify differences. He also noted that although with time, power distance may reduce worldwide, but the differences in the country still remain (Hofstede, 1980, p.46) and that this is true even for individuality (Hofstede, 1980, p.47). This means that the theory holds true even after so many years.

According to the theory (Hofstede, 1980), 

  • The Power Distance index indicates acceptance of unequal distribution of power among various members of an organization. A high value of index indicates high acceptance and vice versa. 
  • The individualism index indicates the degree to which people are integrated into groups. The index will be high in countries with tight relationships and integrated families. It will be low in countries where families are individualistic in nature.

Culture and participation in budgeting

Participatory budgeting will be highly successful in countries with low PD as it will involve the people and indicate less inequitable distribution of power. At the same time, it may be unsuccessful in countries with high PD as individuals at lower level may be uncomfortable in sharing their thoughts for decision making process. Such people will prefer less participation in budgeting (Daley et al., 1985).

Factors that influence participation in budgeting

  1. Social media platforms can help to enhance participation of employees as these are easily accessible to almost all the people, do not pose a time constraint and help to disseminate information in a faster manner (Gordon, 2014).
  2. The exercise should be transparent. For example, after the voting, the results should be made public. The final decision taken should be explained and also the reasoning behind it. This will help to make people feel involved and that it actually matters (Citizenlab, 2016).
  3. The problem at hand and required budgeting should be explained to people in layman’s terms so that they understand it clearly. Use of jargons should be avoided. Additionally, the text should be short and crisp (Socrata, 2015).


Currently, our organization employs around 450 people who are equally distributed at the two office locations, namely, Toowoomba and Springfield. Our clients wish to refurbish these offices. For this purpose, we have decided on a budget of $20,000. But this time, we want our employees to be involved in the decision-making process. Hence, we are looking for suggestions on how you think we should allocate the budget. 

To this end, we have a brainstorming session on 22nd May, 2018. Exact timing and venue for both the offices will be circulated later. After the session, you have a week to come up with your own suggestions that need to be submitted by 29th May, 2018. This can be done through multiple social platforms, as will be informed later on. After collecting all your suggestions, we will hold a web meeting with all of you so that we can finalize and kickstart the refurbishing process.