The purpose of this paper is to understand and explain the financial disclosure processes among Malaysian local authorities (MLAs).
Employing semi-structured interviews, data were collected from 26 members in five case study organisations, and interpreted using Gibbins
et al.(1990, 1992) framework of financial disclosure. Findings
The study finds that financial disclosure is influenced by a hierarchical structure consisting of accountants, the Financial Accounts Committee, the mayor and other managers. The decision to disclose or not disclose was influenced by how sensitive the issue was. External auditors and mediators influenced both the identification of issues, disclosure position and disclosure output. Though there are many laws governing financial accounting, MLAs opportunistically chose to apply the Federal Treasury Circular largely because the external auditors used it.
This study contributes to the literature by illuminating who makes disclosure decisions, what influences these decisions and how. The study reveals hitherto un-researched contextual factors that affect disclosure, namely, religion and external auditors and the opportunistic choice of which laws and regulations to apply in financial disclosure. Future studies might want to apply this approach in other contexts to see what we can learn from them.
Using case studies in the study of financial disclosure provided valuable insights into the complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon of financial information disclosure. The application of Gibbins
et al.(1990, 1992) framework in the public sector and in Malaysia is novel.