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Establishing and maintaining a professional accounting body in Samoa: the role of the Samoa Institute of Accountants (SIA)
Ioane, Love Muese
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Extensive research has been done on the early establishments of the most influential accounting bodies in the United Kingdom (UK). It was a struggle for professional bodies to achieve and maintain professionalization with state and society during a time of rapid market growth. This created rivalry and competition among the accounting bodies in an attempt to establish a place in the market. Consequently, the roles of accounting bodies were influenced by pressures from the state, market and society which encouraged professional bodies to engage in various strategies and membership policies. The unique roles of accounting bodies were later exported throughout the British Empire and its colonies establishing other accounting bodies such as CPA Australia and NZICA. Today, the same traits of competition still exist and professional bodies still continue to export their qualifications and memberships overseas. While previous studies have focused on the expanding accounting profession in developed nations, research on professional accounting bodies in developing countries is scarce. Hence, the aim of this dissertation is to investigate the expansion of the accounting profession in Samoa, a developing country. Samoa is unique in terms of its culture and way of life. Unlike western countries where society is of an individualistic nature, Samoa is based on collectivism. Samoa is currently undergoing rapid transformation in terms of globalisation of the market and economy which is imposing changes in the accounting profession and the accounting body. These changes are potentially contradictory with the cultural-cognitive elements of society causing the role of the accounting body in Samoa to be unique in accommodating societal norms. Therefore, the main research question is “how have changes in the environment influenced the role of the professional accounting body in Samoa?” This study draws upon the regulative, cultural-cognitive, and normative pillars of neo-institutional theory to make sense of the pressures that influence what the role of the Samoa Institute of Accountants (SIA) is today. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews and archival documents. A number of significant findings arise from this study. One major finding is that the regulative pressure arising from the establishment of the Samoa Institute of Accountants (SIA) Act 2006 has helped create positive interactions with practitioners and establish a reciprocal relationship with the Ministry of Revenue (MOR). This relationship has in turn strengthened the normative role of the SIA, especially in promoting higher quality standards and expertise in the field of tax practice amongst the accounting profession. The introduction of the International Mutual Funds Act 2008 aggravates the common issue of a lack of funding, and is found to exert regulative pressure influencing the role of SIA to incorporate fundraising mechanisms through the normative pillar of professional activities and networks. The impact of globalisation including affiliation, partnership and alignment with overseas bodies is also imposing difficulties in the local education sector at both the tertiary and professional accreditation level and thus changing members’ and society’s perception of the role of SIA. This study explains a change in the cultural-cognitive pillar or shared conception of society from a ‘traditional approach’ of carrying out processes, to that of western practices which is influencing the role of SIA to achieve similarities with overseas associations as they are perceived legitimate. Lastly, there is some contradiction between the Samoan culture (FaaSamoa) and the western culture influencing the role of SIA. For example, despite the autonomy and power embodied in its code of ethics and statements guiding professional conduct, SIA has refrained from taking disciplinary actions against its members higher in cultural status. This study makes a contribution to theory by investigating the institutional pressures influencing the role of accounting bodies in developing countries such as Samoa which has been neglected for many years. This study also contributes to practice by creating awareness of the changes in the regulatory, normative and cultural-cognitive environment and its influences on the role of SIA. The study also provides suggestions on how SIA could improve its future role.