From Accountability to Readability in the Public Sector: Evidence from Italian Universities

  •  Alessandra Allini    
  •  Luca Ferri    
  •  Marco Maffei    
  •  Annamaria Zampella    


This paper aims to explore the readability of the disclosure provided by Italian universities that changed their accounting systems to accrual accounting over the past three years. The transition from cash to accrual accounting not only concerns financial statements, but also the related notes. Indeed, the Italian government has paid great attention to the narrative sections of reports due to their capacity to provide more transparency. To provide better accountability, financial statements must be readable for all stakeholders. We used two different indexes, namely the Gunning fog and GULPEase indexes. The analysis was conducted on a sample of universities to analyze the narrative sections of the first financial statements prepared according to the new accounting system in 2012–2014. The final sample comprised 32 Italian universities. The research results demonstrated low readability in the balance sheets of Italian universities after switching to accrual accounting, illustrating an unsatisfactory level of accountability.

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