Practice Variation in Public Sector Internal Auditing: An Institutional Analysis

Marika Arena, Kim Klarskov Jeppesen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article aims to analyze the rise of practice variations in public sector internal auditing (IA), giving special attention to the role of agents’ embeddedness in multiple institutional arrangements. IA's trends of development and the characteristics of the public sector context, in fact, make IA inherently subject to multiple institutional forces that interact with the system of values and beliefs of individual internal auditors. The empirical analysis, which relies on case study methodology, highlights the inherent tensions associated with the changing role of IA and shows how different types of IA developed in three case settings, shaped by the agents’ embeddedness in different institutional fields. This article provides a more comprehensive approach to the study of IA adoption and development in public sector organizations than previous literature, and it highlights the relevance of the interplay between actors’ contemporary embeddedness in professional systems and the focal social system as a relevant source of practice variation. In this respect, the case of IA can contribute to previous studies of practice variation in the field of management accounting, shedding some light on the types of tensions that emerge when persons with mixed professional identities are involved in a field.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Accounting Review
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)319-345
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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