Can Databases Facilitate Accountability? The Case of Australian Mercury Accounting via the National Pollutant Inventory

Hafij Ullah, James Hazelton, Peter Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Purpose – This paper furthers research into the potential contribution of pollutant databases for corporate accountability by evaluating the quality of corporate and government mercury reporting via the Australian National Pollutant Inventory (NPI). The NPI underpins Australia’s reporting under the Minamata Convention, a global agreement to reduce mercury pollution.

Design/methodology/approach – The qualitative characteristics of accounting information are used as a theoretical frame to analyse ten interviews with thirteen interviewees as well as 54 submissions to the 2018 governmental inquiry into the NPI.

Findings – While Australian mercury accounting using the NPI is likely sufficient to meet the expected Minamata reporting requirements (especially in relation to developing countries), we find significant limitations in relation to comparability, accuracy, timeliness and completeness. These limitations primarily relate to government (as opposed to industry) deficiencies, caused by insufficient funding. This suggests that multiple factors are required to realise the potential of pollutant databases for corporate accountability, including appropriate rules, ideological commitment and resourcing.

Practical Implications – The provision of additional funding would enable the NPI to be considerably improved (for mercury as well as other pollutants), particularly in relation to the measurement and reporting of emissions from diffuse sources.

Originality / Value – Whilst there have been prior reviews of the NPI, none have focused on mercury, whilst conversely prior studies which have discussed mercury information have not focused on the NPI. In addition, no prior NPI studies have utilised interviews nor have engaged directly with NPI regulators. There has been little prior engagement with pollutant databases in SEA research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(In-Press)
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Volume(In-Press)
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Mercury
  • National Pollutant Inventory
  • databases
  • mandatory reporting

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