Open Access Peer-reviewed Review

Recent advances in internal control: Soft control overcoming the limits of hard control

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Peter Yao Lartey corresponding author
Isaac Gumah Akolgo
Santosh Rupa Jaladi
Selorm Ayeduvor
Stephen Owusu Afriyie


Uncertainties and risks continue to pose a threat to governance and internal control, impeding public sector modernization and essential service delivery. Attempts to develop alternative strategies to meet desired results in highly bureaucratic institutional environments such as the public sector are intensifying because ideas and principles matter. This study advances informal "soft control" as a substitute for formal "hard control" in four dimensions: (a) creates a clear difference between "soft" and "hard" control; (b) designs key determinants of informal "soft" control; (c) limitations of formal "hard" control; and (d) a conceptual framework and hypotheses to support future empirical research and “operationalization” of the proposed constructs. Critical observations imply that the increasing cases of corporate malpractice and consequential non-alignments with best practises in recent times are sufficient evidence to suggest that formal control is incapable of mitigating financial crimes, irregularities, and preventing complex accounting scandals classified as white-collar fraud. The causes of these control failures are attributed to overreliance on "hard control" which primarily works with sanctions and the neglect of informal control mechanisms "soft controls". This condition has limited the ability of auditors to uncover systematic failures of controls that are process-specific, resulting in a partial and incomplete evaluation of internal controls. The study assumed a theoretical approach due to the lack of existing empirical research on “soft control”. However, this observations form a solid theoretical foundation for further discussions. We argue that "tone at the top," informal social control, organisational culture, ethical values, empowerment, and employee competence are effective substitutes for and complements to formal "hard" controls in preventing another Enron. 

soft control, hard control, public administration, “tone at the top”

Article Details

How to Cite
Lartey, P., Akolgo, I. G., Jaladi, S. R., Ayeduvor, S., & Afriyie, S. O. (2023). Recent advances in internal control: Soft control overcoming the limits of hard control. Frontiers in Management and Business, 4(1), 289-302.


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