This paper argues that despite Indonesia’s implementation of public sector reforms, the impact of these reforms has yet to achieve the goal of improving governance and preventing corruption. The obvious place to lay blame would be a lack of state capacity, but this study presents evidence to argue that the legacy of General Suharto’s authoritarian regime and the cultural ecology of Indonesian bureaucracy has compromised the government’s capacity to implement these public sector reforms in a meaningful way. IMPACT This paper highlights some fundamental points for public policy-makers using NPM techniques to improve accountability and to counter fraud. First, the cultural context and costs of reforms should be taken into account before implementing new accounting technology. Second, policy-makers should consult academic work on the implementation of new reporting systems and other NPM policies. Finally, the powers of local politicians (for example mayors or district heads) need to be controlled to ensure they do not undermine the role of accounting and auditing for better transparency, governance and corruption eradication.