Study 1 - Financial Reporting by National Governments
The scope of the study is to consider:
- financial reporting by national governments and their major governmental units;
- financial reports that provide information on government plans, performance and compliance with relevant authorities;
- information needs of the principal users of government financial reports, with primary emphasis on the needs of external users; and
- the forms of reporting best suited to meeting those information needs.
This study is of particular interest to senior financial officers in government, politicians, legislative auditors and others who use government financial reports because it addresses the fundamental underpinnings of governmental financial reporting.
Comparative summaries of users, user needs and objectives were prepared. They illustrate that there is concurrence on who users are, what their needs are and, accordingly, the objectives of financial reporting.
The study develops a logical progression from users and user needs to the objectives of government financial reporting. It provides further context for the discussion of objectives by exploring the governmental environment and the limits of financial reporting.
The Study then discusses financial reporting. Rather than recommending a single, preferred financial reporting model, the Study describes the spectrum of possible bases of accounting and different reporting models (types of reports). It then illustrates their strengths and weaknesses in meeting the objectives of financial reporting. The Study demonstrates that in moving from single displays of cash receipts and disbursements to summary financial reports that account for total economic resources, more of the objectives of financial reporting are met. Since those objectives are derived from user needs, more complete and better information will better meet those needs.
The Study recognizes that financial reporting by national governments is influenced by government financial reporting policies and practices which are embedded in the provisions of legislation and legal prescription.