Accrual accounting: The Australian experience (Parte 1)
Alex Malley FCPA, the National President of CPA Australia
Business Times - 19/12/2007, 46
CASH accounting has played an important role in governments both in Australia and internationally. Under the Australian cash system, statements of receipts and payments, and some limited form of statement of assets and liabilities were prepared. Accounting policies adopted in the financial statements were established by the government - frequently by regulation and/or ministerial direction.
So what changed? During the 1970s and 1980s the government sector in Australia and in a growing number of other countries, underwent a paradigm shift. The emphasis moved away from the stewardship of cash resources towards performance management in government. Influenced by the theory of New Public Management, Australian federal and state governments began to implement reforms that were intended to make the government sector more efficient and effective in the delivery of services. They were also designed to make government more transparent and accountable. With the rise of New Public Management, the use of cash accounting in the government sector was increasingly questioned by professional bodies such as CPA Australia, public servants, ministers, academics and the business community. These groups argued that cash accounting resulted in serious information gaps, impeding good financial decision-making in government. Amid the debate about cash accounting, accrual accounting emerged as a viable alternative. Proponents argued strongly that implementing accrual accounting would provide government with more, and better quality information as it recognises the economics of transactions.
Under an accrual accounting system, cash is distinguished as only one type of a multitude of events occurring in an organisation. Together all these transactions reflect what an organisation does and how it has performed. Proponents argued that while cash information is important, it is only one part of a bigger picture and should not be used as the sole basis for decision-making and strategic planning. The case for the adoption of accrual accounting was overwhelming, so that by the end of the 1990s, accrual accounting and reporting has been adopted in all Australian jurisdictions. Widely acknowledged as one of the most significant financial reforms in Australia's history, accrual accounting paved the way for the eventual adoption of accrued budgeting in all Australian jurisdictions by the end of the millennium. The adoption of accrual budgeting has been acknowledged as another milestone in the Australian adoption of accrual accounting in the government sector. Benefits of accrual accounting CPA Australia believes that accrual accounting has contributed significantly to public sector administration, conferring a range of benefits to Australian government agencies such as improved resource allocation and management, ability to establish the extent of liabilities and improved programme accountability and transparency. Our belief is supported by feedback from our public sector members - we have over 11,000 working in the public sector and the research we have undertaken in this area. For example, in 2000, CPA Australia conducted a research survey to examine how public sector organisations were progressing post adoption of accrual accounting. CPA Australia research findings Some of the significant trends included: * A widespread acceptance of the value of accrual information by CEOs * CEOs and CFOs taking a more dominant role and accountability for financial results * Continuing strong demand for qualified accounting and finance professionals * The emergence of revenue and profit/loss targets in the accrual budget in place of a focus only on expenditure * A significant change in the budgetary control function * The widespread use of integrated financial management systems assisting the devolution of financial management authority to line managers * A significant shift in the focus of internal management accountability from individual budget line items such as travel and salaries, towards a focus on financial results such as operating results and key ratios.
CPA Australia is also due to release a joint paper with the Australian National Audit Office that further examines the financial framework of the Australian Government. In this paper, we argue that the real benefits of the increased information provided under accrual accounting has been at the organisational level, allowing policy advice to be better targeted as the cost, revenue or balance sheet dimension of options are better understood. Accrual accounting has also contributed to more informed policy choices, stronger performance and a more comprehensive basis for accountability. At the government level, there are signs that the government balance sheet is being managed rather than being seen solely as a stewardship report. The recent decisions relating to public sector superannuation by the Federal Australian Government reflect this.
Benefits of adopting accrual accounting in govt sector
Business Times – 28/12/2007 - 46
Alex Malley FCPA the National President of CPA Australia.
THE move by the United Nations to adopt International Public Sector Accounting Standards and to shift from partial accrual to full accrual accounting is seen as an important step by the organisation toward accounting clarity and better financial management. It may also encourage national governments to follow the footsteps. In this second article on public sector accounting, CPA Australia shares with you the Australian experience in the transition to accrual accounting in governments.
CPA Australia has not been alone in its support of the benefits of accrual accounting in the government sector.
Pat Barrett FCPA, the retired Auditor-General for Australia, pointed out that overall the adoption of accrual accounting in the Australian government sector has been positive because it has enhanced efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and allowed the better costing of government programmes and services.
According to Barrett, accrual accounting has been an important catalyst for other important initiatives, including: * a shift from input to output based budgets and outcomes reporting * turning to market testing/benchmarking and outsourcing for the delivery of government services * recognition of the importance of ownership and management * and the preparation of whole of government financial statements.
Praise for the benefits of the adoption of accrual accounting has also been echoed by the Joint Committee Public Accounts and Audit and the Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration.
While this committee has acknowledged that the adoption of accrual reporting and budgeting was a significant task, it "has significantly enhanced the management of Commonwealth's finances and has led to improvements in certain aspects of transparency and accountability".
Implementation challenges While accrual accounting has brought benefits to the public sector, it did present some challenges to government agencies at the time. The transition required strong leadership, support, commitment, planning, system changes and considerable staff training. Understandably, it also required a significant financial investment.
Nearly 10 years on, many of the implementation challenges Australian governments experienced have been well documented.
For example, a report published by the New South Wales Government Public Accounts Committee identified that: * The biggest mistake the NSW Government made was launching such a significant change without an analysis of the various options for implementation and a strategic plan for the selected options, with full costs.
* Further, the absence of a budget meant that costs could not be measured against a yardstick.
* The implementation cost has been estimated at US$100 million (RM334 million) as actual costs have not been separated out in agencies account.
Despite these challenges, the report noted that by and large, the process had been a success.
CPA Australia's role in the transition CPA Australia as Australia's largest accounting body, was one of the strongest proponents of the introduction of accrual accounting in the government sector.
We played a key role in the transition to accrual accounting by: * providing information and advice to government * advocacy on behalf of our members * conducting research * issuing regular technical updates and * providing training. CPA Australia also jointly funded a Public Sector Accounting Standards Board with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia. The board later merged with the Australian accounting standard setter, but while operational, released three public sector specific accounting standards.
Lessons So what are some of the key lessons Australia learned following the implementation of accrual accounting in the government sector? * The need for leadership Unless there is commitment and support at the highest levels for reform, change at a grass-roots level is difficult.
* Training A comprehensive training program must be put in place to assist staff to develop their accrual management skills.
* Recruitment To sustain the reforms, the public sector must recruit professionally qualified finance, accounting and business professionals.
* Planning A strong planning framework is required, supported by a comprehensive communications strategy to engage staff and assist in cultural change.
* Line managers Financial management must be recognised as part of the line manager's job responsibility. This should be done through the job description and linking performance pay, where appropriate with financial management performance.
Where are we now? Accrual accounting is now entrenched in the Australian government sector and has assisted us in implementing further financial reforms. For example, Australia is one of the first countries in the world to adopt Australian equivalents of International Financial Reporting Standards in the government sector. The accrual accounting system has made this process easier. A further example is the Australian Accounting Standard Board's current project of harmonising the Government Finance Statistics and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for the General Government Sector and the Whole-of-Government reporting.
Australia has made considerable progress and the harmonised financial statements for the General Government Sector and the Whole-of-Government are expected to be available for the financial year ending June 30 2009.
This is seen as one of the last few frontiers in Australian government reporting - an achievement greatly facilitated by the adoption of accrual accounting.
The financial management reforms implemented in the Australian public sector over the last 20 years, most significantly the introduction of accrual accounting, have provided the necessary framework for increased accountability, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness.
While there are still challenges ahead, Australia has a strong foundation to work from and we feel confident we will be able to meet these challenges.
20 janeiro 2008
Regime de Caixa x Competência
Para subsidiar esta discussão, acrescento estes dois textos sobre a contabilidade da Austrália e o regime de competência