ACCA - The global body for professional accountants
Making data widely available should not been seen as a substitute for effective financial scrutiny by parliaments. These accounts can only be meaningful if decision makers are analysing them and reflecting on them for making sound, transparent and accountable future policy decisions. The whole point with these accounts is that Government can demonstrate the importance of the quality of information available, including financial and service delivery, to help inform decision making for the future
—Gillian Fawcett, head of public sector, ACCA

The Whole of Government Accounts (WGA), published by the Treasury, shine a spotlight on public spending in the UK, but ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) believes this important financial document can bring better benefits for financial decision making across Government

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a report yesterday into the WGA for 2010-11. One of its main concerns is the relevance and timeliness of these last set of accounts, with the Treasury publishing the audited WGA for the financial year 2010-11 in October 2012. Because it took 19 months to publish this, it means the information it contains is out-of-date.

ACCA believes that strong public financial management is critical to improving the quality of public service outcomes, decision-making and long-term sustainability of public services. 

Gillian Fawcett, head of public sector at ACCA, says: 'Producing the WGA is no mean feat and the Treasury should be congratulated for its commitment to producing these accounts. However, ACCA questions whether these accounts represent true transparency and accountability. 

'The need for financial transparency has encouraged many governments, from the UK to Australia, to publish spending data in Whole of Government Accounts, but research shows that more data does not mean better information. The sheer volume and detail of such accounts can diminish the accountability that they originally seek to promote.'

Gillian Fawcett concludes: 'Making data widely available should not been seen as a substitute for effective financial scrutiny by parliaments. These accounts can only be meaningful if decision makers are analysing them and reflecting on them for making sound, transparent and accountable future policy decisions. The whole point with these accounts is that Government can demonstrate the importance of the quality of information available, including financial and service delivery, to help inform decision making for the future.'

The Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) were published for the first time in 2011, and over 1,500 public bodies are included in this accounting report. it represents Government spending across all departments. 

In a new project for 2013/14, ACCA will be calling for a review of the impact of consolidated accounts across a range of users from institutional investors, the public, parliaments, credit rating agencies, and across the countries around the world that already produce WGAs - Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Sweden, UK and US. The objective of this study is to evaluate the whole of government consolidated accounts impact on a range of external users across a potential sample of up to four countries identified above.  

- Ends - 

For more information, please contact:

Helen Thompson, ACCA Newsroom
+44 (0)20 7059 5759
+44 (0)7725 498654
helen.thompson@accaglobal.com 

Notes to Editors

  1. ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 
  2. We support our 154,000 members and 432,000 students in 170 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 80 offices and centres and more than 8,400 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. 
  3. Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.