Whole of government accounts: who is using them?

This report reviews the literature on the use of government consolidated accounts across five countries: the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Sweden.


In the last two decades, significant developments in public sector accounting and accountability systems in OECD countries have culminated in the implementation and/or consideration of advanced accounting ideas such as consolidated accruals-based public sector accounts. A central idea behind the introduction of consolidated accounts across the entire spectrum of government is to encourage greater accountability through greater transparency of links between government bodies and the amalgamation of financial obligations across the various bodies into one single figure.

The notion of a single bottom-line figure for consolidated public sector obligations such as debt and another for public sector assets has appeal for promoters of accounting reform, in that it draws attention to reporting transparency at a time where the complexity of government economic activity has made it difficult to track what the public sector owns and/or owes.

This report summarises the key issues from a comparative study and suggests ideas for future research. It sets out the historical context of consolidated public sector accounts reforms in the five countries and present a review of the literature. 

This is the first stage of a two-part study that begins to explore whether transparency is currently being achieved and whether essential user information needs are being met. 

Following the second stage of the study a final report on who is using whole of government accounts will be published in March 2015. 

In all, the study will provide new insights into the external drivers needed to promote consolidated financial reporting by governments.