This publication is the second edition of a comprehensive account of the concepts applied in government finance statistics (GFS) published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the sources of data and methods used to compile the statistics. Its main purpose is to serve as a reference manual for users of the statistics who require a detailed understanding of the concepts, sources and methods in order to analyse and interpret the information that the statistics convey. The manual will also assist compilers of government financial statistics, including those in Commonwealth, state and territory treasuries or Departments of Finance responsible for preparing information on a GFS basis.
The information in this edition of the manual substantially revises much of the information contained in the first edition (released in 1994). Australia’s system for producing GFS has been changed because of the following developments:
The statistical concepts and classification principles used by the ABS in compiling GFS are based on the IMF standard because it is designed to enable preparation of uniform statistics relating to all IMF member countries and is widely recognised in the international statistical community.
- introduction of accrual accounting throughout government in Australia to replace the former cash-based systems;
- revision of the international standard for compiling national accounts and the consequent revision of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF's) standard for GFS.
Government accounting systems are the main source of data that enter GFS. In revising the system for producing GFS, the ABS worked closely with authorities responsible for developing and administering the accounting standards that are applied by Australian governments. Differences between accounting and statistical concepts are inevitable because they serve different purposes. While steps are being taken to keep these differences to a minimum, some remain. These have been identified and clear links have been established between the accounting and statistical systems. The links are set out in this manual. This will enable users of government financial reports and GFS to reconcile the data recorded in these two sources of information.
At the time of release, the ABS is aware of likely impacts of the harmonisation of the accounting and GFS standards in Australia. Over recent years, a review of the System of National Accounts 1993 has also been occurring internationally. These and other factors will bring about the need for updates to this publication over time. The ABS will work to keep this manual current as the accounting and statistical environments change over coming years.
While this manual provides extensive detail about GFS, coverage of every conceivable aspect is impossible. Therefore, when examples of various types of activities that are covered by particular aspects of GFS are presented, they should be treated as illustrative rather than as definitive.