3.1. The underlying data sources for the compilation of government finance statistics in Australia are the accounting systems supporting the financial accounts maintained by public sector entities. This accounting information is analysed, classified and rearranged on a GFS basis using the input classifications set out in appendix 3.
3.2. In the past, the ABS compiled government finance statistics by analysing the published accounts of public sector entities, classifying the data on a GFS basis and entering the data directly into its computer processing systems. This methodology was supplemented in some cases by direct collection of data on ABS questionnaires. The methodology began to change after the May 1991 Premiers’ Conference agreed that all jurisdictions would include uniform data classified on a GFS basis in their budget documents. From that time, the Commonwealth Department of Finance and Administration (DOFA) and each of the State and Territory treasuries, with ABS guidance and assistance, compiled GFS for their jurisdiction’s non-financial public sector (then the scope of the GFS system) for incorporation in their budget documents. The ABS was able to use these data to compile government finance statistics on an annual basis for the National and State levels of government.
3.3. More recently, jurisdictions have been compiling financial reports in compliance with the Australian Accounting Standard AAS 31, ‘Financial Reporting by Governments’, which requires reporting for the ‘whole of government’. In GFS terms, whole of government covers general government, public non-financial corporations and public financial corporations (i.e. the public sector). Thus with ABS assistance on conversion of AAS 31 data to the GFS standard, DOFA and the treasuries are now able to regularly provide public sector data on a GFS basis for their jurisdictions.
3.4. With these developments the opportunities for the ABS to obtain GFS-classified data in electronic form have increased considerably. Now, for the major part of the National and State levels of government, accounting data at unit level are converted to a GFS basis by officers of DOFA and the treasuries in each State and Territory, and the converted data are supplied to the ABS as electronic data files. The ABS role has evolved to one of assisting these departments with the GFS conversion, coordinating the provision of data files, and editing the data before they are aggregated as government finance statistics. The amount of information received in this way is expected to increase. At present, only some quarterly data, and other data for some local governments and public corporations, are obtained by other means (e.g. dispatch of questionnaires, analysis of financial statements). For these data, the ABS performs the GFS conversion before incorporating the data in national statistics.