5514.0.55.001 - Australian System of Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/10/2003   
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2.8. Statistical units are units about which statistics are tabulated, compiled or published. Each statistical unit is classified according to the unit’s characteristics of analytical interest so that statistics can be presented for groups of units with common characteristics. The statistical unit is not always the same as the ‘collection unit’, which is the unit from which information is obtained. A collection unit might provide information relating to several statistical units or it might be necessary to split the information supplied by a collection unit to provide information relating to more than one statistical unit.

2.9. The ABS has developed a hierarchical model of standard statistical units for use in economic statistics. The model is defined according to principles set out in SNA93. Use of standard definitions of units across all economic statistics enables users to compare statistics in different fields knowing that the comparisons are not invalidated by the existence of different units of observation underlying the statistics being compared.

2.10. In the model, there is a ‘legal entity’ unit that is essentially the same in concept as the SNA93 concept of an ‘institutional unit’, which is discussed in appendix 1 and is the recommended statistical unit in the IMF’s GFS system. A legal entity is defined as ‘a unit covering all the operations in Australia of an entity that possesses some or all of the rights and obligations of individual persons or corporations or that behaves as such in respect of those matters of concern for economic statistics’. However, the unit used in Australia’s GFS system is the ‘enterprise’, which is defined in the model as
‘all legal entities within an enterprise group that are classified to the same institutional subsector’. Thus, an enterprise can be a single legal entity or a combination of legal entities within the same ‘enterprise group’, which is a group of legal entities that are under common ownership or control.

2.11. In Australia’s public sector, most enterprises equate with a single legal entity and therefore match the SNA93 concept of an institutional unit. An exception occurs with government owned corporations that are related as parent and subsidiaries. In that case, related corporations in the same institutional subsector are combined to form an enterprise unit (the concept of institutional subsectors is discussed ahead in the section entitled ‘Classification of units’). However, if each corporation prefers to report individually, they can each be treated as individual collection units.

2.12. The ABS concepts of legal entity and enterprise include the SNA93 concept of a quasi-corporation, which is discussed in appendix 1. Thus, an unincorporated government entity that operates as if it is a separate corporation is treated as a legal entity and as an enterprise. Such an entity is regarded as operating like a separate corporation if it:

  • has the same relationship to its government owner as a corporation has to its shareholders; and
  • keeps a full set of accounts, including a balance sheet.

2.13. The concept of a ‘single legal entity’ requires some elaboration when applied to government departments and authorities that are primarily funded from budget allocations and subject to centralised control of their finances through the public accounts. Such entities do not have the degree of independence to meet the SNA93 criteria for recognition as institutional units and similarly do not qualify as single legal entities in the Australian units model. Thus, in concept, each jurisdiction (i.e. the Commonwealth and each State and Territory), includes an enterprise that comprises all departments and authorities included in the jurisdiction’s public accounts.

2.14. However, individual departments and other budget-funded authorities of the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments are separately identified as enterprise units in the computer systems supporting the ABS GFS system and are allocated to the various units classifications discussed ahead under the heading ‘Classification of units’. This procedure is adopted to provide the flexibility to compile data available for the lower-level units should such compilation be required. Because the departments and authorities carry the same unit classifications as their parent enterprise, the procedure has no effect on the accuracy of the unit-classified data reflected in government finance statistics.

2.15. The entities that are identified separately in the GFS computer system are of two main types:
  • statutory authorities - these are entities established by the Constitution or by an Act of Parliament of the Commonwealth or one of the States or Territories. Statutory authorities include the Governor-General and the Governor of each State, each house of the parliaments of the Commonwealth and each State and Territory and each court of law. Statutory entities are not restricted to entities created as ‘bodies corporate’, but include any other entity which is described in legislation as having been established by the legislation. Included are entities established under legislation which provides for the establishment of a class of entities (e.g. government owned companies created under corporations law, and local government authorities created under local government legislation) rather than for each entity individually. The concept also includes entities which are created as statutory offices held by individual persons, or as statutory bodies comprising several statutory offices named in the legislation.
  • departmental entities - these include entities created as ‘Departments of State’ by the instrument (e.g. proclamation, Executive Council order) required by legislation in the Commonwealth and each State or Territory. However, for statistical purposes, ‘departmental entities’ exclude any statutory entities which may be named as part of a department in the instrument of creation.

2.16. As previously noted, each statutory authority and departmental entity that is included in the public accounts of a jurisdiction is treated conceptually as part of a wider enterprise unit comprising all such units in the jurisdiction. Conversely, with one exception, each statutory authority and departmental entity that is not included in the public accounts of a jurisdiction is treated as an individual legal entity and therefore as enterprise. The exception concerns units that operate as an integral part of another unit (e.g. they have no separate accounts and no separate employees); such units are merged with the unit of which they form an integral part.

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