Stakeholder participation in the governmental accounting standard-setting process
Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management
Article publication date: 4 June 2018
Accounting standards are issued only after a comprehensive due process, which includes opportunities for external constituents to participate via public hearings and comment letters. The purpose of this paper is to identify stakeholders unique to government and evaluate the extent to which they respond to 13 due process documents issued by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB). The results provide insight into the comment letter element of due process – who participates, in what way do they participate, and why do they participate?
Comment letters received by the GASB in response to eleven exposure drafts and three preliminary views (PV) documents from 2010-2013 were examined, and respondents were categorized according to Cheng’s (1994) model as modified by Kidwell and Lowensohn (2011), resulting in the following 16 participant types: academics, budget officers, bureaucratic managers, state auditors/controllers, citizens, financial markets, elected officials, external auditors/CPA firms, finance officers, government accountants, government auditors, interest groups, media, professional associations, standard setters, and other governments. The authors next examined responses in favor of and opposed to for each document by group and responses by stakeholder group over time.
The authors find that participants came from various stakeholder groups. Consistent with findings in different standard-setting environments, the primary financial statement preparers – finance officers – were the most frequent individual respondents; however, there was participation from a wide variety of stakeholders. Responses are generally constructive and relatively consistent in their balance of favorable and unfavorable feedback over time, with a few exceptions. Closer examination of comment letters in response to the financial projections PV document reveals both conceptual and practical considerations underlying respondent participation.
Motivations for participation were discerned from the letter content, but direct data on motivation was not measured, limiting the conclusions to apparent motivation. Future research might examine the extent to which comment letter content is incorporated into the basis of conclusions section of issued standards to assess the direct impact of comment letters on the governmental accounting standard-setting process. It would also be relevant to trace specific projects that advanced from a PV stage to the exposure draft stage to assess whether the proportional participation of these stakeholder groups is different throughout due process.
The GASB has long been receptive to constituent feedback (Lowensohn, 2000) and can glean useful input from comment letters. By closely examining arguments impounded within comment letters, including conceptual and practical considerations, and by utilizing a more delineated understanding of the stakeholders in governmental accounting standard setting, the Board can better forge into the future.
Much of the extant research documents that stakeholder participation is relatively low, given the number of parties affected by accounting standards. Prior research into both public and private sector accounting standard setting in the USA and abroad has not used all unique actors specific to the public sector. Using a comprehensive stakeholder model designed for the governmental environment, the authors examine who participates in the GASB comment letter process, assess the nature of GASB comment letter participant responses, determine whether relative participation by stakeholder group is relatively constant over time, and consider why the participants respond.
Kidwell, L. and Lowensohn, S. (2018), "Stakeholder participation in the governmental accounting standard-setting process", Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 252-268. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPBAFM-02-2018-0019
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