For any given project on its technical agenda, the GASB seeks the input and involvement of its constituents in a variety of ways. Liaison meetings with constituent organizations and presentations at their conferences, questions received through its technical inquiry system, meetings with the Governmental Accounting Standards Advisory Council (GASAC), research activities such as surveys and focus groups, and public exposure of proposed standards all help the GASB to take the pulse of the public and to obtain the information necessary to craft effective accounting and financial reporting standards and implementation guidance. Another key method used in developing high-quality standards is the appointment of task forces and advisory committees.
What Do Task Forces and Advisory Committees Do?
The GASB assembles task forces for most major standards-setting projects. Task forces serve as a sounding board, providing guidance and feedback to the GASB as a project progresses. Task force members typically have a particular knowledge of, or experience with, the issue being addressed in the project, and also are capable of articulating the views of other, similar constituents. They can identify possible implementation difficulties, assess the potential cost of proposed standards, or opine on the usefulness of the information that will result from those standards. Task forces often are a conduit between the GASB and its constituent organizations, communicating to the members of those groups about a project and gathering feedback from them.
Task force members review the papers the GASB staff prepares for Board meetings and monitor the Board’s deliberations, commenting as appropriate. Task force members generally communicate with the GASB staff through e-mail and over the telephone, but for some major projects a public meeting of the task force may be held. This is particularly true if a task force is appointed in the very early stages of a project in order to assist the GASB in determining the scope of issues to be addressed or to advise on the development of a research plan. For instance, the task force for the project that led to Statement No. 46, Net Assets Restricted by Enabling Legislation, advised the Board on what issues should be included in the scope of the project and on which potential solutions the Board should deliberate.
Advisory committees are established to assist the GASB with the development of question-and-answer implementation guides and its plain-language user guides to governmental financial reports. Advisory committees help identify issues to include in implementation and user guides, suggest questions to address, and review drafts of the documents prior to discussion by the Board. Like task force members, the members of an advisory committee bring a particular expertise to the table that is relevant to the subject matter.
How Are Participants Selected?
Task forces and advisory committees are officially appointed by the GASB chairman, based on recommendations from the director of research and technical activities and GASB staff. The chairman also consults with the other GASB members and the GASAC chairman before making appointments.
Potential participants are identified from the GASB’s constituent database, from the GASAC, and from the lists of persons submitting comment letters in response to proposed standards. The GASB attempts to maintain an appropriate balance of financial statement preparers, auditors, and users on each task force and committee. In addition to identifying persons that possess relevant knowledge and experience and that are representative of various types of constituents, the GASB tries to select persons it believes will actively participate by reviewing papers and proposed standards prepared for the Board and by providing regular feedback to the project staff.
The GASB recently added a feature to the visitors’ register on its website to allow constituents to volunteer to serve on task forces and advisory committees. (Go to www.gasb.org and click on the gray “Visitors’ Register” button on the left.) Clicking the volunteer box does not guarantee that the GASB will ask a person to participate in a task force or advisory committee. However, it will help us to identify persons who are interested in getting involved and are willing to invest the time and effort necessary to participate effectively.