GASB and the User Community
||Boston Municipal Analysts Forum
Educational Program: Current Developments in Government Financial Statements
Standard & Poor’s Offices
According to its mission statement, the primary role of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB, pronounced "gaz-bee") is "to establish and improve standards of state and local governmental accounting and financial reporting that will…result in useful information for users of financial reports…"
The users of financial statements include legislators and their staff, municipal bond insurors, buy- and sell-side analysts, rating agencies, bond holders, citizen and taxpayer groups, community organizations, research institutes, professors and students, among others, and the general public.
Along with the preparers and auditors of financial statements, users are well represented before the GASB. The Governmental Accounting Standards Advisory Council (GASAC), consults with the GASB on technical issues on the Board's agenda, project priorities, and matters likely to require the attention of the GASB. Thirteen of the GASAC's 30 members are from organizations of users—representatives from the American Accounting Association, Association for Budgeting and Financial Management, Association of Financial Guaranty Insurors, the Bond Market Association, the bond rating agencies, Governmental Research Association, insurance industry investors, National Association of Bond Lawyers, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Federation of Municipal Analysts, and National League of Cities, and a member-at-large. In addition, users are well represented on the task forces that advise the GASB’s research projects.
Users provide important input in the process of devising and improving accounting and financial reporting rules. Users participate in the focus groups, surveys, and interviews conducted as a part of the GASB’s underlying research.
The Board's five-year strategic plan for 2008-2012 reaffirms the centrality of the user to the work of the GASB. The document embodies the GASB's commitment to educating users and raising awareness in the user community about governmental accounting and financial reporting issues and of the GASB itself, and involving more users in the GASB's standard-setting activities.
The objectives of the strategic plan have promulgated several current efforts. The GASB has constructed a comprehensive database of users of financial statement information to support the GASB's outreach. This project has broadened to include the GASB's preparer and auditor constituencies as well. The GASB is currently conducting research to improve its knowledge of the information needs of users. Staff has greatly increased the publication of plain-language and other user-friendly documents, including supplements to proposed standards, a series of user guides to governmental financial reports, and articles about GASB activities. The GASB's primary web site and its performance reporting site both have sections devoted to users.