Whole of Government Accounting in New Zealand: A Review of WGA Financial Reports From 1993 to 2010


Susan Newberry (susan.newberry@sydney.edu.au) is an Associate Professor in the Discipline of Accounting at the University of Sydney Business School.


The purpose of accruals-based whole of government (WGA) financial reports has been the subject of international debate. Heald and Georgiou (2011) note the U.K.'s emphasis on a macro-fiscal policy role for WGA and hope that, in addition to facilitating review of fiscal targets, WGA will also help to correct a narrow focus on net debt by providing information about assets and liabilities other than those included in the net debt measure. They also hope that WGA will reveal asset portfolio changes resulting from privatizations. Heald and Georgiou had available only very limited data about the as-yet-unpublished U.K. WGA, and proposed that data from countries with a longer history of published accruals-based WGA may help to understand the usefulness of WGA. In 1992 New Zealand's government became the first sovereign government to publish accruals-based financial reports for the whole of the central government. This article presents New Zealand's summarized WGA from 1993 to 2010. It identifies the changing mix of assets and liabilities, the tendency for complex WGA financial reports to obscure, rather than to reveal, portfolio changes resulting from privatization, and the growing involvement in financial market activities.