The GFS reporting framework is a specialised financial reporting system designed to support economic analysis of the public sector. It allows comprehensive assessments to be made of the economic impact of government and is consistent with international statistical standards (the System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA93) and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Government Finance Statistics Manual 2001).1
The GFS conceptual framework comprises a number of separate statements, each of which draws out analytical aggregates or balances of particular economic significance. Together, these aggregates provide for a thorough understanding of the financial position of the public sector. The GFS statements reported in the final budget outcome are the operating statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement and statement of other economic flows.
All GFS data is recorded as either stocks (assets and liabilities) or flows (classified as either transactions or other economic flows).
A transaction results from a mutually agreed interaction between economic entities. Despite their compulsory nature, taxes are transactions deemed to occur by mutual agreement between the government and the taxpayer. Transactions that increase or decrease net worth (assets minus liabilities) are reported as revenues and expenses respectively in the operating statement.2
A change to the value or volume of an asset or liability that does not result from a transaction is an other economic flow. This can include changes in values from market prices, most actuarial valuations and exchange rates and changes in volumes from discoveries, depletion and destruction. Other economic flows are reported in the statement of other economic flows.
Under the accrual GFS framework, flows are recorded in the period in which they occurred. As a result, prior period outcomes may be revised where information arises that could reasonably be expected to have been known in the past, is material in at least one of the effected periods and can be reliably assigned to the relevant period(s).
The operating statement presents details of transactions in GFS revenues, GFS expenses and the net acquisition of non-financial assets (net capital investment) for an accounting period.
GFS revenues arise from transactions that increase net worth and GFS expenses arise from transactions that decrease net worth. GFS revenues less GFS expenses gives the GFS net operating balance. The net operating balance is comparable to the National Accounts concept of government saving plus capital transfers.
The net acquisition of non-financial assets (net capital investment) measures the change in the Australian Government’s stock of non-financial assets due to transactions. As such, it measures the net effect of purchases, sales and consumption (for example, depreciation of fixed assets and use of inventory) of non-financial assets during an accounting period.
Net acquisition of non-financial assets equals gross fixed capital formation, less depreciation, plus changes (investment) in inventories, plus other transactions in non-financial assets.
The fiscal balance (or GFS net lending/borrowing) is the net operating balance less net capital investment. Thus, fiscal balance includes the impact of net expenditure (effectively purchases less sales) on non-financial assets rather than consumption (depreciation) of non-financial assets.3
The fiscal balance measures the Australian Government’s investment-saving balance. It measures in accrual terms the gap between government savings plus net capital transfers, and investment in non-financial assets. As such, it approximates the contribution of the Australian Government general government sector to the balance on the current account in the balance of payments.
The balance sheet shows stocks of assets, liabilities and GFS net worth. Net debt is also reported in the balance sheet.
Net debt is the sum of selected financial liabilities (deposits held, advances received, government securities, loans, and other borrowing) less the sum of selected financial assets (cash and deposits; advances paid; and investments, loans and placements). Net debt does not include superannuation or superannuation related liabilities. Net debt is a common measure of the strength of a government’s financial position. High levels of net debt impose a call on future revenue flows to service that debt.
The net worth of the general government sector is defined as assets less liabilities. For the public financial corporations and public non-financial corporations sectors, net worth is defined as assets less liabilities less shares and other contributed capital. Net worth is an economic measure of wealth, reflecting the Australian Government’s contribution to the wealth of Australia.
Cash flow statement
The cash flow statement identifies how cash is generated and applied in a single accounting period. The cash flow statement reflects a cash basis of recording (rather than an accrual basis) where information is derived indirectly from underlying accrual transactions and movements in balances. This, in effect, means that transactions are captured when cash is received or when cash payments are made. Cash transactions are identified specifically because cash management is considered an integral function of accrual budgeting.
Underlying cash balance
The underlying cash balance plus Future Fund earnings (GFS surplus/deficit) is the cash counterpart of the fiscal balance, reflecting the Australian Government’s cash investment-saving balance. This measure is conceptually equivalent under the current accrual framework and the previous cash framework. For the general government sector, the underlying cash balance is calculated as shown below.
Net cash flows from operating activities
Net cash flows from investments in non-financial assets
Net acquisitions of assets acquired under finance leases and similar arrangements4
Future Fund earnings
Underlying cash balance
For the 2004-05 final budget outcome, the underlying cash balance is equivalent to the GFS surplus/deficit as Future Fund earnings are expected to commence from 2005-06.
Headline cash balance
The headline cash balance is calculated by adding net cash flows from investments in financial assets for policy purposes and Future Fund earnings to the underlying cash balance.
Cash flows from investments in financial assets for policy purposes include equity transactions and net advances.5 Equity transactions include equity injections into controlled businesses and privatisations of government businesses. Net advances include net loans to the states, net loans to students under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), and contributions to international organisations that increase the Australian Government’s financial assets.
Statement of other economic flows (reconciliation of net worth)
The statement of other economic flows outlines changes in net worth driven by economic flows other than GFS revenues and GFS expenses. GFS revenues, GFS expenses and other economic flows sum to the total change in net worth during a period. The majority of other economic flows for the Australian Government general government sector arise from price movements in its assets and liabilities.
To assist in analysing the public sector, GFS data are presented by institutional sector. GFS distinguishes between the general government sector, the public non-financial corporations sector and the public financial corporations sector, as shown in Figure A1.
Figure A1: Institutional structure of the Public Sector
Budget reporting focuses on the general government sector. The general government sector provides public services that are mainly non-market in nature, and for the collective consumption of the community, or involve the transfer or redistribution of income. These services are largely financed through taxes and other compulsory levies, although user charging and external funding have increased in recent years. This sector comprises all government departments, offices and some other bodies.
In preparing financial statements for the sectors all material transactions and balances between entities within the sectors are eliminated.
1 Additional information on the Australian accrual GFS framework is available in the ABS publication Australian System of Government Finance Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2005 (Cat. No. 5514.0).
2 Not all transactions impact on net worth. For example, transactions in financial assets and liabilities do not impact on net worth as they represent the swapping of assets and liabilities on the balance sheet.
3 The net operating balance includes consumption of non-financial assets because depreciation is a GFS expense. Depreciation also forms part of net capital investment, which (in the calculation of fiscal balance) offsets the inclusion of depreciation in the net operating balance.
4 The underlying cash balance treats the acquisition and disposal of non-financial assets in the same manner regardless of whether they occur by purchase/sale or finance lease —acquisitions reduce the underlying cash balance and disposals increase the underlying cash balance. However, finance leases do not generate cash flows at the time of acquisition or disposal equivalent to the value of the asset. As such, net acquisitions of assets under finance leases are not shown in the body of the cash flow statement but are reported as a supplementary item for the calculation of the underlying cash balance.
5 Cash flows from investments in financial assets for policy purposes were called net advances under the cash budgeting framework.