The User's Perspective

December 2009


The GASB’s Core Values

            The GASB’s formal mission reads as follows:

            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, and
    • guide and educate the public, including issuers, auditors, and users of those financial reports.

            The GASB’s Strategic Plan further identifies four core values that guide its efforts to achieve its mission:

Independence: The autonomy to pursue the best answer for all constituents, free from undue influence or pressure.

Integrity: Honest, ethical, and forthright behavior in relationships with all constituents.

Objectivity: Impartial decisions informed by credible research and thorough deliberations, including due consideration of the views of constituents and the work of other standards setters.

Transparency: An open process that encourages and values public participation.

            The core values may be as elemental to the GASB’s standards-setting mission as its set of Concepts Statements. They are similar to the conceptual framework in that, together, they form a foundation of fundamental premises upon which sound and consistent accounting and financial reporting standards may be established. They comprise an underlying philosophy that grounds the judgments the GASB makes in resolving the accounting and financial reporting issues brought before it.

Independence

            The GASB’s independence as part of the not-for-profit Financial Accounting Foundation allows the organization to pursue the best objective answer for all constituents. That answer should be free from undue influence or pressure—including the strong sway of the political realm and special interests. As an independent body free from inappropriate political pressure or special interests influence, the GASB brings objectivity and integrity to the process of issuing neutral, unbiased accounting and financial reporting standards that are relevant in the government environment.

Integrity

            Not everyone can possibly agree with all of the answers the GASB comes up with when it issues standards. But there is widespread agreement that the GASB members and staff and the due process they follow are above reproach. The GASB is generally viewed as pursuing its mission without ulterior motives or hidden agendas. What constituents see is what they get—a group of knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled individuals working in concert to help governments communicate decision-useful information and demonstrate their accountability to the public.

Objectivity

            Standards based upon impartial decisions, informed by credible research, and developed through an open due process that encourages input from all interested and affected individuals and organizations provide the foundation for  accounting principles that are generally accepted. These standards in turn will lead to confidence-inspiring financial reporting that provides trustworthy information to investors and citizens. The GASB’s standards-setting procedures afford constituents with multiple opportunities to have their say and participate in a meaningful way.

Transparency

            Now, during a period in which state and local governments are experiencing an unusual degree of financial stress, the need is stronger than ever for high-quality accounting and financial reporting standards that promote public accountability and transparency and help restore confidence. In the current environment, government spending is being monitored with the utmost scrutiny. Taxpayers have become more vocal in their demands for improved accountability. Elected officials, government entities, and their constituents need ever-more trustworthy information. Without transparency—both in financial reports that are prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and in the due process that leads to GAAP—accountability may be irreparably compromised.

Conclusion

            Financial reporting is not just about debits and credits—it is about information that is decision-useful and demonstrates accountability. These four words—independence, integrity, objectivity, and transparency—help ensure that all of the work the GASB does to develop effective financial reporting standards is guided by principles that keep that notion at the forefront.

            Without question, one of the most important aspects of the GASB’s mission involves establishing high-quality standards that result in making essential information about state and local governments’ finances available, so that users of financial reports can make better informed decisions and governments can provide public accountability for their stewardship of public resources.