The substance of accounting for Public-Private Partnerships

Heald, D. and Georgiou, G. (2011) The substance of accounting for Public-Private Partnerships. Financial Accountability and Management, 27(2), pp. 217-247. (doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0408.2011.00523.x)

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This article evaluates Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) accounting practice and the related financial accounting and reporting requirements. Governments across the world are seeking to access private finance to improve public infrastructure. Accounting for PPPs has encountered many difficulties, one of which is the practice by which PPPs are not accounted for as fixed assets on the balance sheet of either the public sector client or the private sector operator. Accounting for PPPs has grown in importance at a time of transition from national Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP) to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Under UK GAAP, both client and operator accounting adopt the reasoning – familiar from leasing standards – of the allocation of risks and rewards between the parties to determine the party which should recognize the fixed asset on its balance sheet. The gap in IFRS with regard to operator accounting has been filled by the interpretation IFRIC 12 on service concession agreements: this moves the reasoning from risks and rewards to control, familiar from consolidation standards. The UK Treasury and the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB) have required/proposed the adoption of the mirror-image treatment of IFRIC 12. In most, but not all, cases, control will be assessed to rest with the client, which will recognize property, plant and equipment, and not with the operator, which will recognize either a financial asset or an intangible asset on the basis of an assessment of which party bears the majority of risks and rewards. Under both UK GAAP and IFRS, accounting policy choices are strongly influenced by, for the client, governmental control frameworks, and for the operator, by the implications for the profile of distributable profits and for taxation. An important public policy issue is that the national accounts, which for European Union member states must comply with European System of Accounts 1995, will remain on a risks and rewards basis. It is these numbers that will be used in assessments of macro-fiscal policy and fiscal risks, notwithstanding that the Eurostat version of risks and rewards is even more open to manipulation than were the national financial reporting standards.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Public-Private Partnerships, Private Finance Initiative, accounting regulation, transparency, public expenditure, IPSASB, national accounts, HG Finance
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Heald, Professor David and Georgiou, Dr George
Authors: Heald, D., and Georgiou, G.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Accounting and Finance
Journal Name:Financial Accountability and Management
Publisher:Blackwell Publishing
ISSN (Online):1468-0408

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