Reporting on Infrastructure in Australia: Practices and Management Preferences
27 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2012
Date Written: September 2012
A major responsibility of governments worldwide is to maintain and upgrade state‐owned physical infrastructure. Yet contemporary accounting reports fail to recognize commitments arising from deferred maintenance, and the usefulness of descriptions of book values and depreciation charges on those assets is questionable. A range of options for reporting more fully on infrastructure assets has been proposed but little evidence has been presented as to how stakeholders view alternative forms of information obtained in terms of those options. This study presents evidence obtained from telephone and mail surveys about the attitudes of engineers, accounting and finance professionals and other senior managers of Australian public sector agencies towards current infrastructure reporting practices. Most of the surveyed agencies actively managed their infrastructure assets and routinely compiled information about asset condition. The majority of respondents indicated that maintaining the functionality of physical infrastructure was critical to the success of their organization. Against this background, respondents were asked to indicate which among five nominated reporting options was likely to better aid judgments about a series of issues concerning the status and management of infrastructure, and finally what reporting option had the most overall usefulness to decision making. The judgments identified were likely to be common to both managers and external stakeholders. The findings were that respondents, irrespective of their organizational affiliation or professional background, overwhelmingly preferred information about the physical condition of assets, combined with estimates of the current cost of bringing those assets to a satisfactory condition (with some respondents indicating a preference for the data to be accompanied by information about written‐down replacement costs). Historical cost accounting received little support from respondents.
Keywords: Asset condition, Financial commitments, Infrastructure assets, Liability concept, Management reports, Written‐down replacement cost
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