Improving Government Reporting

Posted on March 16, 2018 by Editor

Every country has different approaches to managing government finances. It seems that every country, at every level, struggles.

The State of Florida in the United States has more than 400 separate municipalities, including 282 cities. Like every other unit of government in that country, they  prepare “CAFRs” or Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports in accordance with US Government Accounting Standards. Those reports are analog. Given the importance of municipal bond markets to the long term funding of local and state infrastructure in the US, this seems preposterous.

However, the path towards digital government financial and performance reporting has seemed a long one. Or it has until recently.

Florida is in the last stages of finalising legislation that will require the collaborative design and implementation of XBRL based reporting from municipalities. The CAFR will go digital. An experiment, but one with a strong chance of success.

As the Florida project gets under way there are a range of new opportunities in XBRL reporting, including the use of a wider range of formats. Inline XBRL means that human readable reports presented as web pages can also be high fidelity digital reports consumed by machines. The Table Linkbase allows the creation of smart templates to facilitate consistent, complex, multi-dimensional reporting.

These are well proven specifications with literally millions of reports prepared around the world using these capabilities, and with a large, interoperable and increasingly certified software base to support them.

Our upcoming Open Information Model recommendations will roll out a number of different formats for reporting, including CSV, XML and JSON, while retaining the existing strong validation and machine readable definitions which make XBRL the right standard for business reporting. In the not too distant future we anticipate an environment in which definitions and data will be accessed through standardised APIs.

These new approaches to the proven strengths of the XBRL standard for business reporting mean that those collaborating on the Florida project have new choices and new capabilities to make their lives easier.

Collaboration is key: policy makers, government executives, city and state/provincial officials, the software industry and end users of government data all need to work together to bring public sector reporting into the 21st century.

Does government reporting in your part of the world hum? Is it timely, accurate, reliable and usable? If the answer isn’t 100% yes, then perhaps you should think about your own collaborative effort to improve things.

In Florida, all local governmental financial statements for fiscal years ending on or after September 1, 2022, will have to be filed in XBRL format and must meet the validation requirements of the relevant taxonomy. We’ll all be watching.

Read more here and here.

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