Departmental financial statements can sometimes be difficult to understand if readers are not familiar with the accounting and reporting requirements that apply in the central government sector. This guide aims to help readers of government’s accounts to more easily navigate and understand them. The guide focuses on departmental Annual Reports and Accounts, but is also relevant to annual reports and accounts of other central government bodies, such as executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies.
Robust, independent scrutiny and challenge of an organisation’s accounts is an important driver of transparent financial reporting and accountability. Reviewers need to have a good understanding of central government’s financial statements if they are to discharge their challenge role effectively; this guide can help non-accountant readers of government’s accounts understand better what is being reported in them and what it means.
The guide explains the key elements of the accountability cycle for public money (of which the accounts are an important part), as well as the purpose and content of the annual report, the primary statements and the notes to the accounts. There is also a section on trust statements. The guide shows how each of these elements differs from the accounts of a company or other organisation outside of government. Each section of the guide provides key questions to help those charged with governance engage with and challenge the accounts.