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Governmental accounting for heritage assets: economic, social implications

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Neo-classical economic theory provides the framework for general purpose financial reports prepared by Australian government departments and their agencies. These reports, which include a statement of financial position (financial worth) and an operating statement (an estimate of the return on the investment), have an economic rationale: the information is intended to guide the allocation of scarce government resources. All government assets, including those held for their cultural, historical or environmental values (heritage assets) are to be valued utilizing the neo-classical theory of value. Argues that the accounting exercise is flawed. Measurement of value-in-use or value-in-exchange of heritage assets is inherently subjective, ignoring institutional conditions and non-use values. The accounting approach fails to measure either the service value or economic benefits of governmental heritage assets. Consequently, the information generated is inconsistent with the economic rationale and the valuation process may prejudice any assessment of the performance of entities responsible for these assets. There is a strong case for either widening the concept of value to include non-use values or abandoning the measurement of heritage assets.
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Keywords: Accounting; Assets; Australia; Economics; Government Departments; Valuation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 1997

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