The conceptual underpinnings of recent advances in international public sector accounting standards: Developing a standard for social benefits

We investigate the conceptual underpinnings of the developing social benefits standard from the consultation paper in 2015 to the exposure draft ED63 in 2017. The purpose of the paper is to assess the conceptual foundations in the IPSASB framework and the links with other financial reporting regimes (International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and National Accounts or Government Financial Statistics (GFS) on the development of international public sector accounting standards (IPSAS). We use documentary analysis of IPSASB papers together with a content study of comment letters on the Consultation Paper. Latent content analysis is deepened by detailed exposition of accounting issues using extracts from the IPSASB documents and comment letters. The 2015 Consultation Paper put forward propositions in apparent accordance with the IPSASB framework and GFS, but respondents to the consultation paper were unconvinced of some arguments of adherence to the framework and were unsure how social benefits could be classified on the basis of obligations and largely felt an insurance approach was inappropriate. The alignment with GFS also proved unsatisfactory and is reduced in ED63. This study raises concerns regarding the coherence of the IPSASB framework as a conceptual underpinning for public sector accounting standards and questions the alignment of public sector accounting to other regimes with different users and objectives.