Politics and the Public Purse: The Government of Ontario versus Public Sector Pension Accounting
(5 pages of text)
Case (Pub Mat)
On October 3, 2016, the Government of Ontario released its finance statements for the province without the opinion of Ontario's auditor general. This incident stemmed from a disagreement between the auditor and the government over public-sector pension accounting interpretations, which had the potential to seriously affect the province’s budget balance and long-term debt levels. It was uncertain how this disagreement would be resolved. Many members of the media, think tanks, and opposition political parties decried the government for refusing to co-operate with the auditor, while others felt the auditor had gone too far in her interpretation of Public Sector Accounting Standards.
This case is suitable for undergraduate or graduate-level courses on accounting strategy and control. Much attention has been paid to the use of accounting policies to achieve myopic outcomes in the private sector. However, this case emphasizes how these same incentives can drive similar behaviour in the public sector. This case also explores the issue of auditor responsibility and independence. After completion of this case, students will be able to
- understand accounting strategy in the public sector;
- understand how accounting policies can be politicized; and
- recognize and discuss the notion of auditor responsibility and independence.
Canada, Large, 2016
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