Purpose This paper aims to contribute to the debate over the desirability of introducing an accrual-based accounting system in the public sector by examining whether accrual-based accounting information is superior to cash-based information in the context of public sector entities. Design/methodology/approach This paper applies a quantitative research method to assess the degree of smoothness and relevance of the accrual components of income recorded by 302 entities of the Italian National Health Service (INHS) over the period 2014–2020. Findings The analysis reveals that net income is smoother than cash flows as a summary measure of economic results and that accounting for accruals improves the predictability of future cash flows. However, the authors' novel disaggregation of accrual accounts reveals that those accounts that contribute the most to making income smoother than cash flows – noncurrent assets and liabilities – are also those that contribute the least to predicting future cash flows. Originality/value The disaggregation of accrual accounts allows to identify the sources of the informational benefits of accrual accounting, and to document the existence of an informational “trade-off” between smoothness and relevance in the context of public sector entities.

Columbano, C., Biondi, L., Bracci, E. (2023). Properties of accrual accounts in public sector entities: evidence from the Italian National Health Service. JOURNAL OF PUBLIC BUDGETING, ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT, 35(6), 240-261 [10.1108/JPBAFM-06-2023-0101].

Properties of accrual accounts in public sector entities: evidence from the Italian National Health Service

Columbano, Claudio
;
Biondi, Lucia;
2023-01-01

Abstract

Purpose This paper aims to contribute to the debate over the desirability of introducing an accrual-based accounting system in the public sector by examining whether accrual-based accounting information is superior to cash-based information in the context of public sector entities. Design/methodology/approach This paper applies a quantitative research method to assess the degree of smoothness and relevance of the accrual components of income recorded by 302 entities of the Italian National Health Service (INHS) over the period 2014–2020. Findings The analysis reveals that net income is smoother than cash flows as a summary measure of economic results and that accounting for accruals improves the predictability of future cash flows. However, the authors' novel disaggregation of accrual accounts reveals that those accounts that contribute the most to making income smoother than cash flows – noncurrent assets and liabilities – are also those that contribute the least to predicting future cash flows. Originality/value The disaggregation of accrual accounts allows to identify the sources of the informational benefits of accrual accounting, and to document the existence of an informational “trade-off” between smoothness and relevance in the context of public sector entities.
2023
Columbano, C., Biondi, L., Bracci, E. (2023). Properties of accrual accounts in public sector entities: evidence from the Italian National Health Service. JOURNAL OF PUBLIC BUDGETING, ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT, 35(6), 240-261 [10.1108/JPBAFM-06-2023-0101].
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11590/461149
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