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SEA Reporting Project – Research Reports

Why the Service Efforts and Accomplishment (SEA) Research Report series?

Following the issuance in 1987 of Concepts Statement No.1: Objectives of Financial Reporting, the GASB initiated research into enhancing the ability of financial reports to present useful information for monitoring and assessing the "results of operations" of governmental entities. The GASB directed that the research identify ways to provide information useful in assessing not only how much and on what an entity spends its resources, but also what its citizens get in return for the use of public funds and how efficiently and effectively these funds are used.

The research on reporting SEA performance measures responded to the GASBís general purpose external financial reporting (GPEFR) objectives to "assist in fulfilling government's duty to be publicly accountable and...enable users to assess that accountability," and to "provide information to assist users in assessing the service efforts, costs, and accomplishments of the governmental entity."

The research also responded to the concerns of many that the basic financial reports of governmental entities do not provide complete information to management, elected officials and the public about the "results of operations" of the entity or its programs. Consequently, users were not able to assess fully the adequacy of the governmental entity's performance or to hold it accountable for the management of taxpayer and other resources. Similarly, the governmental entity itself (its management and elected officials) is not able to communicate to resource providers information about the goods and services it delivers or its efficiency and effectiveness.

What were the objectives of the research?

The primary objective of the research was to determine whether the state of the art of SEA performance measurement was sufficiently developed to warrant the GASB, state and local governments, and public interest groups to encourage governmental entities to present SEA performance measures as part of their financial reporting. If so, the GASB asked researchers to suggest which SEA performance indicators should be included and how they should be reported.

What issues were covered in the research reports?

The research concerned the uses of SEA performance information, how to measure SEA performance, and how to communicate these measures to elected officials and the public. However, several very important issues—such as determining what goals and objectives to establish, what SEA performance levels to expect, what targets to set for SEA performance, and what methods to use to improve the results of governmental services—are the domain of professionals in the specific service and elected and appointed officials. They are, therefore, outside the scope of the research.

The key issues examined for each of the "service areas" (see below for more on "service areas") included:

  • What types of SEA performance measures should be considered? What SEA performance indicators should be candidates for reporting? To what extent are these indicators measurable, valid, and comprehensive?
  • How, and to what extent, should individual SEA performance measures be disaggregated?
  • What comparisons should be reported for the various SEA performance measures?
  • What explanatory data should be included with SEA performance measures, and how should these data be presented?
  • To what extent are these SEA performance measures verifiable?
  • How should SEA performance information be communicated and displayed? In what types of documents should SEA performance indicators be reported?
  • What are the likely added costs and the feasibility of obtaining and reporting SEA performance measures?
  • What are the uses for, and who are the users of, SEA performance information?

What are the 12 service areas?

"The project team, working with the advisory committee, chose twelve services to be researched. These services were selected based on the proportion of state and local resources allocated to them and their perceived importance to elected officials and citizens. Eleven of the services are among the first fifteen in magnitude of total state and local government expenditure; the other, economic development, has received much attention because of questions about program effectiveness and its major implications for state and local revenues."

The twelve (12) service areas are:

  • Colleges and Universities
  • Public Assistance Programs
  • Economic Development Programs
  • Public Health
  • Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Road Maintenance
  • Fire Department Programs
  • Sanitation Collection and Disposal
  • Hospitals
  • Water and Wastewater Treatment
  • Mass Transit
  • Police Department Programs

Why are the research reports important?

To gain an overall perspective on the findings and recommendations of GASBís research, the GASB published a comprehensive document summarizing the results of the research on SEA performance measures. Additionally, the researchers recommended a set of measures for consideration by governmental entities wishing to begin measuring and reporting SEA performance. Included in this report are four (4) of the twelve (12) service area reports (see below for more details). There are eight individual reports beyond the Overview report.

In addition to the SEA service area reports, the GASB has also reported the overall results and findings from the 19 Citizen Discussion Groups it conducted in 2001.

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