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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

GASB Issues Performance Reporting Guidelines

July 16, 2010

After more than two decades of extensive research and constituent outreach, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has issued Suggested Guidelines for Voluntary Reporting, "SEA Performance Information." The document-the first of its kind from GASB-is not an accounting standard.  Rather, it offers guidelines to governments that elect to report service efforts and accomplishments (SEA), providing a common framework for the effective external communication of performance information.

SEA performance information provides indicators of a government's actual performance in providing services to its citizens. Intended to complement the external general purpose financial statements, such information reinforces a government's accountability to its stakeholders.

The Suggested Guidelines include four essential components of an effective SEA report:

  1. Purpose and scope
  2. Major goals and objectives
  3. Key measures of SEA performance
  4. Discussion and analysis of results and challenges

The Suggested Guidelines also include the six qualitative characteristics of performance information, according to GASB. The qualitative characteristics, established in GASB Concepts Statement No. 1, Objectives of Financial Reporting, are:

  1. Relevance
  2. Understandability
  3. Comparability
  4. Timeliness
  5. Consistency
  6. Reliability

 Finally, the Suggested Guidelines outline three keys to effective communication: 

  1. Understanding intended audiences
  2. Including multiple levels of reporting
  3. Using meaningful forms of communication

GASB's Suggested Guidelines represent the final step in a process that began authoritatively in 1994 with the issuance of GASB Concepts Statement No. 2, Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting. In July 2008, GASB solicited input regarding a proposed project to offer suggested guidelines for voluntary reporting of SEA performance information. Late last year, GASB issued GASB Concepts Statement No. 5 (SGAC 5), Service Efforts and Accomplishments Reporting, an amendment of GASB Concepts Statement No. 2. The primary purpose of SGAC 5 was to clarify that GASB does not have the authority to establish the goals and objectives of state and local governmental services, develop specific nonfinancial measures or indicators of service performance, or set standards for service performance.

The Suggested Guidelines document can be purchased from GASB. Public institutions can learn more about NACUBO's contributions and research on performance reporting by visiting NACUBO's website. To learn more about GASB extensive research and tools, visit GASB's SEA website.


Sue Menditto
Director, Accounting Policy