chapter  VIII
NATIONAL FINANCE
Pages 17

The next point is the accounting period. The financial year of the central government begins on the 1st of April, and ends on the 31st of March. The accounting guillotine falls on all government transactions, whether completed or not, at four o'clock on the last day of each financial year, and accounts to that time are then prepared for an annual inquest. Only revenues actually received, and authorities for payments actually issued to the government's creditors, are included in the year's accounts. Even authorities issued within the year are excluded if the beneficiaries do not present them for payment within three months. Revenues due but not received, liabilities incurred but not discharged, and authorized expenditure not

yet acted upon, are all excluded. In some continental systems financial transactions, and not the year, are sacrosanct. Revenues due under the laws of one year may still be brought into the accounts for that year, long after the year itself has closed. Similarly, expenditure authorized in one year may spread over several years, but it is still reckoned in the accounts of the year of authorization. Theoretically this system may be sound, but in practice all government income and expenditure is a very large continuous stream, and under the continental method, with accounts remaining open for years on end, large sums are apt to get lost in a maze of book-keeping. Further, the final reckoning by the legislature is so long after its authorization, that there is very little interest left, and the accounts are reviewed in a perfunctory manner. Referring to French public finance just after the Great War, it was said that: 'Items of huge amounts are still floating about the records. No one knows to what year's accounts these drifting derelicts will ultimately be attached.'1