chapter  1
19 Pages

'Municipal Accounts', Leading Articles, The Accountant, 20 September-29 November, 1884

Tn accounta of Municipal Corporationa md other local authorities have been, during the paat few yean and otill are, reoeinng an a.m.ount of r.ttention auch aa perha.pa haa never before been bestowed on them, both in regard to the cl8Al'lleaa md auitability of the form in which they are preoented; the material aecaracy of the figures, md their compliance, or otherwise, with the. termo and conditions imposed on the oorporation, or other authority, by Act of Pa.rlia.m.ent. We have noted with aatiaf&ction that gradually, but ourely, old prejudiceo and notion• regarding the exami.nr.tion md publication of these IUlCOunta a.re being removed, and that with infinite public adva.nt&ge the accounts, have, in many instances,

· been brought under review for audit, and, where needed, re-construction by memben of the Inatitute of Chartered Acoot~tmts. The time ia ripe, and public eventa &IUpiciouo, for such a change. For untold yeo.n local authorities hr.ve levied, oollected, and diaburaed millions of pounds, and the only scrutiny to which the a.ccounte have, in the great majority of caaeo, been subjected haa been that of servants in the employ, and n~ily under the induenoe and .control, of the persona liable to account. Accounts have been made up, printed, and circulated, but the defectiYe and often erroneous manner in which they were constructed, their inoompletene&~, and the mer.greneaa •d often entire abaeoce of proper explanatioDll, pr.,..nted any but liD enremely omall aectir>n of the ratepayera from obt&in:ng even a tolerable notion of the financial poaition of the body corporate. In truth, so utterly unreliable are many of the a.ccounte aa

publiahed, that-it baa been stated on good authorityeminent linanciera holding high place in the Imperial Government ha.ve been serioualy misled in official report• baaed on such ma.terial and data aa these accounts afl'orded; and atntiate of no mem repute have in tho aa.m.e manner been deceived. But the state of things which allows of ouch grave misconception ia being rapidly chmged ; many cau118!1 contributing to effect this end. The bad state of trade, and the keenne11 ·of competition, have forced ratepayera to graap the financial position and reaourceo of the Corporation in order to see where adjustment, or re-arrangement, of the rates levied for public l>urpoaeo, or of the n1ethod of repayment, or redemption of the public loans could in any way, oonaiatent with sound economy and finr.nc', be effected with advantage, and the obvious advantages which could be derived from reliable and complete acoounte are univeraally acknowledged by the leadero of public thought md opinion. If these reaaona be not deemed aufficient, it may .be mentioned, laat in order, but not leaat in importance, that recently there have been brought to light a great number of frauds and irregula.ritiee by high corporate ofliciala ; one result of which haa been to promote a.m.ongat the large claaa, not perhaps so directly induenoed by the preceding conaideratioDl!, the aame feeling in oommon with those of higher aocial position, and to give great impetus to a change already impending. The outcome in ma.ny caaea baa been the bringiug of the public aocounte under the eJ:a.m.ination of profeoaional a.ccountante ; and we believe that no inatanoe can be adduoed where this haa not proved beneficial to those moat largely interested in the prosperity and good government of the community.