Includes: Scope of ASA 570 Supplementary Guidance


Financial reporting frameworks applicable in Australia generally require the adoption of the going concern basis of accounting in financial reports, except in circumstances where management of an entity intends to liquidate the entity or to cease trading or has no realistic alternative in doing so. This concept applies even when there are uncertainties about events or conditions that may cast significant doubt on the entity’s ability to continue as a going concern in the future. However, these reporting frameworks require such uncertainties to be disclosed in the financial report when they are material.[22]


Under the going concern basis of accounting, the financial report is prepared on the assumption that the entity is a going concern and will continue its operations for the foreseeable future. Assets and liabilities are recorded on the basis that the entity will be able to realise its assets and discharge its liabilities in the normal course of business.[23]


ASA 570 clarifies that management’s use of the going concern basis of accounting is also relevant to public sector entities.[24] However, as the concept of going concern as described in AASB 101/ASA 570 is generally more relevant to for-profit commercial entities (whether operating in the private sector or public sector), it may need to be interpreted and applied differently for public sector entities responsible for providing significant government functions on a non-commercial basis.


Cash flow projections and other financial metrics-based criteria traditionally used in making going concern assessments are often less relevant in the public sector for those entities that are funded by government through annual appropriations and grants, where the focus is more on whether an entity is sufficiently supported by the government and to what extent the continuation of its functions is protected. Cessation of a public sector entity is most likely to result from a government policy (political) decision to discontinue an entity in its entirety, merge or amalgamate one or more public sector entities, privatise the entity, or privatise all or part of the functions delivered by the entity. Therefore, the events or conditions which may cast significant doubt on a public sector entity’s ability to continue as a going concern may be different to the factors faced in the private sector.


To effectively plan and implement audit procedures that appropriately respond to going concern related risks, public sector auditors require a clear understanding of how the concept of going concern is applied to the public sector entity they are auditing. A lack of understanding of how the going concern concept applies in the context of public sector reporting may lead to public sector auditors applying unnecessary or inappropriate audit procedures.


Public sector auditors may need to obtain a detailed understanding of what, if any, going concern risks apply to the public sector entity and on what basis the going-concern assumption is appropriate. For example, whilst some public sector entities may face funding shortfalls or liquidity concerns, management’s use of the going concern assumption may still be appropriate based on the assumption that the functions provided by the public sector entity will continue within government, even if not within that entity if it is abolished. As a consequence, the nature and source of evidence public sector auditors obtain may be different when compared to the private sector.


Whilst the public sector auditor must determine that the use of the going concern basis of accounting is appropriate for each public sector entity in accordance with the requirements of ASA 570, there also may be other forms of public reporting (such as periodic reports to parliament covering the whole of government or specific public sector segments) where the public sector auditor may highlight significant financial sustainability issues relating to an individual or group of public sector agencies. Though reporting on these financial sustainability issues may be deemed in the public interest, it is not a substitute for any reporting requirements in ASA 570 and falls outside the scope of this GS.


For example, see Australian Accounting Standard AASB 101 Presentation of Financial Statements, paragraphs 25-26.


ASA 570, paragraph 2.


ASA 570, paragraph A2, provides limited application guidance relevant to the public sector in the form of examples of situations where going concern risks may arise in the public sector and of events and conditions that may cast significant doubt on an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern.

Scope of ASA 570 Supplementary Guidance


This section of the GS provides supplementary guidance to reflect the public sector perspective on going concern related to:

  1. The concept of going concern in the public sector (ASA 570, paragraphs 2 and A2).
  2. Risk assessment procedures and related activities (ASA 570, paragraphs 10-11 and A3-A4, A7).
  3. Evaluating management’s assessment (ASA 570, paragraph 12 and A8-A10).
  4. Additional audit procedures when events or conditions are identified (ASA 570, paragraphs 16 and A16-A19).
  5. Auditor conclusions and reporting (ASA 570, paragraphs 17-24 and A21-A35)