|Sweeping financial management reforms occurred in New Zealand during the late 1980s and early 1990s which radically changed the face of the New Zealand public sector. These reforms sought to significantly restructure and reorganise local government thereby improving their effectiveness and efficiency and improving their accountability to their stakeholders. The principal vehicle for the discharge of this accountability is the annual report, which must be prepared according to Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (GAAP) and commercial principles.
Organisations in the private sector are beginning to recognise the value of accounting for intellectual capital (IC) (see for example Quinn, 1992; Brooking, 1996; Sveiby, 1997; Edvinsson Malone, 1997; Bontis, Dragonetti, Jacobsen Roos, 1999; Guthrie, Petty Johanson, 2001; Bounfour, 2003). Studies on the measurement, management and reporting of IC have been undertaken internationally in Asia (Abeysekera Guthrie, 2005; Goh Lim, 2004; Ordenez de Pablos, 2002), Australia (Guthrie Petty, 2000), Europe (Bozzolan, Favotto and Ricceri, 2003; Olsson, 2001; Ordenez de Pablos, 2004), United Kingdom (Collier, 2001; Williams, 2001) and Ireland (Brennan, 2001).
Despite the significant research interest in the field of intellectual capital internationally, scant attention has been paid to intellectual capital reporting by commercial organisations in New Zealand. An extensive review of the IC literature yielded only two New Zealand based studies (Miller Whiting, 2005; Wong Gardner, 2005). Further, no studies to date have addressed intellectual capital reporting by local governments in either New Zealand or internationally. This study aims to fill this gap through the development of an intellectual capital disclosure model that could be applied to local authorities.
The research describes and explains the development of a disclosure index used to measure the extent and quality of current intellectual capital disclosure by local authorities in New Zealand. The index was developed through a consultative process with a panel of local government stakeholders which was used to establish the weightings for each item. The final index comprised 26 items divided into three categories: internal capital, external capital and human capital. The 2004/2005 annual reports of 82 New Zealand local authorities were scored for extent and quality of disclosure against the index.
The results indicate that intellectual capital reporting by local authorities is varied. Manukau City Council scored the achieved the highest overall score (76%) out of the 82 reports analysed while Whakatane District Council scored the lowest with 33%. The most reported items were joint ventures/business collaborations and management processes. The least reported items were intellectual property and licensing agreements. The most reported category of intellectual capital was internal capital, followed by external capital. The least reported category was human capital. The findings indicate a number of areas of reporting that could be improved in order to meet with stakeholder disclosure expectations. In the internal capital category, intellectual property disclosures could be improved. In the external capital category disclosure concerning ratepayer demographics and licensing agreements could be improved. In the human capital category, disclosure of most items could be improved, in particular, entrepreneurial innovativeness and vocational qualifications.
The study provided an insight into the current level and quality of intellectual capital disclosure by the NZ local government sector. The results indicated that local authorities are disclosing some aspects of intellectual capital in their annual report, however there is no consistent reporting framework, and many areas of IC disclosures are not meeting stakeholder expectations. More research is needed in the area of intellectual capital reporting in the public sector. This study provides a preliminary framework which can be used by local authorities to enhance intellectual capital disclosures in their annual reports.