Administration of Public Welfare

By R. Clyde White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII
ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL STATISTICS

Public welfare accounting is a special method of dealing with the financial transactions of an agency. It includes the recording, posting, summarizing, and interpreting of receipts and payments of money in connection with public welfare activities. Each level of government records with descriptive terms the amounts of money received and paid out. The original records are in the form of receipts, vouchers, and notices of appropriations. Expenditures are recorded in a journal or voucher register, and cash receipts in a cashbook, from which postings are made to the expense and income accounts in the ledger. The data contained in the ledger accounts may then be summarized in balance-sheet form. Interpretation may consist of a mere explanation of the accounting summaries, or it may be a discussion of financial data in relation to specific activities of the agency. "The accounting records are in the last analysis merely the records of human relationships and activities, expressed in financial terms."1 These records of money transactions, which the social worker is prone to think of as dull and uninteresting in comparison with a case record, are an essential part of the records of a welfare agency, and the work of the agency cannot be interpreted adequately apart from them.

Accounting is a means of control in public welfare administration. It gives a systematic record of money received or available for use, and a corresponding record of disbursements. Public welfare agencies, such as institutions, have some income from sale of products, services, endowments, and capital assets, but for the most part their income consists of appropriations by a legislative body. Appropriations are usually itemized; it is rare for a legislative body to make a lump-sum appropriation for welfare services, although it was done by Congress several times during the depression. The

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1
Hospital Accounting and Statistics, American Hospital Association, 1936, p. 11.

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