The essence of responsibility accounting is the collection of costs according to responsibility centers in order that variances from standard costs and budgets can be identified with persons, and based on the causes of variances, corrective actions may be initiated. Reports are prepared to inform a responsibility center manager how well he has performed in terms of costs. The purpose is not to indicate failure or to find fault.
Responsibility reporting is the crucial phase of responsibility accounting. Responsibility reporting requires grouping and defining responsibility within an organization structure, determining and assigning costs to appropriate levels and activities and placing a strong emphasis on cost controllability. Reports prepared under responsibility accounting may be known as performance reports. These reports are prepared with the purpose of:
- informing each manager of his achievement in controlling costs of his center;
- pointing out each manager’s accountability for costs incurred; and
- presenting cost information in such a way that motivates each manager to take remedial action for improved future performance.
In preparing performance reports, management should focus attention on three aspects: (a) frequency of reporting; (b) details to be presented in reports; (c) format of reports. The amount of details and frequency of reports depend on the management level.
For which reports are being made. First line supervisors, for instance, would need reports more frequently with considerable details, expressed in physical as well as financial terms. Management at higher level, on the other hand, would need condensed reports, containing only that information that needs their attention and action. Reporting to higher levels of management would not be too frequent. What is important is that reporting should be timely; that is, information should be made available to management when it needs. As regards the format, reports should be comprehensive. They should clearly indicate activities controllable by the manager. Both actual and budgeted performance with variances should be given. It is also desirable that explanations, whenever possible, for the occurrence of variances and the remedial action taken or to be taken may also be given. The criterion to decide about contents of reports should be the usefulness of information for indicating accountability and controlling cost. Reports should not be presented in highly technical and complicated manner. They should be easily understood even by non-accounting managers.