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A fascinating by-the-numbers report on how the accounting profession, which keeps society's books, has followed the lead of lawyers into the so-called public interest movement. Five years ago, Levy formed Accountants for the Public Interest (APl), the first US organization of its type, in San Francisco. He now is executive director of a national association that coordinates the activities of fifteen affiliates in major cities throughout the country. Although he does not dwell on exactly what constitutes a public interest, the author concludes: ""Virtually every major public policy decision, from the local to the national level, has financial or accounting overtones."" Levy cites off pricing, mass transit, campaign spending, nuclear power, utility regulation, school budgets, and health services as among the areas in which a thorough understanding of fiscal data is necessary for an intelligent evaluation of alternative proposals. Much of the text is devoted to seven detailed case studies, which read like detective stories, on how the API's largely volunteer staff fared on their first issue-oriented projects. To his credit, Levy presents a balanced ledger. API's critique of an economic study helped stall expansion of San Francisco's airport, for example, but its insistence on objective analysis and full disclosure stymied the efforts of a client conservation group to push through a bond issue that would have financed purchase of land for use as open space. Accounting is a numbers game, and Levy relies on tabular material to make many points. However, even lay readers will be able to grasp the presentations developed to document reports API prepared for non-professional audiences. While the subject matter is technical, the author makes this book work--not only as a how-to manual for CPAs concerned about the public interest but also as an eye-opening exegesis for citizens who may not appreciate the many ways in which money matters.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Univ. of Penn. Press