The NSW prison sector has undergone considerable reform over the last ten years. The NSW government now oversee the operation of publicly managed prisons, one privately managed prison and a number of new public prisons operating under the new ‘Way Forward’ management model. In order to establish which approach to prison management offered the best value for money, the NSW government undertook a ‘value for money’ assessment in 2005. In this paper, we argue the cost accounting information used in the assessment process was limited and partial, and provided a poor basis on which to form policy. Even so, the NSW government has proceeded on this basis. In order to explain this, we position the report within the wider neoliberal turn in policy-making.