GAO Sees Problems in Governments Financial Management
The U.S. Government Accountability Office said it could not render an opinion on the 2010 consolidated financial statements of the federal government, because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations.
“Even though significant progress has been made since the enactment of key financial management reforms in the 1990s, our report on the U.S. government's consolidated financial statement illustrates that much work remains to be done to improve federal financial management,” Acting Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said in a statement. “Shortcomings in three areas again prevented us from expressing an opinion on the accrual-based financial statements.”
The main obstacles to a GAO opinion were: (1) serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense that made its financial statements unauditable, (2) the federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies, and (3) the federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.
In addition, the GAO said last week it was unable to render an opinion on the 2010 Statement of Social Insurance because of significant uncertainties, primarily related to the achievement of projected reductions in Medicare cost growth. The consolidated financial statements discuss these uncertainties, which relate to reductions in physician payment rates and to productivity improvements, and provide an illustrative alternative projection to illustrate the uncertainties.
Dodaro also cited material weaknesses involving an estimated $125.4 billion in improper payments, information security across government, and tax collection activities. He noted that three major agencies — the DOD, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Labor — did not get clean opinions. Nineteen of 24 major agencies did get clean opinions on all their statements.
“Given the federal government’s fiscal challenges, it’s imperative that Congress, the administration, and federal managers have reliable, useful, and timely financial and performance information,” Dodaro said. “Improved accuracy and transparency in financial reporting are urgently needed.”