Rep. Horn slams agencies for poor financial management

The chairman of a House oversight committee today gave out the first report card on federal agencies' ability to track how they spend taxpayers' money, failing half of the 24 agencies.

Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee, issued the grades and based them on the second audit ever of federal books. "The audit report shows that the federal government is unable to report accurately—to the taxpayers or to Congress—how it spent more than $1.8 trillion in fiscal year 1998."

Horn failed 12 agencies, including some of the largest in government, such as the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Justice and Transportation. Horn gave only two agencies—NASA and the National Science Foundation—an A.

David Walker, comptroller general of the United States, told the subcommittee that weaknesses in information technology were in part to blame for the poor shape of the government's books.

"The central challenge in generating timely, reliable data throughout the year is overhauling financial and related management information systems," Walker said. "Most federal agencies' financial management systems do not meet systems requirements and cannot provide reliable financial information for managing day-to-day government operations and holding managers accountable."

Ed DeSeve, outgoing deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, said changes in accounting standards and requirements have made it difficult for some agencies to balance their books, but he agreed that the government has room to improve on generating an accurate ledger.

"We have set the bar high for ourselves and will redouble our efforts to improve the reliability of financial information provided by agencies," he said.

Following is Horn's report card:

NASA A

NSF A

GSA B-

Labor B-

SSA B-

DOE C

FEMA D+

HUD D+

NRC D+

HHS D-

Treasury D-

VA D-

AID F

USDA F

DOD F

DOJ F

OPM F

Commerce F

Education F

EPA F

Interior F

SBA F

State F

DOT F

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