GAO: Feds need more financial transparency

The federal government needs to improve how it accounts for funding to steer it away from an unsustainable path of increasing debt, the Government Accountability Office said.

It is difficult to know the full financial picture of the federal government because GAO has been unable to give an opinion on the fiscal 2007 Financial Report of the U.S. Government, as it has for the 11 previous years, said Gene Dodaro, acting comptroller general.

“Given the federal government’s current financial condition and the nation’s long-term fiscal challenge, the need for the Congress and federal policy-makers and management to have reliable, useful, and timely financial and performance information is greater than ever,” Dodaro told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee June 26.

Sound decisions about agency programs and policies are more difficult without that information, he said.

He recommended more long-term fiscal simulations and sustainability reporting to expand the understanding of the government’s ability to pay for programs, services and benefits in the future, especially health care and retirement programs.

He cited the eight-page “A Citizen’s Guide to the 2007 Financial Report of the U.S. Government,” which GAO released in February, as an example of making complex federal information more readable and understandable to the public and policy-makers.

David Walker, who resigned as comptroller general in February, told the panel, “People cannot be expected to act if they don’t have the facts, haven’t been told the truth or don’t understand the consequences of failing to act.”

Walker said a documentary called I.O.U.S.A., based on his Fiscal Wake-Up Tour which he conducted in a number of cities while he was comptroller general, will open in theaters in August. The movie warns policymakers and consumers of the difficult fiscal decisions they will have to make.  
 

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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