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GSA's closed financial books... and an appology

This morning on Federal News Radio, GSA CFO Kathleen M. Turco was on talking about how the agency's fiscal 2006 financial statements earned an unqualified, or "clean," audit from independent auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers. You can hear Turco in Windows Media Format here.

This is no small step -- for any agency. But it is a particularly significant step for GSA, which has been struggling.

A clean audit, however, does not address the real questions about GSA's financial situation: What is GSA's financial health? For most of this year, FCW has been working to have GSA make its financial data public. We are interested in not only seeing its annual reports. What matters is the real data that provides an indication of GSA's financial health.

In April, FCW opined that it was time for GSA to come forth with real data that could demonstrate the agency's health. Here is a part of what we said back then:

GSA has never released extensive financial information. But this is an unusual time in the agency's history. Its officials have argued that the financial numbers are constantly changing. Yet, they are making decisions based on those numbers.

GSA wants to operate like a business, and releasing financial information would be an important step in that transformation. Public companies release quarterly reports on the status of their fiscal health. Yet, GSA, which is a steward of the public's money, has chosen to say almost nothing.

Unfortunately we can say the same thing today. We do not make the request of all agencies. But not all agencies are in the financial situation that GSA is in these days. By most accounts, earlier this year, the agency was teetering. Yes, the agency has made great strides, but it still faces some real issues. The public and the community -- both government and industry -- are not able to participate in discussion about GSA because the agency will not provide data to assess its health.

It seems remarkable that a government agency -- an agency that is spending taxpayer dollars -- would refuse to make its financial records available to the public.

All of that being said, I owe Kathleen Turco an appology. During my appearance on Federal News Radio, I was inappropriate in particular toward her. It was wrong. Turco and I have had -- how do they say it over at the State Department? -- frank and honest discussions about whether financial data should be made public. We simply disagree. I stand by most of my comments -- this data should be made public. But during my radio bit, I said something to the effect that she will eventually be gone from GSA. That could obviously be seen as a personal shot against her. It was not meant to be. To the contrary, I have great respect for her efforts to put GSA on the right financial track and getting a clean bill from auditors is a significant step. For that, she deserves major kudos.

But GSA should make its financial records public. It is good for the agency and it is good for government.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Nov 27, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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