Guide offers best practices for accountability reports

A new how-to guide for agency financial managers offers useful tips for putting together annual accountability reports, those snapshot financial reports that are the federal equivalent of corporate annual reports. Although agencies have been strongly encouraged to produce the reports, they have not been required by law to do so; next year, the Office of Management and Budget will require all agencies to produce accountability reports that incorporate performance measurement data. The guide, "Accountability Reporting Trends & Techniques," by KPMG LLP's federal services division, evaluates the 2000 fiscal year accountability reports of 21 agencies. The scope and content of accountability reports varies considerably across agencies. The guide provides details on everything from how agencies formatted their reports, to the information they provided. Those agencies seeking to improve their reports, or those compiling reports for the first time next year, will find practical examples of how other agencies have successfully presented management information, financial and performance data and planning and mission goals. "We thought a document that demonstrated best practices would be useful," said John Hummel, a partner at KPMG. He offered a few words of advice for those agencies just getting started: start early, plan well and give one influential individual the responsibility--and authority--to pull together information from across the agency. For the sake of clarity and consistency, the staff compiling the report must be able to edit information and recast it to reflect a unified theme, or at least rewrite it using a consistent voice. One pleasant finding, Hummel said, was how good many of the accountability reports were. "I think all federal managers involved in preparing these reports should be commended for their work. These people worked very hard on these [reports] and they are excellent documents."
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