Watchdog: Government Still Has Big Financial Management Problems

Jim Barber/

The usefulness of the government’s consolidated financial statements, though improved in recent years, remains hampered by “material weaknesses,” primarily at the departments of Defense and Health and Human Services, that prevent auditors from rendering an audit opinion, the Government Accountability Office reported.

In its mandatory audit of the government’s fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2012 consolidated financial statements released Thursday, the congressional watchdog pointed to three issues affecting the government’s estimate of its assets, liabilities and costs that urgently need improvement. They include “serious financial management problems” at the Defense Department; a governmentwide inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal entities; and an “ineffective process” for preparing the consolidated financial statements.

GAO noted that the Pentagon accounts for about 33 percent of the government’s total assets and about 16 percent of fiscal 2013 spending, but the agency has been given a “disclaimer of opinion” on its consolidated financial statements. Similarly, uncertainties in the growth rate of Medicare and Social Security, which account for 68.8 percent of the value of future expenditures in excess of future revenue, are responsible for HHS’ disclaimer of opinion.

Further crimping the government’s broader ability to get a grip on finances is an inability to determine the full extent of improper payments and actions to prevent them; unresolved information security control deficiencies; and effective management of tax collection activities, GAO said.

“Reliable financial and performance information is even more critical as federal managers likely face increasingly tight budget constraints and need to operate their respective entities as efficiently and effectively as possible,” the report said, “The comprehensive long-term fiscal projections … show that—absent policy changes—the federal government continues to face an unsustainable long-term fiscal path.” 

(Image via Jim Barber/

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.