Agencies get finances in order

For the first time ever, half of the 24 largest federal agencies have submitted clean and on-time audit opinions to Congress.

Twelve of the 17 federal agencies that submitted their fiscal 2000 financial statements to Congress this week received clean audit opinions, the highest number ever. The Department of Treasury stood out for getting a clean, or "unqualified," opinion for the first time ever. The State Department recorded its first clean, on-time opinion.

"This is great news," a congressional source said. The 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act requires the 24 largest federal departments and agencies to produce annual audited financial statements. Seven agencies have yet to turn in their fiscal 2000 statements. Auditors gave clean opinions to only 11 of the 24 largest agencies' fiscal 1999 books as of March 1 last year. Clean opinions on audited financial statements indicate sound financial management. But clean opinions don't present a complete picture of an agency's fiscal health. Last year, the General Accounting Office reported that of the 24 agencies covered under the Chief Financial Officers Act, only the Energy Department, NASA and the National Science Foundation fully complied with the financial requirements of the 1996 Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996. The Office of Personnel Management's fiscal 2000 statement was judged to be "presented fairly, in all material respects, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States," according to the auditing firm KPMG LLP. OPM has received a disclaimer on its financial statements for the past two years. "I am extremely proud of this accomplishment. It demonstrates that OPM is committed to fulfilling its stewardship responsibilities with sound financial management practices," said OPM Acting Director Steven Cohen. While the Defense Department overall did not receive a clean audit, two offices within Defense did, the Military Retirement Fund and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "has indicated that he intends to include financial management reform among his top priorities. He has initiated a review of the department's financial operations, as well as the initiatives that the department currently has under way or planned, to improve financial management within the department," Defense's deputy chief financial officer, Nelson Toye, wrote in a letter accompanying the department's financial statement. Federal Agencies' Financial Audit Results
New fiscal 2000 audit opinions are highlighed

Agency FY 2000
Audit Opinion*
FY 1999
Audit Opinion*
FY 1998
Audit Opinion*
Agency for International Development Disclaimer Disclaimer Disclaimer
Agriculture Disclaimer Disclaimer Disclaimer
Commerce** N/A Unqualified Unqualified/ Disclaimer
Defense Disclaimer Disclaimer Disclaimer
Education Qualified Qualified Disclaimer
Energy Unqualified Unqualified Qualified
Environmental Protection Agency Unqualified Qualified Unqualified
Federal Emergency Management Agency Unqualified Unqualified Unqualified
General Services Administration Unqualified Unqualified Unqualified
Health and Human Services N/A Unqualified Qualified
Housing & Urban Development N/A Disclaimer Unqualified
Interior Unqualified Late Unqualified
Justice Qualified*** Qualified Disclaimer
Labor Unqualified Unqualified Unqualified
NASA N/A Unqualified Unqualified
National Science Foundation N/A Unqualified Unqualified
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Unqualified Unqualified Unqualified
Office of Personnel Management Unqualified Disclaimer Disclaimer
Small Business Administration Unqualified Unqualified Unqualified
Social Security Administration Unqualified Unqualified Unqualified
State Unqualified Late Unqualified
Transportation N/A Late Disclaimer
Treasury Unqualified Qualified Qualified
Veterans Affairs N/A Late Qualified

* An unqualified opinion means the agency's financial statements were reliable. A qualified opinion means segments of the statements were not reliable. A disclaimer of opinion means the auditor could not determine if the information in the statement was reliable. Late means the agency did not turn in its financial statement on time.

** In fiscal 1998, Commerce received an unqualified opinion on its balance sheet and a disclaimer on its other financial statements.

*** In fiscal 2000, Justice received an unqualified opinion on its balance sheet and custodial activity statement.