The Status of Government Accounting Courses at Major U.S. Colleges and Universities

Article excerpt

* This paper is the report from the AGA Task Force on the Status of Government Accounting Courses at U.S. Colleges and Universities and contains suggestions as to activity that conceivably could enhance the teaching of these important subjects.

We are in an era of renewal, restructuring and reinventing. The tempo of the country is "improvement," especially as applied to government. We are being forced to do this by economic pressure. However, episodic tales of waste and mismanagement are shocking tax-paying citizenry as well. Revenue shortfalls and expenditure growth caused by inflation, new demands and an expansion of the concepts of public accountability have produced a situation where changes must be made. Recent legislation at all levels of government sparked by the Chief Financial Officers Act, the Government Performance and Results Acts, and by the work of Vice Presidents Gore's study groups on restructuring the government have emphasized the need for dependable information on which to base government decision making.

Information is needed to assist in measuring productivity and efficiency, to assist in the discharge of accountability, to help in the safeguarding of assets and to provide the detail needed as to the content of government assets and liabilities. The source of much of this information is found in government accounting. Unless the accounting is proper, the information is flawed. Unless those who prepare the information, the accountants, and those who examine and attest to it, the auditors, are knowledgeable, the information itself will not be credible. Without credibility information cannot be used with assurance for structuring government activity that can assist in the progressive changes that the public is demanding.

Accountants and auditors in government must be instructed, like any other professional group to function to a high degree of efficiency. The source of this instruction must be more than on-the-job training. It must be structured, complete, authoritative and innovative. It must be conducted by professionals and instructors who are knowledgeable of current developments in the field and who can give breadth to the instruction by covering ancillary areas that impact materially on the basic subjects: government accounting and auditing.

Several organizations are attempting to fill some of the void resulting from the lack of current collegiate activity.

* The Association of Government Accountants is conducting courses in its annual professional development conferences and in periodic seminars;

* The Government and Nonprofit Section of the American Accounting Association conducts government accounting-oriented seminars;

* The American Institute of CPAs has a governmental accounting seminar program of courses offered throughout the country; and

* The Government Finance Officers Association has a program of government accounting-oriented courses throughout the country.

Though the above is helpful it does not take the place of government accounting and auditing taught by professionally experienced academicians. It is essential that steps be taken to resolve this problem.

However, financial officials are concerned that today's colleges and universities are not providing entry level personnel who are knowledgeable of government accounting. Government audit officials and public accountants are concerned that colleges and universities are not providing entry level personnel who are knowledgeable of government auditing. The colleges and universities seem unconcerned in some cases: in other cases there are cost constraints that limit this activity.

Government accounting and thus government financial auditing are unique enough to require a knowledge of the government accounting philosophy, concepts and methodology in order to comprehend sufficiently so as to perform effectively. Although changes are being made that are drawing government accounting closer to commercial accounting, these changes have been negated by recent activities of the Government Accounting Standards Board which delayed the implementation of its Statement 11 that would have been a giant step towards resolving the problem of change. …