Academic journal article The Journal of Government Financial Management

AGA's Mission Supports Promoting and Advancing Accountability in Government

Academic journal article The Journal of Government Financial Management

AGA's Mission Supports Promoting and Advancing Accountability in Government

Article excerpt

Governments exist to serve their citizens. Citizens have the right to an understanding of how their government operates and if their tax dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively. And governments have a responsibility to provide that information in an easily understandable way. Government financial statements are too large and too complicated for average citizens, meaning those without a college degree in finance, economics or accounting.

Over the past year, AGA's Citizen-Centric Government Task Force has been discussing this issue and how AGA can contribute to a solution. The task force's main idea is that governments should publish an annual state of the government report to its citizens that is no more than four pages long. Such a report would provide understandable information about the financial condition of the government that would ultimately answer the question, "Are we better off today than we were last year?" The task force believes that the report would make governments more accountable to their citizens and would help Americans become more educated citizens, who are better able to participate in government activities.

Governments would be encouraged to include the report in their local newspaper and post it to their government website, which would provide easy access to the public.

A group of task force members set out to determine what types of information should be included. The result is a draft prototype (see Figure 1) that lays out what information should be included on page one, page two, etc. Members of the group then used the draft prototype to develop mock reports for Virginia Beach, VA, Saco, ME7 and San Marcos, TX. The information was then presented at AGA's Professional Development Conference & Exposition in San Diego in June 2006. The prototype was further refined by the larger group.

In addition to its content, the task force discussed the appearance of the report. AGA brought in its design firm, TGD Communications Inc., to help make the report appealing. TGD recommended using a column grid to organize all the elements on the page, as well as a color palette of no more than three colors for use in any graphics or headlines. The firm suggested limiting the fonts to two families-a serif font such as Times New Roman and a sans-serif font such as Helvetica, for example-and using 10-point type or larger. Following these guidelines will keep the report readable and pleasing to the eye. …

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