Academic journal article The Journal of Government Financial Management

Strengthening the Foundations of the Accountability Profession

Academic journal article The Journal of Government Financial Management

Strengthening the Foundations of the Accountability Profession

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: During the 2005-2006 program year, then-AGA National President Sam M. McCall, suggested the formation of an empirical research program within AGA that would reflect the goals outlined in his theme "Reporting on Accountability with a Citizen Focus." With the support of AGA Executive Director Relmond Van Daniker, and Sridhar Ramamoorti, McCaII established a task force within AGA's National Executive Committee (NEC) to move this effort forward. NEC member, Wendy Comes, CGFM, led the task force that established the bylaws and clarified the governance structure. The NEC approved the initial funding for the Academy for Government Accountability, which is operating as a 501(c)(3) separate from the Association itself. Ramamoorti agreed to chair the Academy and has since worked with the AGA leadership to form a Board of Trustees to provide stewardship. This article is intended to inform the AGA membership about how the Academy fits into the current accountability landscape and what it hopes to accomplish in the years to come.

What is Government Accountability?

Since he took office in 1998, Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker has asserted that the accounting profession is better characterized as the "accountability profession." Indeed, it is this belief that led him in 2004 to spearhead changing the name of the General Accounting Office to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). After all, merely providing an accounting is drastically less onerous than being held accountable. We commend Walker for initiating this change, which is more than merely semantic, as it recognizes accountability professionals as the gatekeepers of financial integrity and stewardship in government today. We also welcome the entrée into the emerging discipline of accountability and accountability professionals that the Academy for Government Accountability will promote and support in the coming years.

Government accountability needs to be about stewardship, transparency, accountability and citizen-centric government. Such an enlightened public service orientation is necessary to maintain public trust and confidence. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) stated this year, "For governments, information necessary to make political and social decisions is as important as information necessary to make economic decisions in shaping accounting and financial reporting objectives." Further, the exposure draft of the revised Yellow Book (Government Auditing Standards) charges government officials entrusted with public resources as being responsible for carrying out public functions efficiently, economically, effectively, ethically, equitably and legally (emphases added).

With the rising prominence of the term "accountability" in federal, state and local government contexts, it is important that as a nation we educate and train a whole new generation of accountability professionals. This article will briefly explore the conceptual foundations of the accountability profession, and describe the role of AGAs newly resurrected Academy for Government Accountability in strengthening the accountability profession through research and education initiatives.

Accounting, Accountability and Government Financial Management

Accounting as an academic discipline typically gets characterized as a subfield of economics. Despite the fact that the father of modern economics, Adam Smith, was a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow, contemporary economics has largely eschewed "equity considerations" to focus almost exclusively on efficiency. Efficiency-oriented economics and ethics do not mix very well. The focus on efficiency does allow some economists to claim that economics is a "value-free," "value-neutral" or an amoral science. In contrast, as accountability professionals we are not just dealing with problems of fact and efficiency, we are also constantly grappling with problems of value as well as values. …

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