Magazine article Government Finance Review

Start Studying: The First GFOA Certification Exam

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Start Studying: The First GFOA Certification Exam

Article excerpt

On April 25, 1997, public finance officials will assemble in seven cities to take the GFOA certification program's Accounting, Auditing, and Financial Reporting Examination - the first of five exams to be offered for becoming a Certified Public Finance Officer (CPFO). Although it is too late to register for the late-April testing date, another form of the Accounting, Auditing, and Financial Reporting exam will be administered on May 30 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The registration deadline is May 2.

The certification program's objective is to prepare practitioners to be finance officers and to maintain the currency of their knowledge, now and in the future. The program requires a comprehensive understanding of the core finance functions:

* governmental accounting, auditing, and financial reporting;

* cash management and investments;

* debt management;

* operating and capital budgeting; and

* pension and benefits, risk management, and procurement.

These are the categories for the program's five exams. In addition to passing all five exams, practitioners must participate in 30 hours of continuing professional education annually to maintain their CPFO status.

Several criteria must be met in order for a candidate to be eligible to participate in the certification program. Candidates must have earned a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution. They must have, or be actively seeking, primary employment with a government and have at least three years of government experience within the last 10 years. Active-membership status in GFOA (or eligibility thereof) is required, and candidates must accept and observe the GFOA Code of Professional Ethics. The application fee for the first examination a candidate takes is $295, while the candidate's subsequent exams will cost $145 each. GFOA has prepared a Candidate's Guide, which provides complete information about the certification program.

Preparing for Examinations

One new exam category will be administered each year. Candidates will be allowed three and one-half hours to complete an exam, which consists of 175 multiple-choice questions. The questions will cover the information presented in the materials on the reading lists of publications. The reading list for the Accounting, Auditing, and Financial Reporting Exam, for example, includes chapters from Governmental Accounting, Auditing and Financial Reporting, the GAAFR Study Guide, and Local Government Finance: Concepts and Practices; Evaluating Internal Controls: A Local Government Perspective; related volumes in the Elected Official's Guide series, and The Audit Management Handbook. These materials may be available at local public or university libraries or can be purchased from GFOA. By studying the materials on the reading lists, as well as additional preparation materials provided by GFOA, candidates can prepare themselves for the exams.

Governmental Accounting, Auditing, and Financial Reporting. In passing the Accounting, Auditing, and Financial Reporting Exam, candidates demonstrate that they have a sufficient level of proficiency with these topics to fulfill the responsibilities of a typical state or local government finance officer. The exam will not have candidates making journal entries to prove that they are professional accountants or auditors; rather, the exam tests their competence as professional finance officers.

Seventy-five questions will focus on accounting and internal controls. The bulk of these will focus on internal controls: their objectives, the components of an internal control system, and evaluating the controls. …

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