Magazine article Insight on the News

Feds' Books off Balance

Magazine article Insight on the News

Feds' Books off Balance

Article excerpt

For the second time since Congress passed a law requiring the government to account for itself, Washington failed to balance its books -- it's off a couple trillion bucks.

The U.S. government can't balance its books, can't properly explain how it spent $1.8 trillion last year, can't account for $1.6 trillion in assets such as parks, buildings, missile launchers, tanks and paper clips. That's 1,800,000,000,000 in dollars and $1,600,000,000,000 in property -- a grand total of $3.4 trillion.

"Once again, billions of taxpayer dollars were lost to waste, fraud and mismanagement" says Rep. Steve Horn, a California Republican.

Horn, chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, recently reviewed the government's efforts to produce a Consolidated Financial Statement. The report was the second attempt to comply with a 1994 law requiring the government to account in a businesslike way for the revenues, expenditures and assets of the 24 Cabinet-level departments and agencies -- a total of 70 agencies with some 2,000 components.

And, for the second time, the government failed to meet accounting standards acceptable to the General Accounting Office, or GAO, Congress' investigative arm and the government's official auditor. In short, the government doesn't employ common business safeguards to account for money wasted or stolen. Some lawmakers believe the figure could be in the billions.

"Because of the serious deficiencies in the government's systems, recordkeeping, documentation, financial reporting and controls, amounts reported in the financial statements . …

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