U.S. Finds Its Bookkeeping out of Balance: Billions Likely Lost to Waste and Fraud

By Gribbin, August | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

U.S. Finds Its Bookkeeping out of Balance: Billions Likely Lost to Waste and Fraud


Gribbin, August, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The U.S. government can't balance its books and can't properly explain how it spent $1.8 trillion last year or account for $1.6 trillion in such assets as parks, buildings, missile launchers, tanks and paper clips.

That's 1,800,000,000,000 in dollars and $1,600,000,000,000 worth of things - a grand total of $3,400,000,000,000.

The upshot is that, "once again, billions of taxpayer dollars were lost to waste, fraud and mismanagement," says Rep. Steve Horn, California Republican.

Mr. Horn, chairman of the House government reform and oversight subcommittee on government management, information and technology, gave that assessment yesterday as his subcommittee reviewed the government's attempt to produce a Consolidated Financial Statement.

It was the second time in U.S. history that the government has tried to comply with a 1994 law requiring it 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 statement failed to meet accounting standards acceptable to the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm and the government's official auditor.

The accounting failure means the government doesn't employ common business safeguards to know how much money actually has been wasted or stolen. Some lawmakers believe the figure could be in the billions.

In general, the GAO concluded that "because of the serious deficiencies in the government's systems, record-keeping, documentation, financial reporting and controls, amounts reported in the financial statements . . . do not provide a reliable source of information for decision-making by the government or the public. …

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