Financial Management:

USDA Continues to Face Major Financial Management Challenges

T-AIMD-00-334: Published: Sep 27, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 27, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed Department of Agriculture (USDA) financial management issues, focusing on USDA's challenges in: (1) implementing the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 and related accounting standards; (2) reconciling its Fund Balance with Treasury accounts; (3) addressing weaknesses in the Forest Service's financial accounting and reporting; and (4) correcting certain other material internal control weaknesses.

GAO noted that: (1) USDA continues to face major challenges in correcting severe and long-standing financial management problems and achieving financial accountability; (2) during the last 2 years USDA financial managers have taken these challenges seriously and made a commitment of resources not only to resolve financial management weaknesses that have precluded the agency from receiving an unqualified, or "clean" opinion on its financial statements, but also to begin moving toward a long-term goal of achieving financial accountability; (3) there is one notable exception, however, to GAO's assessment of USDA's efforts; (4) in August 2000, GAO reported that the Rural Development Service, one of USDA's major component agencies, has made slow progress in improving credit program cost estimates and missed several milestone dates because of a shortage in both the staff and funding resources that are needed to resolve long-standing credit reform weaknesses; and (5) because of this issue, USDA is likely several years away from achieving financial accountability.

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