Congress and the President need reliable, useful, and timely financial information so they can make difficult budget choices and deal with the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges. Each year, we audit the governmentwide financial statements to help make sure good information is available. These statements show what money is coming in, what the government owns and owes, and how federal agencies spent their money. Today’s WatchBlog explores this year’s audit, and why we couldn’t sign off on the government’s books—again. The government’s books come with a disclaimer After completing our audit of the governmentwide financial statements, we can give 1 of 4 possible opinions. If everything is in order, we can give the best opinion—unmodified—which means that the information follows accounting standards and is reliable. Other types of opinions include qualified, also known as modified—meaning we found problems in specific areas, but no overall show stoppers; and adverse—the problems we found are bad and extensive. Finally, we may issue no opinion, which is referred to as a disclaimer. We have to issue a disclaimer when we can’t complete the audit steps needed to provide an opinion. And, for fiscal year 2015, that’s what we again gave the governmentwide financial statements, because of
- serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense,
- problems with how the governmentwide financial statements are prepared,
- poor accounting when federal entities engage in activities with one another, and
- significant uncertainties about projected spending for the Medicare program.