Federal Financial Accountability
GAO is required to report on the U.S. government’s consolidated financial statements, but three major impediments continue to prevent an audit opinion.
The Secretary of the Treasury, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, annually prepares consolidated financial statements for the U.S. government for Congress and the administration to use in fiscal decision making. GAO has been required to audit the consolidated financial statements since 1997, but is also mandated to audit various other federal financial statements.
While federal financial management has improved since the federal government began preparing these statements, GAO has been unable to render an audit opinion on the government’s consolidated financial statements because of the following impediments:
- 1. serious financial management problems leading to financial statements from the Department of Defense that cannot be audited;
- 2. the federal government's inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies; and
- 3. the federal government's ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements.
It is important to note that while almost all of the 24 largest federal agencies received unmodified (“clean”) opinions on their most recent financial statements, the Department of Defense has consistently been unable to receive such an audit opinion on its financial statements.
U.S. Government’s Consolidated Financial Statements
- Financial Audit: U.S. Government’s Fiscal Years 2016 and 2015 Consolidated Financial Statements, GAO-17-283R, January 12, 2017
- Financial Audit: U.S. Government’s Fiscal Years 2015 and 2014 Consolidated Financial Statements, GAO-16-357R, February 25, 2016
- Financial Audit: U.S. Government's Fiscal Years 2014 and 2013 Consolidated Financial Statements, GAO-15-341R, February 26, 2015
- Financial Audit: U.S. Government's Fiscal Years 2013 and 2012 Consolidated Financial Statements, GAO-14-319R, February 27, 2014
- Financial Audit: U.S. Government's Fiscal Years 2012 and 2011 Consolidated Financial Statements, GAO-13-271R, January 17, 2013
- Fiscal Year 2011 Financial Report of the United States Government
- Fiscal Year 2010 Financial Report of the United States Government
- Fiscal Year 2009 Financial Report of the United States Government
- Fiscal Year 2008 Financial Report of the United States Government
- Fiscal Year 2007 Financial Report of the United States Government
- Fiscal Year 2006 Financial Report of the United States Government
- Fiscal Year 2005 Financial Report of the United States Government
- Fiscal Year 1997-2004 Financial Reports of the United States Government
Federal Entity Financial Statements
- Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Department of the Treasury
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
- Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
GAO-17-524: Published: Jul 12, 2017. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 2017.
During its audit of the fiscal year 2016 consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government (CFS), GAO identified control deficiencies in the Department of the Treasury's (Treasury) and the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) processes used to prepare the CFS. These control deficiencies contributed to material weaknesses in internal control that involve the federal government's inability...
GAO-17-283R: Published: Jan 12, 2017. Publicly Released: Jan 12, 2017.
To operate as effectively and efficiently as possible, Congress, the administration, and federal managers must have ready access to reliable and complete financial and performance information—both for individual federal entities and for the federal government as a whole. GAO’s report on the U.S. government’s consolidated financial statements for fiscal years 2016 and 2015 underscores that mu...
GAO-16-383: Published: May 26, 2016. Publicly Released: May 26, 2016.
The Department of Defense (DOD), reporting about $630 billion total Property, Plant, and Equipment (PP&E) net of accumulated depreciation as of September 30, 2015, is responsible for over 70 percent of the U.S. government's reported PP&E. However, as GAO and others have previously reported—and made recommendations to address—DOD's accountability over and ability to value its PP&E assets has fo...
GAO-16-541T: Published: Apr 6, 2016. Publicly Released: Apr 6, 2016.
The Financial Report of the U.S. Government ( Financial Report ) provides important information to the Congress, federal agencies, and the public, including the government's financial condition and the reliability of data used to help support budget and financial decisions. While significant progress has been made in improving federal financial management over the past 20 years, material weaknesse...
GAO-16-357R: Published: Feb 25, 2016. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 2016.
To operate as effectively and efficiently as possible and to make difficult decisions to address the federal government’s fiscal challenges, Congress, the administration, and federal managers must have ready access to reliable and complete financial and performance information—both for individual federal entities and for the federal government as a whole. Overall, significant progress has been...
GAO-15-463: Published: Sep 28, 2015. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 2015.
The Department of Defense (DOD) has made progress toward implementing each of the 29 recommendations made by the House Armed Services Committee Panel on Defense Financial Management and Auditability Reform (the panel). GAO determined that DOD's actions met 6 of the panel's recommendations and partially met the other 23. In its May 2015 Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR) Plan Status R...
GAO-15-241T: Published: Dec 3, 2014. Publicly Released: Dec 3, 2014.
GAO's prior work on federal data transparency has found persistent challenges related to the quality and completeness of the spending data agencies report to USAspending.gov. For example, GAO reported in June 2014 that roughly $619 billion in assistance awards were not properly reported. In addition, few reported awards—between 2 and 7 percent—contained information that was fully consistent wi...
GAO-09-946SP: Published: Sep 25, 2009. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 2009.
This guide supersedes GAO-05-958SP, "Understanding the Primary Components of the Annual Financial Report of the United States Government." The U.S. government is the largest, most diverse, most complex, and arguably the most important entity on earth today. Useful, timely, and reliable financial and performance information is needed to make sound decisions on the current results and future directi...