Financial Management:

Forest Service's Efforts to Achieve Financial Accountability

AIMD-99-68R: Published: Feb 8, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 8, 1999.

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Linda M. Calbom
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Forest Service's progress in improving the reliability of its accounting and financial data.

GAO noted that: (1) the Forest Service has recently hired experienced staff to fill key financial management and systems positions; (2) the Forest Service is also in the process of consolidating its budgeting, financial management, financial systems development and operations, and related analytical and quality assurance functions into a new central office headed by the Chief Financial Officer; (3) this new organization and management team will help provide the strong management and leadership needed by the Forest Service to correct its longstanding accounting deficiencies and achieve financial accountability; (4) the Forest Service still faces major challenges and tight timeframes if it is to achieve its goal of an unqualified audit opinion on its fiscal year 2000 financial statements; implement its new accounting system, the Foundation Financial Information System, by October 1, 1999; hire additional skilled accounting and systems personnel; and produce reliable financial information that can be used for making business decisions; (5) the Forest Service must decide how to deal with a key issue regarding its autonomous field structure as it relates to financial management; (6) the Forest Service must decide whether it will mirror the national office's financial management organizational structure throughout the field, including hiring chief financial officers at the regional level; and (7) in summary, as GAO has emphasized in its prior reports, achieving financial accountability will require the concentrated effort and sustained commitment of Forest Service management and staff.

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