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Financial Audit: U.S. Government's Fiscal Years 2012 and 2011 Consolidated Financial Statements

GAO-13-271R Published: Jan 17, 2013. Publicly Released: Jan 17, 2013.
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What GAO Found

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. Even though significant progress has been made since the enactment of key federal financial management reforms in the 1990s, GAO’s report on the U.S. government’s consolidated financial statements illustrates that much work remains to improve federal financial management. Further improvements are urgently needed.

GAO found the following:

  • Certain material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting and other limitations on the scope of its work resulted in conditions that prevented GAO from expressing an opinion on the fiscal years 2012 and 2011 accrual-based consolidated financial statements. About 34 percent of the federal government’s reported total assets as of September 30, 2012, and approximately 21 percent of the federal government’s reported net cost for fiscal year 2012 relate to the Department of Defense (DOD), which received a disclaimer of opinion on its consolidated financial statements.
  • Because of significant uncertainties, primarily related to the achievement of projected reductions in Medicare cost growth reflected in the 2012, 2011, and 2010 Statements of Social Insurance, GAO was unable to express opinions on the 2012, 2011, and 2010 Statements of Social Insurance, as well as on the 2012 and 2011 Statements of Changes in Social Insurance Amounts. About $27.2 trillion, or 70.5 percent, of the reported total present value of future expenditures in excess of future revenue presented in the 2012 Statement of Social Insurance relates to Medicare programs reported in the Department of Health and Human Services’ 2012 Statement of Social Insurance, which received a disclaimer of opinion.
  • Material weaknesses resulted in ineffective internal control over financial reporting for fiscal year 2012.
  • GAO’s tests of compliance with selected provisions of laws and regulations for fiscal year 2012 were limited by the material weaknesses and other scope limitations discussed in the report.

While significant progress has been made in improving federal financial management since the federal government began preparing consolidated financial statements 16 years ago, three major impediments continued to prevent GAO from rendering an opinion on the federal government’s accrual-based consolidated financial statements over this period: (1) serious financial management problems at DOD that have prevented its financial statements from being auditable, (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.

In addition to the material weaknesses underlying these major impediments, GAO identified four other material weaknesses. These are the federal government’s inability to (1) determine the full extent to which improper payments occur and reasonably assure that appropriate actions are taken to reduce improper payments, (2) identify and resolve information security control deficiencies and manage information security risks on an ongoing basis, (3) effectively manage its tax collection activities, and (4) effectively monitor and report loans receivable and loan guarantee liabilities.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Secretary of the Treasury, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, is required to annually submit audited financial statements for the U.S. government to the President and Congress. GAO is required to audit these statements. The Government Management Reform Act of 1994 has required such reporting, covering the executive branch of government, beginning with financial statements prepared for fiscal year 1997. The federal government has elected to include certain financial information on the legislative and judicial branches in the consolidated financial statements as well.

For more information, contact Robert F. Dacey at (202) 512-3406 or or Gary T. Engel, at (202) 512-3406 or

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Financial auditFinancial reportingEconomic analysisEconomic growthEconomic stabilizationEconomic researchFinancial managementFinancial statementsCost growthCorrective actionFederal agenciesAssetsPerformance measuresImproper paymentsInformation securityRisk managementTaxesMonitoringLoansInvestmentsMaterial weaknessInternal controls