Fast Facts

Every year we audit the federal debt, which the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Fiscal Service manages. The Schedule of Federal Debt reported that as of Sept. 30, 2020, it was about $26.9 trillion.

Fiscal Service made some progress since our last audit. However, information system weaknesses that we found in prior audits remain unresolved and new weaknesses found through our most recent work continue to pose risks. These risks involve the potential for unauthorized access to, modification of, or disclosure of, sensitive data and programs.

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Highlights

What GAO Found

During GAO's audit of the Schedules of Federal Debt managed by the Department of the Treasury's Bureau of the Fiscal Service (Fiscal Service) for the fiscal years ended September 30, 2020, and 2019, GAO determined that information system control deficiencies—primarily unresolved deficiencies from prior audits—continued to collectively represent a significant deficiency in Fiscal Service's internal control over financial reporting.

GAO identified four new deficiencies related to security management, configuration management, and segregation of duties. In a separately issued LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY report, GAO communicated to Fiscal Service management detailed information regarding the four new information system general control deficiencies and made eight recommendations to address them.

During GAO's follow-up on the status of Fiscal Service's corrective actions to address information system control deficiencies contained in GAO's prior years' reports that were not remediated as of September 30, 2019, GAO determined that Fiscal Service completed corrective actions for five of the 21 open recommendations, and its corrective actions were still in progress for 16 open recommendations related to security management, access controls, and configuration management. In the LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY report, GAO communicated detailed information regarding actions taken by Fiscal Service to address the control deficiencies that were not remediated as of September 30, 2019.

These new and continuing information system control deficiencies, which collectively represent a significant deficiency, increase the risk of unauthorized access to, modification of, or disclosure of sensitive data and programs and disruption of critical operations. The potential effect of these deficiencies on Schedule of Federal Debt financial reporting for fiscal year 2020 was mitigated primarily by Fiscal Service's compensating management and reconciliation controls designed to detect potential misstatements on the Schedule of Federal Debt.

Why GAO Did This Study

GAO is required to audit the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government. Because of the significance of the federal debt held by the public to the government-wide financial statements, GAO audits Fiscal Service's Schedules of Federal Debt annually. As part of these audits, GAO assesses key information system controls over Fiscal Service financial systems that are relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt.

This report presents the deficiencies identified during GAO's fiscal year 2020 testing of key information system controls over Fiscal Service financial systems that are relevant to the Schedule of Federal Debt. This report also includes the results of GAO's fiscal year 2020 follow-up on the status of Fiscal Service's corrective actions to address information system control deficiencies contained in GAO's prior years' reports that were not remediated as of September 30, 2019.

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Recommendations

In a separately issued LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY report, GAO made eight recommendations to address the four new information system general control deficiencies related to security management, configuration management, and segregation of duties. In commenting on a draft of the separately issued LIMITED OFFICIAL USE ONLY report, Fiscal Service stated that it is establishing a comprehensive audit remediation plan to resolve the four new deficiencies and the prior year deficiencies related to the 16 recommendations that remained open as of September 30, 2020. GAO plans to follow up to determine the status of corrective actions taken to address these deficiencies during its audit of the fiscal year 2021 Schedule of Federal Debt.

Full Report

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