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When the GAO released the results of the first-ever audit of the U.S. government on April 1st, it issued a disclaimer of opinion for the executive branch. In fact, only 10 of the government's 24 agencies and departments received an unqualified opinion. So why hasn't there been more public outcry on the government's poor performance?

The answer is not a simple one given the complexity of the 66-page consolidated financial statements, but the age-old problem of the difficulty in effectively communicating technical accounting and auditing issues to the public likely plays a role. While The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and other major publications ran articles at the time of the financial report's release and reported on the problems that the GAO identified, few, if any, media outlets raised serious alarm.

Even the executive branch itself does not appear worried. The Wall Street Journal (May 31, 1998) reported that administration officials "weren't concerned about the report. They said the government expects to meet a goal set by President Clinton of receiving a clean inspection from the GAO for fiscal 1999." Yet, these officials, who spoke only with the condition of anonymity, offered no strategies on how the government plans to clean up its act so quickly.

The accounting profession, primarily through the AICPA's activities, supported the Government Management Reform Act of 1994 which mandated the audit, and the AICPA released a statement commending the GAO's recent efforts. While acknowledging the less-than-stellar performance of the government, the institute stressed that "the audit process helps identify and remedy inadequacies in the Federal government's financial management system." The profession should continue to track this issue and the government's response to insure that its statement indeed becomes a reality. It is clearly in the profession's public interest role to monitor government financial performance.

The CPA Journal plans to do its own part to focus more attention on the issue. Watch for an article in an upcoming issue this summer for an in-depth analysis of the government audit. *

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

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