4 March 2004
Generally appalling accounting practices
Call it the Feds' Annual Report: it's the Fiscal Year 2003 U.S. Government Financial Statements [requires Adobe Reader], published under the auspices of the General Accounting Office, and of its 33 pages, ten of them (22 through 31 inclusive) are devoted to explaining why these numbers really don't mean anything.
This paragraph, at the beginning of Appendix III ("Material Deficiencies"), is instructive:
The federal government did not maintain adequate systems or have sufficient, reliable evidence to support information reported in the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government, as described below. These material deficiencies contributed to our disclaimer of opinion on the consolidated financial statements and also constitute material weaknesses in internal control.
These days, not even the cynics can keep up.