Making Accounting Serve Government Better--A Challenge to the Accounting Profession]

Gao ID: 111024 December 10, 1979

Background on some of the current and emerging problems facing the accounting profession is presented focusing on the General Accounting Office (GAO) which is responsible for establishing the accounting and financial reporting principles and procedures for the Federal Government. Two questions challenge professional accountants in the Federal Government: (1) how can accountants help managers use financial data in their decisionmaking, and (2) how can accountants help managers develop better internal control procedures, using advanced computer technology, to detect misuse, waste, and theft of public resources. GAO is working closely with managers and accountants to improve agency accounting systems and the financial information developed. This is the way to better managerial decisionmaking and control of public funds and other resources and assets. Government accountants, financial executives, and managers also need the help and support of the private sector. The accounting profession should develop and implement a research and development program including five steps: (1) the types of financial information and analyses accountants and accounting systems give managers should be reevaluated focusing on how historical financial information can be a basis for predicting financial consequences of alternative actions; (2) ways should be devised so that the profession can take advantage of modern computer capability to enhance controls over an organization's resources and increase the probability of ultimately disclosing fraud and abuse; (3) an educational program should be undertaken to break down negative attitudes among accounting professionals; (4) reports sent to individuals outside a Government or business entity should be reevaluated to determine ways to make these reports more meaningful; and (5) a careful study should be made of the complex problems of assigning dollar values to the Government's products and services so these values can be compared with what they cost the Government as a basis for deciding which programs to keep, which ones to abandon, and which ones to start.

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