Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Financial Transparency is Important

After the scandals of Enron and WorldCom Congress enacted Sarbanes Oxley, legislation that put a lot more focus on financial accountability for publicly traded corporations.

While Sarbanes Oxley does not directly apply to government agencies, financial accountability is every bit as important. The public should be able to know that publicly funded agencies are using their resources wisely. While it is not required, many agencies post their audited financial statements and budgets on-line so all can see. If you find an agency that does not do this, I would encourage you to ask for this level of transparency.

The idea of financial transparency is that nothing is hidden. If organizations are well run, there is no need to hide financial information.

We recently concluded our Fiscal Year 2010 audit, and our auditors met with both our Audit Committee and Board to report their findings. Once again we received an "unqualified" report, meaning that our books and financial controls were in good shape. In addition to our auditors saying we are running a tight ship, the Government Financial Officers Association has for a number of years awarded us with the "Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting," their highest award for financial reporting.

As great as it is to have such a good audit, a second challenge is to make financial information accessible and understandable to all. Six years ago our budget consisted of spreadsheet which while they were accurate, were not very easy to understand and use. We undertook a several year process of creating a budget that was easy to read, conveyed the strategic priorities of the organization, and could be used as a tool to record and track performance measures. The result of this process was great. Our budget today is a "go to" document for all kinds of organizational issues. If you want to know how many children went to the Carlyle House Historic Park as a part of school groups (1,182), or how many boat launches took place at Pohick Bay Regional Park (6,365), or what the goals and objectives of any park are, the budget is the place to find the information.

As a result of all the work we put into making our budget an understandable and useful document, we have also won the "Distinguished Budget Presentation" award from the Government Financial Officers Association for several years. This is their highest award for budgets. 

If you would like to see either our Audited Financial Statements or Budgets for the last several years they are available at the following link:

Financial transparency is important for society.

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