Not a new policy: missingmoney.solari.com
In an apparent departure from “generally accepted accounting principles,” federal agencies will be permitted to publish financial statements that are altered so as to protect information on classified spending from disclosure.
The new policy was developed by the government’s Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB) in response to concerns raised by the Department of Defense and others that a rigorous audit of agency financial statements could lead to unauthorized disclosure of classified information.
In order to prevent disclosure of classified information in a public financial statement, FASAB said that agencies may amend or obscure certain spending information. “An entity may modify information required by other [accounting] standards if the effect of the modification does not change the net results of operations or net position.”
Agencies may also shift accounts around in a potentially misleading way. “A component reporting entity is allowed to be excluded from one reporting entity and consolidated into another reporting entity. The effect of the modifications may change the net results of operations and/or net position.” See Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Standards 56, FASAB, July 5, 2018 (final draft for sponsor review).
In response to an earlier draft of the new standard that was issued last December, most government agencies endorsed the move to permit modifying public financial statements.
“The protection of classified information and national security takes precedence over financial statements,” declared the Central Intelligence Agency in its comments (submitted discreetly under the guise of an “other government agency”).
“It is in the best interest of national security to allow for modification to the presentation of balances and reporting entity in the GPFFR [the publicly available General Purpose Federal Financial Report],” CIA wrote.
But in a sharply dissenting view, the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General said the new approach was improper, unwise and unnecessary.
It “jeopardizes the financial statements’ usefulness and provides financial managers with an arbitrary method of reporting accounting information,” the DoD OIG said.
“We do not agree that incorporating summary-level dollar amounts in the overall statements will necessarily result in the release of classified information.”
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