Consolidated U.S. Balance Sheet Draws Fire

Borrowing a practice from business, the Treasury Dept. and the Office of Management & Budget for the first time have published consolidated financial management statements that list the federal government's major liabilities and assets. But the statements, released Mar. 31, have drawn criticism from the General Accounting Office (GAO), Congress' auditing arm. Poor record keeping by federal agencies, says GAO in a draft report, "prevent the government from accurately reporting a large portion of its assets, liabilities, and costs." Congressional Republicans also are criticizing the statements for their failure to reflect waste, fraud, and abuse in agencies. Even Vice President Al Gore acknowledged in a statement "that some agencies continue to lack the proper systems to account for their assets, payments, and transfers." But he said the agencies are making progress in improving their financial reporting.

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