If we still care about financial reform, we should especially care about proposed changes to the Government Accounting Standards Board because, let’s face it, government accounting could really use a helping hand. Were government pensions forced to use the same reporting rules as every other pension, a $3 trillion hole would open up and we would see immediately that rules in desperate need of repair have remained broken because the current system allows the truth to be buried in the footnotes.
As is, GASB is funded by voluntary contributions given by state and local governments out of the goodness of their hearts (yeah right) and through sales of its publications.
The concern is that should GASB be unable to pay the bills, the federal government may be forced to swoop in and babysit. The potential for conflicts of interest should not escape dear reader as this would be akin to investors owning the SEC or Fed-regulated banks owning the Federal Reserve (oh wait, they already do). Is that any worse than what we’ve got now?
How bad is their financial situation? GASB reported a $3.83 million budget shortfall in 2009 and projected a $4.46 million shortfall for 2010.
So why, if we’re still talking about financial reform, are we not talking about its potential impact on GASB?
Under new financial reform rules, the GAO would be forced to evaluate GASB’s role (read: usefulness) in standards setting within 180 days of the proposal’s passage. How likely would it be for the GAO to call an issuer-funded agency that’s allowed government pensions to conceal $3 trillion in liabilities a blaring and obvious failure? The SEC could then direct FINRA to collect assessments from dealers that would go towards funding GASB. Obviously this piece of legislation has been written by Congressmen who don’t know how to do anything without making it as complicated as possible.
Financial reform has already cleared the House while the Senate is expected to vote within the next two weeks after returning from recess.
Adrienne Gonzalez is the founder of Jr. Deputy Accountant, a former CPA wrangler and a Going Concern contributor. You can see more of her posts here and all posts on the CPA Exam here.