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You Don’t Have to be Steve Ballmer to Gain Access to Federal Financial Information

The following is a commentary by Scott Showalter, professor of practice, NC State Poole College Department of Accounting and chair of the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board.1

Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, was recently featured in a Bloomberg Technology article for his effort to assemble information “to create a comprehensive accounting for U.S. spending.” The article states Steve and a team of 25 data geeks have been working to create what he describes as a “10-K for the government.” Lucky for you, you don’t need 25 data geeks to obtain financial information about the federal government.

The federal government already issues a “10-K.” It’s called the “Financial Report of the United States Government” and it can be found on the Department of the Treasury website. The financial report contains a complete set of financial statements, management’s discussion and analysis, a comprehensive set of disclosures – all similar to public company financial statements. However, the federal government financial statements goes beyond public companies by discussing the fiscal sustainability of the federal government – an often referenced element of the report.  In case you were in doubt, the report confirms “the current fiscal policies cannot be sustained indefinitely.” So you can check off the development of a 10-K for the Federal government.

If you would like additional information not provided in traditional financial statements, over the past several years, the current administration has significantly expanded the amount and accessibility of information about the spending of the federal government – no doubt some of the same locations the 25 data geeks tapped. Such sites include USASpending.Gov and Congress recognized how important the USASpending website is when it passed the “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014” to make existing information more accurate and accessible.

The fact that knowledgeable individuals like Mr. Ballmer set forth to develop such information speaks to the lack of awareness about the availability of such information. To minimize the cost of hiring 25 data geeks, I suggest you try any of the data sources mentioned above. Happy analysis.

1 The views in this article reflect the views of the author only and not those of the FASAB.