Reports submitted to the COA program are reviewed by selected members of the GFOA professional staff and the GFOA Special Review Committee (SRC), which comprises individuals with expertise in public sector financial reporting and includes financial statement preparers, independent auditors, academics, and other finance professionals.
Each annual comprehensive financial report is reviewed using a checklist designed to determine compliance with both generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and program policy as established by the GFOA's Special Review Executive Committee and the GFOA Executive Board. Reviews are performed by GFOA staff and members of the GFOA's Special Review Committee, which comprises individuals from government, the public accounting profession, and academe who possess specialized expertise in governmental financial reporting, typically as a result of either preparing or auditing an annual comprehensive financial report that has received the Certificate of Achievement. Reviewers are never selected from the same state as the report being reviewed or from the same firm that performed the independent audit.
A Certificate is awarded only if there is consensus among reviewers that an annual comprehensive financial report substantially complies with both GAAP and program policy. Failure to comply with any checklist item marked by an asterisk (*) is considered, of itself, sufficient evidence to justify a determination that a report has failed to substantially comply with both GAAP and program policy.
In certain limited circumstances (e.g., adoption of a new authoritative standard), an annual comprehensive financial report may receive the award with a "qualification" (disclosed only to the participating government). Such a qualified award puts the government on notice that failure to remedy one or more specified deficiencies in the following year's report would likely result in a denial.
The Governmental Accounting Standards Board issued Statement No. 98, The Annual Comprehensive Financial Report, in October, 2021. Statement No. 98 replaces the term "comprehensive annual financial report" and its acronym with the new term "annual comprehensive financial report" and its acronym, ACFR. Statement No. 98 is effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2021, with earlier implementation encouraged. The report checklists have been updated to reflect the new term and acronym. GFOA encourages governments to early implement the new term "annual comprehensive financial report" and its acronym, ACFR.
Comprehensive General-Purpose Checklist
Pension and Other Postemployment Benefit System Cash and Investment Pools Checklist
Note: For school districts and stand-alone business type activities, please also refer to the comprehensive general-purpose government checklist above.