Leadership, Ethics, and Trust, GFOA Documents

From the CEO: Acting on our Values

Page from April 2021 issue of GFR

GFOA’s Code of Ethics calls for a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and this includes calling out unfair discrimination of any kind. Recently, we were able to demonstrate our commitment to our principles. As you’ve likely heard by now, GFOA’s Executive Board passed a policy statement in March 2021 that called on all governments and others in the public finance community to stop using the four-letter acronym most often associated with the comprehensive annual financial report. While the Governmental Accounting Standards Board is expected to take up the issue later this year, we felt that it was important to act now.

When spoken, the acronym is pronounced like a racial slur that has historically been used in other parts of the world—and like all such derogatory terms, it remains hurtful and offensive to those it has been applied to. In South Africa, the word has deep ties to apartheid. At GFOA, we’ve stopped using the term in reference to the annual report, including our awards program and committee. We’ve eliminated it from our training materials and website, and it will no longer be used in GFR or other publications.

Some have commented that this change is another example of “cancel culture,” a loaded term that refers to a knee-jerk withdrawal of support for something as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure, generally as a result of being “politically correct.” I can assure you that is not the case. We feel strongly that for GFOA to be a leader in North America and across the rest of the world, we need to stay true to our own values of inclusiveness. Understanding and eliminating behaviors that hurt and belittle our colleagues is simply the right thing to do.