Accounting and Financial Reporting

Issuing Financial Statements Faster

Image from October 2021 GFR

GFOA has long advocated for state and local governments to prepare their financial statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). While GAAP-compliant financial statements present useful information to the reader, they do not on their own provide a comprehensive financial picture of the government. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), the GAAP standard-setting body for governments, encourages governments to also prepare annual comprehensive financial reports (ACFR).

The ACFRs of approximately 4,400 governments participating in GFOA’s Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting program (COA program) are awarded a certificate for substantially meeting the program criteria. One of the requirements is that the government must submit its ACFR to GFOA within six months of its fiscal year-end. To identify standouts for timely reporting, GFOA reviewed submission times for award-winning ACFRs for the fiscal years ended 2018 to 2020. For that timeframe, we received an average of 13 ACFRs within a period of 100 days or fewer—that’s 0.3 percent.

GFOA reached out to officials at three governments that did so for all three of the fiscal years—Marni Hall, director of financial reporting for the City of Columbus, Ohio; Cory Gall, associate vice president of administrative services at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois; and Dawn T. Donovan, town comptroller for the Town of Eastchester, New York—to find out what they are doing to produce their reports so quickly. Based on those interviews, we have compiled a list of the actions they took that may help other governments issue more timely financial statements.