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California government accounting principles

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The California State Auditor is the chief comptroller of California. Elaine M. Howle has been California State Auditor since 2000. The Auditor and her office report to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC), a 14-member committee comprised of seven Senators and seven Assembly Members or through legislation.[1] The California State Auditor’s Office publishes its audit reports online.

In a report published in May 2012, The Institute for Truth in Accounting (IFTA) rated California “Tardy” in filing the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) – The annual report of state and local governmental entities. IFTA rated 23 states timely, 24 states tardy, and 3 states excessively tardy. IFTA does not consider the state's CAFRs, and those of the other states, to be accurate representations of the state’s financial condition because the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) basis does not include significant liabilities for the pension plans and for other post employment benefits, such as health care.[2] California’s State Controller is responsible for filing the CAFR. John Chiang was elected State Controller in November of 2006.[3]

Accounting transparency checklist

Truth 2.png

Comprehensive Y
600px-Yes check.png
Balanced budget Y
600px-Yes check.png
Timeliness P
Usability P

The good

  • The website has Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) dating back to 1999.
  • It provides supplements to the budget workup, such as notes.
  • An independent auditor’s report is published within the CAFR.[4]
  • The CAFR compares estimated and actual budgetary numbers on page 175 of the document.
  • The budget is posted using organized and consistent methods of financial reporting.
  • California law requires a balanced budget and prohibits a deficit at the end of the year to be carried over to the following year.
  • It includes all costs incurred by the government, including future liabilities. (for example on page 180 of the document)

The bad

  • The CAFR is posted in a PDF format, so it’s not searchable online.

See also

External links