Wisconsin government accounting principles

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The Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau is a nonpartisan legislative service agency created to assist the Legislature in maintaining oversight of state operations in Wisconsin. The director of the Legislative Audit Bureau is Janice Mueller the State Auditor, who is appointed by the Legislature's Joint Committee on Legislative Organization. The Bureau conducts objective audits and evaluations of state agency operations to ensure financial transactions have been made in a legal and proper manner and to determine whether programs are administered effectively, efficiently, and in accordance with the policies of the Legislature and the Governor. The results of these evaluations are provided to the Legislature, along with recommendations for improvements in agency operations. The Legislative Audit Bureau was created by Chapter 659, Laws of Wisconsin 1965. Prior to the creation of the Bureau, financial audits were performed by the Department of State Audit, an executive branch department created in 1947. The Legislative Audit Bureau is organized into four sections: Financial Audit, Program Evaluation, Information Systems Support, and Administrative Services.[1]

In a report published in May 2012, The Institute for Truth in Accounting (IFTA) rated Wisconsin “Timely” 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] Wisconsin's CAFRs are publications of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Division of Executive Budget and Finance, State Controller's Office. Stephen J. Censky is State Controller. Michael Morgan is Secretary of Department of Administration.[3]

Accounting transparency checklist

Truth 2.png

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

The good

  • The website has Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) dating back to 1995.[4]
  • An independent auditor’s report is published on page 16 of the document.[5]
  • It provides supplements to the budget workup, starting on page 157.
  • The budget is posted using organized and consistent methods of financial reporting.
  • Wisconsin law requires a balanced budget, but a deficit is permitted.[6]
  • It includes all costs incurred by the government, including long-term liabilities, starting on page 22 of the document.[5]
  • The CAFR compares estimated and actual budgetary numbers, such as on page 158 of the document.[5]

The bad

  • The Wisconsin office was somewhat tardy in submitting the budget.
  • The CAFR is posted in a PDF format, so it’s not searchable online.

External links