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uncertainties (discussed in Note 26 to the consolidated financial statements), primarily related to the achievement of projected reductions in Medicare cost growth reflected in the 2010 Statement of Social Insurance, prevented us from expressing an opinion on that statement. We were, however, able to render unqualified opinions on the 2009, 2008, and 2007 Statements of Social Insurance.5 Given the importance of social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security to the federal government’s long-term fiscal outlook, the Statement of Social Insurance is critical to understanding the federal government’s financial condition and fiscal sustainability.

The federal government did not maintain adequate systems or have sufficient, reliable evidence to support certain material information reported in the U.S. government’s accrual-based consolidated financial statements. The underlying material weaknesses in internal control,6 which generally have existed for years, contributed to our disclaimer of opinion on the U.S. government’s accrual-based consolidated financial statements for the fiscal years ended 2010 and 2009.7 Those material weaknesses relate to the federal government’s inability to

satisfactorily determine that property, plant, and equipment and inventories and related property, primarily held by the Department of Defense (DOD), were properly reported in the accrual-based consolidated financial statements; reasonably estimate or adequately support amounts reported for certain liabilities, such as environmental and disposal liabilities, or determine whether commitments and contingencies were complete and properly reported;

5We disclaimed an opinion on the fiscal year 2006 consolidated financial statements, including the Statement of Social Insurance. Social insurance programs included in the Statement of Social Insurance are Social Security, Medicare, Railroad Retirement, and Black Lung.

6A material weakness is a deficiency, or combination of deficiencies, in internal control such that there is a reasonable possibility that a material misstatement of the entity’s financial statements will not be prevented, or detected and corrected, on a timely basis. A deficiency in internal control exists when the design or operation of a control does not allow management or employees, in the normal course of performing their assigned functions, to prevent, or detect and correct, misstatements on a timely basis.

7A more detailed description of the material weaknesses that contributed to our disclaimer of opinion, including the primary effects of these material weaknesses on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements and on the management of federal government operations, can be found on pages 238 through 244 of the Financial Report.

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GAO-11-363T

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