Accountants in government have responsibilities in the areas of auditing, financial reporting, and management accounting. In addition, accountants have the opportunity to evaluate the efficiency of government departments and agencies at the federal, state, and local levels.
At the federal level, accountants may work at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, Department of the Treasury and the General Accounting Office. They may be involved in investigating white-collar crime, managing financial statement audits for government agencies, performing research and analysis in financial management issues, testifying before a legislative committee, or an audit or the impact of pending tax legislation.
At the state and local level, accountants are involved in conducting financial, performance, or compliance audits which many include analyzing a school district’s ability to remain viable, the propriety of expenditures for constructing prisons, the effectiveness of the workers’ compensation system, or the regulatory compliance of hazardous waste programs.
Below are some types of audits performed by accountants in all levels of government:
An evaluation of an organization's operation with an eye towards making it work better, faster, and cheaper. Along with these streamlining efforts, a performance audit may also determine whether management is fulfilling its promises to the taxpayers by effectively providing services intended to meet its goals and objectives.
Financial audits include financial statement and financial-related audits or reviews. The primary focus of a traditional financial statement audit is the examination and verification of information provided through an entity's financial statements. This may result in an opinion on the "fairness" of the information presented in the financial statements or determine whether the entity has adhered to specific federal and financial compliance requirements. These audits may involve a review of the internal controls over financial operations and typically result in a letter to management identifying any weaknesses and recommending corrective action.
Compliance audits determine whether the organization is following provisions of laws, regulations and contractual grant or loan agreements. The purpose of compliance auditing is to identify instances of significant deviation from specific requirements and to seek corrective action. State compliance audits review compliance with specific state laws and regulations, and federal compliance audits review compliance with the legal and regulatory requirements mandated as a condition of receiving federal grants and aid.
Investigative audits are performed as a result of reported allegations related to improper activities by government employees or agencies. The allegations are often received through a hotline for reporting fraud and abuse in government. An investigation may also result when auditors, while on another assignment, become aware of inappropriate or suspicious activity that may fall under the Reporting of Improper Governmental Activities Act.