I got tired of always seeing government financial statements start with a Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting, so I finally decided to check them out.
We read lots “CAFRs” here at Wirepoints — the annual financial statements published by state and local governments. That’s where the certificates appear.
Sure enough, according to the folks giving the certificate, 338 of them were awarded just in Illinois in a year.
Isn’t this kinda like Lake Wobegon? You know, where “all the kids are above average,” except here maybe some performance enhancing drugs make them all excellent?
And who is giving the awards? The Government Finance Officers Association. Hmm. Maybe we should bestow Certificates of Excellence on everything we publish here.
For CAFRs, instead of those certificates, I’d say the cover pages should include something like this:
WARNING AND DISCLAIMER
THE MATERIALS PRESENTED HEREIN ARE DELIBERATELY OBSCURE AND MISLEADING. ANYTHING USEFUL HEREIN CAN BE IDENTIFIED ONLY BY FINANCIAL PROFESSIONALS FAMILIAR WITH GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTING, WHICH BEARS LITTLE RESEMBLANCE TO REALITY OR PRIVATE SECTOR ACCOUNTING.
-Mark Glennon is founder and executive editor of Wirepoints.