Bookkeeping Errors Contribute to $17.3 Billion Federal Loss

Making Enron's $600 million restated financial statements look like a mistake in a child's allowance, the U.S. Treasury has admitted an accounting error and a resulting loss of $17.3 billion.

The admission appeared in the 2001 Financial Report of the United States Government issued earlier this spring and accompanied by the statement by the General Accounting Office (GAO) that once again, for the fifth consecutive year, the GAO is "unable to express an opinion on the consolidated financial statements because of certain material weaknesses in internal control and accounting and reporting issues."

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill stated in the report, "I believe that the American people deserve the highest standards of accountability and professionalism from their Government and I will not rest until we achieve them."

The report indicates that three factors contributed to the error: inaccurate bookkeeping by government agencies, errors in reporting contracts among government agencies, and timing problems associated with reporting costs and revenues.

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