Since we constantly need to pay attention to deadlines ourselves, we’ve always been startled when governments appear to be oblivious to them.
The deadline dilemma comes to light, most often, with delayed financial reports. We know it’s difficult to get them done on time, especially with old and clunky (or new and confusing) technology systems. We also know finance officers — particularly in smaller entities — struggle to implement changing standards from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. But, still . . .
Our most recent example comes from Missouri. Last week, auditor Nicole Galloway released a list of cities, villages and other political subdivisions, noting their performance in getting their annual financial reports in on time. Missouri statutes require that they be submitted to the auditor’s office within six months of the end of the entity’s fiscal year.
Galloway’s list pointed out that for the 3,259 local Missouri entities with fiscal years that ended on June 30th, only about 60 percent filed in a timely way. About ten percent filed after the deadline and another 30 percent still had not handed in their required report, as of the end of February. “We continue to see poor compliance with the financial reporting law, which highlights the need for stronger measures to enforce compliance,” the auditor said last week.
A couple of years ago, we wrote a Governing column called, Financial Reports: Better Late than Never? The question mark at the end of that headline was important. There’s a huge amount of expert commentary on the importance of getting reports out in a timely way. At some point, a late report becomes interesting as a historical document, but loses the potential to inform current decisions.