In what can aptly be described as a moment of bipartisan cooperation, a Democrat-controlled Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. In a report published shortly thereafter by the General Accounting Office, the CFO Act was heralded as 'the beginning of what promises to be a new era not only in federal management and accountability, but also in efforts to gain financial control of government operations.'
The report added: 'This is the most comprehensive and far-reaching financial management improvement legislation since the Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950... The CFO Act will lay a foundation for comprehensive reform of federal financial management.'
A key provision of the bipartisan legislation is a requirement that federal agencies undergo independent financial audits. Heretofore, this most basic of internal controls was too often foreign to the public sector. Accounts of a federal agency paying $200 for a hammer or $600 for a toilet seat were common fodder for journalists and late-night comics alike. To their credit, federal lawmakers recognized the need for reform and enacted the CFO act as an integral part.