FILE - Georgia state flag

The Georgia state flag flies.

(The Center Square) – Georgia tied North Carolina as the second-least fiscal transparent state in the country, according to a national watchdog report.

Truth in Accounting (TIA) released its Financial Transparency Score 2021 report that scores states 0-100 on how transparent and accurate financial information is reported at the end of a fiscal year. The new report is based on fiscal year 2020 data.

While no state earned a perfect score in the report, Georgia received 54 points. TIA said this year's transparency scores are worse than previous years because of response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal aid highlighted weaknesses in states' unemployment insurance.

"These weaknesses caused several states to receive poor audit opinions," TIA wrote.

Half of the state's possible 100 points depended on whether its annual financial and pension report received a clean opinion from an independent auditor. Georgia received 25 points out of 50 points for the review of its audit. The state did not earn full points in any category.

Georgia's inability to publish its financial audits on time hurt the state's score. TIA gave the state 2 points out of 10 points for how soon it published its audit within 100 days of the fiscal year's end. 

Georgia scored 2 points out of 5 points in two categories: for its outsourcing to external auditors and the timing of its pension audit. TIA also examined the accessibility and timeliness of the financial reports. It looked at whether states' audits were searchable with useful links from the table of contents and bookmarks and whether misleading and confusing deferred items distorted their net positions.

Utah ranked first in the 2021 report, with a total score of 88 points. Maryland and South Dakota ranked second with 87 points. Colorado was the least transparent state in the country, with a score of 46.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.