A new report by government finance watchdog Truth in Accounting (TIA) ranks Nevada as one of three states in the nation with the best financial transparency.
Nevada was one of three states to score an 88 out of a possible 100 points, which represent the best financial transparency for fiscal year 2018, the most recent data available.
“One of the reasons Nevada received an 88 out of 100 score is like most states Nevada finally started to report most of its pension and retiree health care liabilities on its balance sheet,” said Sheila Weinberg, TIA's founder and CEO.
She added that, on a positive transparency note, the state was one of only 14 states that use an outside independent auditor to review its financial report. The remaining states use auditors employed by their respective states, calling into question their objectivity.
“[Nevada's] financial report was issued 191 days after its fiscal year end and the report is relatively easy to find on the state's website,” she noted, adding that the “financial report's Portable Document Format (PDF) includes navigation tools such as a search bar, bookmarks and the ability to click on the report's table of contents to link to various sections of the report.”
Weinberg also advised that Nevada’s Controller Catherine Byrne could further improve the state’s transparency score by using “current year data to report the state's pension and retiree healthcare liabilities, issue the financial report earlier and stop using confusing ‘deferrals’ that inflate the state's net position when pension and retiree healthcare liabilities increase.”
TIA developed its transparency scoring "to encourage the publication of transparent and accurate government financial information," by looking mainly at each state's comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), a document produced annually by each state which is audited by certified public accountants.
The watchdog group says the criteria used to develop its transparency score provides a "best practices" framework for government officials and citizens that can be used to improve transparency and accountability.
Each state was scored by TIA based on eight criteria: accessibility, searchability, if the states used an outside auditor, the auditor’s opinion, timeliness of the report, percentage of off-balance sheet liabilities, pension data timing, and deferred items.
Overall findings from the report showed that the 50 states’ transparency scores improved from the previous fiscal year due mainly to a change in accounting standards, which required states for the first time to include their retiree health care liabilities on their balance sheets.
The states with the best overall transparency scores were Idaho, North Dakota and Nevada, respectively. Each state scored an 88 for transparency while the three worst states were Vermont, scoring a 58, North Carolina with a 56 and Connecticut with a 50.