Written by: Curtis Coonrod
In December 2021, the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) announced the winners of its 2021 Awards for Excellence in Government Finance. Being one of GFOA’s most prestigious awards, this award recognizes the contributions and practices that illustrate excellence in financial management. This recognition is based on documented work that demonstrates leadership in the profession and improves public finance. The Awards for Excellence is just one of various awards that financial officers can receive from the GFOA.
Since its inception in 1906, GFOA has represented and advocated for public finance officials in the US and Canada. A 20,000-member association, GFOA is comprised of federal, state, provincial, and local finance officials who plan, finance, and implement government financial operations and advance excellence in public finance.
Outside of the Awards for Excellence, the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program (COA) was created to recognize those who have gone above and beyond the minimum requirements related to compiling annual comprehensive financial reports that are transparent and provide full disclosure. The purpose of the award is to recognize governments that include all essential information in their financial statements.
Another award that recognizes state and local governments for generating high-quality reports is the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award Program. Established in 1984, this award encourages state and local governments to produce outstanding reports that reflect the guidelines established in the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting and the GFOA’s best practices, practices that focus on budgeting. The award goes to state and local governments that achieve these standards.
The GFOA Hero Award and the Triple Crown Award are two other GFOA awards given to individuals and local, state, and federal governments. The Hero Award award goes to those who have exhibited extraordinary courage in the face of a health, financial, natural, or human-made catastrophe. Alternatively, winners of the Triple Crown Award are governments that have received the Popular Annual Financial Reporting Award, the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, and the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award. Additionally, the Popular Annual Financial Reporting Awards Program (PAFR) is awarded to governments that have extracted information from their annual comprehensive financial report to produce high-quality annual reports. More than just extracting and summarizing information, those who issue these reports have written them in a way that is not only accessible to the public but is also easy for laypeople to digest without necessarily having a background in public finance.
The PAFR Fellowship Program is also a part of this program. GFOA’s PAFR program collaborates with the Engaging Local Government Leaders organization to match graduate students with local governments. Through this work, students learn to create financial documents. The program matches students with governments based on the graduate student’s skills and abilities and geographic location. For those who participate, there are many benefits. The program is free to local governments, and graduate students earn a stipend for creating the document. When the fellowship program is complete, the document is submitted for consideration for the PAFR award.
The organization also recognizes Canadian governments for their contributions to public finance through the Canadian Award for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program (CAnFR Program). Launched in 1986, this award is similar to the COA award, which asks governments to go above and beyond the minimum in creating financial reports. However, the guidelines the government must follow are set forth through the Public Sector Accounting Board of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.
All awards have an application process that can be found on the organization’s website at www.gfoa.org/awards.
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