By Joel Hall
In 1986, the Clayton County Water Authority received it's first national award for producing a comprehensive annual financial report that went above and beyond generally accepted accounting principals.
This month, for the 23rd time in a row, the authority has been recognized at the national level for financial transparency. The authority received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the U.S. and Canada (GFOA) for its fiscal 2009 comprehensive annual financial report. The report shows, in detail, the authority's financial history and solvency.
Founded in 1906, the Chicago, Ill.-based GFOA serves as a trade organization promoting improvements in public-financial management among governments and quasi-governmental agencies in the U.S. and Canada. The award program recognizes governments that "evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure," according to the organization's web site.
James Falconer, a senior manager of the GF0A Technical Services Center, which administers the award program, said independent, and in-house, auditors rate the financial plans of numerous governments and agencies and choose the best reports based on a checklist of requirements.
"A comprehensive annual financial report goes much beyond a basic financial report," Falconer said. "With a comprehensive annual financial report, you have an introductory report, a financial section and statistical section, other supplemental information ... reports that show legal compliance. It is a much clearer picture for parties who are interested."
The water authority's latest award applies to its report for the May 1, 2008 to April 30, 2009 fiscal year. From the latest data available on the GFOA web site, Clayton's water authority was one of 113 governments, school districts, and quasi-governmental agencies in Georgia in 2008 to win the award.
The water authority's full 2009 report is available online at www.ccwa.us/about.us/annualfinancialreport.aspx.
The water authority's assistant finance director, Renee Dumas, who has worked for the authority since 1972, said its 23 awards represent its commitment to maintaining openness and credibility. "I can remember when we were just a small operation, and now, we are internationally renown," Dumas said. "It's not just because of the visionaries we've had here, it's because of the sound financial background we've had to finance that vision. It's not just a financial statement. It gives you a little bit of history. It gives you statistical data. It shows you who our biggest customers are, and how much water we treat a year.
"It's [the GFOA's award is] one of the highest achievements you can obtain in the public sector," she added.
According to the water authority's finance director, Emory McHugh, the authority currently has an AA+ bond credit rating with Standard & Poor's, partially influenced by it's comprehensive annual financial reports. McHugh said the rating gives the authority favor when going out into the bond market.
"This allows us to get the most favorable bond ratings," he said. "Just about any question you would have about the Clayton County Water Authority is answered in there."
Falconer said for an agency to win a financial-reporting award for 23 years straight is "a significant accomplishment."
"It shows complete transparency," he said. "That is a unique distinction."