UConn has been awarded the highest form of recognition possible for its financial reporting practices, joining a small number of similar institutions nationwide to receive the honor.
The Government Finance Officers Association recently notified the University that it qualified for GFOA’s Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its report on all of UConn’s financial activities for the 2016 fiscal year.
That report, known as the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), is prepared by the UConn Office of the Controller and comprises dozens of pages of financial indicators including revenue, expenses, debt service, employment figures, and numerous other categories.
The award certificate program, which the GFOA started in 1945, recognizes state and local governments, along with public agencies such as colleges and universities, for going beyond minimal requirements “to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure,” according to the award description.
This is the first year in which UConn has received the prestigious award, which the GFOA says is meant to encourage public agencies to make their annual reports as clear and comprehensive as possible to help readers understand and absorb the information.
“Its attainment represents a significant accomplishment,” the GFOA wrote to UConn last week to inform it of the award. “We hope that your example will encourage other government officials in their efforts to achieve and maintain an appropriate standard of excellence in financial reporting.”
The award was publicly announced Wednesday at the UConn Board of Trustees meeting, where President Susan Herbst thanked UConn Controller Charles H. Eaton and also recognized the staff of the Accounting Office for its work each year on the CAFR.
“You may not be familiar with this award,” Herbst told trustees, “but for those in the budgeting and accounting world, it’s a huge deal. It’s the highest form of recognition in the area of government accounting and financial reporting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment for the university.”
The standards to receive a CAFR excellence award are rigorous. In fact, only about 80 colleges and universities received the award last year, the majority which were community colleges and other entities that are less financially complex than UConn. Only a small percentage were large public flagships like UConn.
Nationwide, less than 6 percent of municipalities that sought the recognition received it last year, although the Connecticut figures were higher with one-third of the city and town applicants winning recognition, including Mansfield.
The reports submitted for CAFR award recognition are judged by an impartial panel of experts in auditing, accounting, public sector financial reporting, and other financial specialties.
“I am incredibly proud of the significant achievement of Robin Hoagland, director of accounting, and her staff — especially given this was the first year we applied for the certificate and it was achieved,” Eaton said. “They significantly expanded the prior year’s annual report into a CAFR and worked diligently to ensure the submission to GFOA was complete and on time.”
As controller, Eaton oversees the Accounting Office and several other facets of UConn’s financial operations, and preparation of the financial reports each year is a major task.
Eaton is a certified public accountant who became UConn’s controller in early 2009. He has 38 years of experience in finance, accounting and administration in public accounting, law firm administration and higher education.
Eaton – who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UConn — also was associate controller and director of accounting at the University, and previously was the associate vice president for administration and finance at the UConn Foundation.