chief law officer

Chief financial officer

The chief financial officer (CFO) of a company or public agency is the corporate officer primarily responsible for managing the financial risks of the business or agency. This officer is also responsible for financial planning and record-keeping, as well as financial reporting to higher management. (In recent years, however, the role has expanded to encompass communicating financial performance and forecasts to the analyst community.) The title is equivalent to finance director, a common title in the United Kingdom. The CFO typically reports to the chief executive officer, and is frequently a member of the board of directors.


In several financially well-developed countries or regions including Hong Kong, many finance directors are qualified accountants. It has, however, become commonplace for non-accountants to b]. Indeed, many CFOs have an MBA but no qualified accountancy qualification such as CPA. This has been criticised in some quarters as a contributory factor to the wave of accounting scandals seen in the US in 2002. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 aims to address this by requiring at least one member of the company's Audit Committee to hold an accounting or finance qualification. The act makes it more likely, therefore, that the US business world will see a trend towards Chief Financial Officers possessing a U.S. accountancy qualification - CPA and/or overseas accountancy qualification (i.e. ACCA/ICAEW).

If the role of CFO is compared with that of CEO, i.e. as strategic business partner and with obligation of statutory duties under SEC and Sarbanes-Oxley Act, both can be seen as distinct and equal-ranking top executive posts.

Many CFOs without formal credentials still have a thorough understanding of finance and a knowledge of problem solving through quantification.

CFO role in public agencies

government organizations throughout the world have financial directors and other leading officers responsible for financial management within their organizations. Many are equivalent in the scope of their responsibilities to CFOs.

United States

The United States federal government has seen a trend in recent years to incorporate more elements of business-sector practices in its management approaches, including the use of the CFO position (alongside, for example, an increased use of the CIO title within public agencies).

The Chief Financial Officers Act (or CFO Act) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. For each of 23 federal agencies, the position of chief financial officer was created. Since that time, federal efforts have been intended to improve the government's financial management and develop standards of financial performance and disclosure.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) holds primary responsibility for financial management standardization and improvement. Within OMB, the Deputy Director for Management is the chief official responsible for financial management in the United States Government; the position was established by the CFO Act.

The Office of Federal Financial Management (OFFM) is specifically charged with overseeing financial management matters, establishing financial management policies and requirements, and monitoring the establishment and operation of federal financial management systems. OFFM is led by a Controller.

The CFO Act also established the CFO Council, consisting of the CFOs and Deputy CFOs of the largest federal agencies and senior officials of OMB and Treasury. Its mandate is to work collaboratively to improve financial management in the U.S. government and "advise and coordinate the activities of the agencies of its members" in the areas of financial management and accountability. The Council is led by the Deputy Director for Management of OMB; members are: the Controller of OFFM, the Fiscal Assistant Secretary of Treasury, and the CFOs of 23 large and significant federal agencies.

OMB Circular A-123 (issued 21 December 2004) defines the management responsibilities for internal financial controls in federal agencies and addressed to all federal CFOs, CIOs, and Program Managers. The circular is a re-examination of the existing internal control requirements for federal agencies and was initiated in light of the new internal control requirements for publicly-traded companies contained in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.


While "significant progress" in improving federal financial management has reportedly been made since the federal government began preparing consolidated financial statements, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that "major impediments continue to prevent [GAO] from rendering an opinion. In December 2006, the GAO announced that for the 10th consecutive year, the GAO was prevented from expressing an opinion on the consolidated financial statements of the government due to a number of material weaknesses related to financial systems, fundamental recordkeeping, and financial reporting.

At the same time, in calendar year 2007, the CFOC announced that for the second consecutive year, every major federal agency completed its Performance and Accountability Report just 45 days after the end of the fiscal year (2006).

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