The Island Government Finance Officers Association (IGFOA) successfully convened its winter meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, from December 12-14, 2023. The event brought together public sector finance leadership from various island jurisdictions, including CNMI, Guam, Palau, Marshall Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. With a focus on the timeliness and quality of insular government single audits and other pressing issues, the conference offered a platform for sharing insights, formulating action plans, and strengthening a regional approach to financial management.
“We are faced with many challenges,” remarked Hon. Kaleb Udui, the Palau Minister of Finance in his opening remarks, “including a weak economy, struggling to provide for our people, and the uncertainty of our Compact agreements. We have come far, but we have a long way to go.”
“We are faced with many challenges...We have come far, but we have a long way to go.”
- Hon. Kaleb Udui, Palau Minister of Finance
The winter IGFOA focused on the timeliness and quality of insular government single audits—a rising concern in the region, with multiple contributing factors: COVID-related delays, capacity and outmigration, financial management information system transitions, and audit firm transitions, among others. The narrow focus of the meeting followed discussions at the summer 2023 meeting in Portland, Oregon, as well as a virtual meeting convened in mid-September.
In addition to high-level participation from the insular government, the conference benefited from the valuable contributions of representatives from the US Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, as well as key subject matter experts familiar with insular government challenges. Highlights of the conference included:
- Audit and Financial System Updates: Insular government representatives shared updates on their single audits, financial management information systems (FMIS), and action plan progress following the June 2023 GFOA conference in Portland.
- Audit Transition Discussions: Conversations and panel discussions centered on audit firm transitions which are currently affecting most jurisdictions, highlighting the success of a timely government audit issuance, optimizing interactions with audit firms, and developing action plans for timely audit issuance.
- Insular Government Audit Planning: Participants gathered by jurisdiction to discuss root causes of current audit delays with subject-matter experts, and to develop plans to get “caught up” on the timeliness of single audit issuance.
- Performeter Analysis: The latest Performeter analysis, which scores the overall financial health and success of insular governments, was shared.
- Compact Renewal Updates: Presentation and discussion of financial implications of renewals of the Compacts of Free Association with the Freely Associated States were discussed, including the implications of US Congressional delay in authorization and appropriation.
- GASB Reporting: An update on implementation of GASB lease standards was shared, including reporting on the implementation of the standard, and lessons learned.
Hon. Casten Nemra, the Minsiter of Finance for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, shared his thoughts in his closing remarks. "We, as stewards of our limited resources, must ensure that our work in finance and governance is honorable, timely, and in accordance with the rules and regulations. It's not just about managing funds but about doing the right thing. Our motivation and commitment to our respective governments and people remain strong despite challenges and limitations. Let us continue to be proud of our work, for working in finance is a rare and valuable endeavor”.
The IGFOA will meet virtually in April 2024 to follow up on action plans. The next in-person meeting of the GFOA and IGFOA will take place June 8–14, 2024, in Orlando, Florida. IGFOA's commitment to enhancing collaboration and best practices among insular governments remains a key focus.
The IGFOA is supported by the Graduate School USA's Pacific and Virgin Islands Training Initiatives (PITI-VITI), with funding from the Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs (www.doi.gov/oia). For more information about IGFOA and future events, visit the PITI-VITI website: https://pitiviti.org/igfoa.