Working in government can be quite challenging, but never boring according to Cathy Archer, CPA, CGMA, of Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments. Archer, who previously worked in public accounting, now serves as finance manager for the local Workforce Investment Area for Georgetown, Williamsburg and Horry counties. The agency administers and manages workforce programs as mandated by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. Funding is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce.
“Whereas a private company’s goals are to make a profit, we are non-profit. Our budget for any given year is limited to our available funding and we have to operate within our budgets,” Archer explained. “In the private sector there may be more consistency in companies that provide an established product or service. Governmental accounting seems to be frequently changing because we are required to implement and administer programs mandated by state and federal law.”
Archer spends 85-90 percent of her time on day-to-day accounting tasks such as managing funding, determining allowable or disallowable costs according to applicable laws and regulations, and reporting to the state and board of directors.
“Our Workforce program is subject to a fiscal audit and a program audit once per year and our agency as a whole undergoes an annual audit. A portion of my time is spent on audit-related tasks during these times,” she said. “I used to be a public auditor and in my current position I have felt that this has been an advantage. Often times I try to picture how an auditor would look at certain situations or transactions to make sure we are in compliance.”
Archer said CPAs working in government face different pressures and expectations than those in public practice or industry. Since programs are funded by taxpayer dollars, she said there is greater pressure and expectations to be as transparent and fiscally responsible as possible. Adding, “Our management within our agency leads by example and reminds us that we work for the citizens of our community.”
And what advice would she offer to young CPAs considering a career in government? “I would encourage any accounting student to try an internship with a governmental agency if they are considering a career in government, or even if they are undecided as to a specific career path. It can be rewarding and challenging in so many different ways and they might be surprised to find it may be a good fit for them.”