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Thursday, September 29, 2005

OMB to add internal controls requirements to PMA scorecard

The Office of Management and Budget will add implementation of milestones for tighter internal controls to federal agencies’ ratings for the President’s Management Agenda scorecard during fiscal 2006. Agencies are required under OMB’s revised Circular A-123 to have a framework in place to implement those financial management practices by October 2006, said Dave Zavada, branch chief of financial standards and grants in OMB’s Office of Federal Financial Management. An example of an internal control would be an agency performing routine reconciliation and analysis of its accounts throughout the year instead of quarterly or annually, he said. The first management statement assuring internal controls over financial reports is due in June 2006. That statement will accompany the agency’s year-end financial statement, which must be completed Nov. 15, 45 days after the close of the fiscal year. Prior to 2004, agencies had 90 days from Sept. 30 to finish their year-end reports.

Interior ousts BearingPoint from major integration job

The Interior Department has removed systems integrator BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., from the Financial and Business Modernization System project to install a new enterprise resource planning system, the department said. BearingPoint was installing an enterprise resource planning system from SAP America Inc. at the department. When it announced the Interior project in May 2004, SAP said that Interior would use “SAP NetWeaver to replace the two existing different accounting systems, and at least 10 other subsidiary systems, to enable interoperability across several critical functions.” According to Interior’s FBMS Website, the time line for the project is being revised.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

GAO: Agencies lack day-to-day financial management tools

According to the report (GAO-05-881), the systems at 16 of the 23 CFO Act agencies do not comply with one or more of the requirements of the 1996 Federal Financial Management Improvement Act. GAO found that six types of problems are regularly identified: financial systems that are not integrated; inadequate reconciliation procedures; untimely and inaccurate recording; noncompliance with the Government Standard General Ledger; failure to adhere to federal accounting standards; and poor security of information systems.

GAO: Many agencies’ financial management systems inadequate

Most federal agencies continue to lack the financial data needed to manage daily operations efficiently and effectively and to provide an acceptable level of accountability. Despite that, most agencies covered by the CFO Act have obtained clean or unqualified audits on their financial statements, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. The problem lies with agencies’ underlying systems, GAO said in the report. Auditors need to perform more comprehensive examinations than those needed for an opinion about an agency’s financial statements. And the Office of Management and Budget should tighten rules so that auditors report whether an agency complies with the broader requirements of the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act (FFMIA).

Balanced score card tool gains in popularly at civilian agencies

A management tool that has been around for more than a decade and has been used heavily at the Defense Department is becoming more prevalent at civilian agencies, according to speakers at a Thursday conference. The "balanced score card" approach, developed by Harvard Business School Professor Robert Kaplan, has taken hold at the General Services Administration, Commerce Department and other civilian agencies.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Oracle Details Flexible Path to Project Fusion for Customers

Oracle Senior Vice President Outlines Further Upgrade and Support Options for Customers, While Demonstrating the 'Fusion Effect' of Next-Generation Applications. Oracle will protect its customers' current technology investments while providing flexibility for moving to Oracle's next-generation applications, said John Wookey, Oracle Senior Vice President of Application Development, today during Oracle® OpenWorld San Francisco.

Auditors find gaping holes in EPA IT procedures

Government auditors say the Environmental Protection Agency is losing millions of dollars by not monitoring its information technology systems. A Sept. 14 report by the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General found that weak oversight also led to multi-year delays in installing systems. The yearlong IG study focused on development and life cycle policies for three business cases: the Financial Replacement System, the Clean Air Markets Division Business System and the Integrated Grants Management System.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Agriculture to rebid massive eTravel contract

The Agriculture Department's electronic travel system contract will be rebid after the agency and the technology contractor providing the online service agreed to void the arrangement, which is worth an estimated $50 million. Officials at both Agriculture and Plano, Texas-based, Electronic Data Systems Corp., said the termination was mutually agreed upon and that EDS will continue to provide travel services to USDA under a previous contract until the agency awards a new eTravel contract.

Homeland Security IG sets up Katrina oversight office

Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner announced Monday the creation of a new Office of Hurricane Katrina Oversight to review the spending of federal disaster assistance funds. The office will be headed by Matthew Jadacki, who will serve on detail from the National Weather Service, where he is the chief financial officer and chief administrative officer.
Prior to joining the Weather Service in January, Jadacki was acting CFO of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he managed 11 branches and more than 200 employees. He also has worked as an audit manager at the State Department and accountant at the Commerce Department.

GAO Report: Financial Management: Achieving FFMIA Compliance Continues to Challenge Agencies (NASA Excerpts)

At the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), auditors reported numerous weaknesses in the core financial system, the integrated financial management system first implemented by NASA in fiscal year 2003. We have previously reported on problems NASA faced when implementing this system.31Specifically, the auditors found that the core financial system lacked integration with certain key subsidiary systems, such as the property system, and does not facilitate the preparation of financial statements. Although the auditors recognized that management identified and resolved significant system problems in fiscal year 2004, the auditors identified serious continuing weaknesses in their review of property, plant, and equipment (PP&E)—specifically contractor-held PP&E.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mok: Government should adopt XBRL

Federal agencies should adopt Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) for their financial data, said Samuel Mok, the Labor Department’s chief financial officer. A derivative of Extensible Markup Language, XBRL is an open metadata standard for tagging business and financial data that greatly simplifies analysis by making information buried in text documents visible to computers.

Senate curbs e-gov in Commerce, Justice spending bill

Senate lawmakers followed their House counterparts yesterday in approving appropriations language that restricts spending on e-government projects in fiscal 2006. The language is part of the Senate appropriations bill for the Commerce and Justice departments, and science and related agencies. Like corresponding House legislation, the Senate spending bill limits federal agencies’ power to transfer money to fund e-government projects.

Agencies run by career execs get better management grades

a new report from Princeton University finds that career federal managers do a better job of running their agencies than their politically appointed counterparts. The study, from David Lewis of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, uses scores from the Bush administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool—a set of 30 questions devised to help budget examiners write formal program evaluations—to determine which managers are achieving best results. He then used biographical data on the 245 bureau chiefs graded by PART to find explanations for differences in results.

E-gov foundation gives agencies opportunity to do more, Evans says

OMB hopes to work with at least three major agencies to migrate to a Center of Excellence under the Financial Management Line of Business Consolidation initiative. Evans said there also is a similar goal for the Human Resources LOB effort, but she could not recall the exact number of agencies. “Under Financial Management, small agencies started moving, but we need the major agencies to see whether this is a part of their core mission or whether they can spend money on a shared service provider to get the data they need,” she said. Part of moving three major departments to a Center of Excellence is letting the private sector compete. Evans said that, for starters, the private sector should use the due diligence checklist the LOB task force developed. OMB also is working on procurement language to deal with the cost of transition from one Center of Excellence to another when an agency’s needs are not being met.

OPM director appoints new chief of staff, executive director

Office of Personnel Management Director Linda Springer filled five vacancies within the agency earlier this week, including the appointment of a new chief of staff and executive director. Springer named Tricia Hollis as chief of staff and director of external affairs, Robert Batson III as executive director and senior counselor, Susan Bryant as director of OPM’s Office of Communications and Public Liaison, Susan Marshall as director of the agency’s Congressional Relations Office, and Nancy Kichak as associate director for strategic human resources policy. Batson joins OPM after a stint as counselor to the controller at the Office of Management and Budget, where he provided guidance on federal financial management and reporting issues.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Evans: Service centers may bear transition costs

The Office of Management and Budget wants three major departments to migrate to a shared service provider for financial management during the next fiscal year, said Karen Evans, OMB’s administrator for e-government and information technology. Financial management is one of six administrative areas OMB is urging agencies to stop doing themselves. Instead, they should buy services from a third-party provider, whether from government or the private sector. Those consolidation efforts will save the government at least $5 billion dollars in coming years, Evans said. OMB is considering a policy that would require service providers to bear the costs of transition “if it’s based on a lack of performance issue,” Evans said.

OMB to project savings of e-government projects in next budget

The Office of Management and Budget is preparing to announce the projected cost savings of the 25 e-government initiatives in the fiscal 2007 budget proposal. Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for the Office of E-Government and Information Technology, said her biggest goal for the next year is to shift the way agencies view success from how much money is appropriated to how much money is saved. In a meeting over the summer with President Bush, Evans said, the president was impressed when she told him that a conservative estimate of the savings of OMB's lines-of-business projects, intended to consolidate agencies' common functions, was $5 billion.

Senate panel endorses $138 million in appropriations

The Senate Finance Committee approved $4.8 million from the General Fund to the Finance Department to upgrade the Virgin Islands government's financial management system and for personnel related costs. The U.S. Department of Education froze federal funds to the territory in July saying the government failed to meet a federal mandate to overhaul its financial management system. The V.I. Education Department is under federal receivership and must hire a third-party grant manager before it can receive more funding.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bush mandates direct financial apps spending

Recent developments in financial software for government are closely tracking directives that emphasize lines of business, strategic plans and project portfolios. Not only is the Office of Management and Budget steering agencies toward four centers of excellence as shared financial service providers, but also plenty of other organizations are upgrading their core financial platforms. With as many as 13 federal agencies procuring core financial management systems, according to a survey by the Financial Systems Integration Office, it’s critical that new software capabilities help them fulfill their missions. In light of the evolving market for financial applications, experts advised financial software buyers to put greater value on a package’s ability to support the organization’s underlying business processes than on the technology.

Enterprise architecture set to drive opportunities

Enterprise architectures are no longer works in progress for many federal agencies. That means systems integrators that want to win contracts with the government need to be experts on these blueprints for how agencies fulfill their missions. Look for the work to focus initially on financial management and human resources management. When EAs are firmly entrenched, those will likely be the first areas where officials from OMB will pursue aggressively consolidation opportunities across multiple departments.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

GSA administrator advocates review of federal procurements

The Office of Management and Budget should perform a broad review of agency procurement plans to determine whether there are needs to consolidate federal acquisition methods, General Services Administration chief Stephen Perry said. As OMB moves ahead with its Line of Business consolidation initiative to streamline how agencies implement human resources, payroll functions and cybersecurity, Perry said acquisition services also should be on the list. “Just as we have Line of Business reviews for various things, including financial management and HR management, we’re proposing there be a governmentwide review of acquisition,” Perry said today at a luncheon sponsored by the American Council for Technology’s Industry Advisory Council.

Monday, September 05, 2005

IRS moves to 'clean slate'

The Internal Revenue Service is eliminating its Business Systems Modernization Office as part of a wholesale reordering within its Modernization and Information Technology Services organization. A new office called Applications Solutions will replace the old modernization office and the legacy systems development office.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Gopal Khanna quits White House

Gopal Khanna resigned as Chief Financial Officer of the Executive Office of the President to be appointed Minnesota's first Chief Information Officer. Khanna, 55, was the first high-level appointment of an Indian American in President George W Bush's second term in office. He resigned the post barely three months after taking over. Before his brief White House stint, Khanna was first CIO and then Chief Financial Officer at the US Peace Corps in Washington, and is credited with leading major reforms at the agency. He was the point man behind efforts to transform the Peace Corps accounting and financial management systems, which allowed the agency to produce auditable financial statements in 2004 -- a first in the agency's 43-year history.