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Monday, October 31, 2005

NASA financial systems under scrutiny | Tech News on ZDNet

The systems can't perform crucial tasks needed to improve management of contracts, provide credible cost estimates for programs, and create auditable statements, according to the report.

"The lack of reliable, day-to-day information continues to threaten NASA's ability to manage its programs, oversee its contractors, and effectively allocate its budget across its numerous projects and programs," government auditors wrote.

That also means that NASA isn't complying "substantially" with the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996, which requires "timely, accurate and useful" reporting of the costs associated with federal agency work, the report said.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

DoJ raises Oracle/Siebel anti-trust questions - vnunet.com

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has requested additional information from Oracle about its planned acquisition of Siebel Systems as part of an anti-trust investigation into the deal.
The request is a strong reminder of the legal clash between Oracle and the DoJ last year over the database giant's purchase of PeopleSoft. A federal judge in San Francisco in the end ruled in favour of Oracle.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

DHS puts procurement house in order

The Homeland Security Department procurement is losing its baby teeth, moving briskly with border technology, a financial management project and two umbrella procurements on the heels of its recently signed fiscal 2006 appropriations bill. President Bush's signature making the bill law injects funds across the board into many of these projects. The blossoming of the department's IT procurement projects is a major step in DHS' transformation from a patchwork-quilt collection of 22 agencies to a unified organization with centralized contract control. Chief Procurement Officer Greg Rothwell said the agency would hire at least 400 new procurement officials in fiscal 2006, and "assimilate them to build a unified culture," at a recent event in Falls Church, Va., sponsored by market analysis firm Input Inc. of Reston, Va.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

VA will centralize IT budget personnel authority over next year

The Veterans Affairs Department will put control of its IT budget and personnel under the department CIO - a sea change that should prevent future monumental IT system failures.

Congress has sought to give the VA CIO authority over the IT budget, which was $1.8 billion in fiscal 2005. Currently, the department CIO has control over $40 million - less than 3 percent of the department's IT budget.

VA has shelved systems after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on them, such as the $342 million CoreFLS financial-management system and $300 million HR Links automated personnel system.

“This is the first step toward a centralized approach,” VA deputy secretary Gordon Mansfield told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today. There was not universal agreement on the approach, but a consensus on use of a federated approach was crafted and brought to the secretary for his approval. It will take 12 to 18 months to implement the IT reorganization, Mansfield said.

VA administrations will retain software development for their programs, but they must adhere to the department’s enterprise architecture, which maps out VA’s programs, investments and customer needs.

DRC wins Navy financial systems work

Dynamics Research Corp. won a $4.4 million contract with the Naval Surface Warfare Center to provide functional and technical support for the software suite and systems that compose the Naval Sea Systems Command corporate financial systems, according to company officials. The contract has one base year and two option years.

CFO Sykes helps NASA manage change

For Gwendolyn Sykes, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's chief financial officer, e-government is personal -as personal as a paycheck.

Sykes says she "really, really likes the [e-government] initiatives because they make my tax dollar go further." And as a single woman with no children, Sykes sees a lot of her dollars go toward taxes every month.

Take E-Payroll, one of the 25 e-government initiatives. Sykes likes seeing E-Payroll's highly tangible benefits. Instead of the federal government using 26 pay systems, E-Payroll has consolidated them into four service providers. "It's kind of like Costco," Sykes said. "You're buying in bulk."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Bush signs $30 billion DHS spending bill

The bill includes $30.8 billion in net discretionary spending—a $2.4 billion, or 4.7 percent, increase by the administration’s method of counting—and many features Congress added that departed from the administration’s original budget request.

The department's technology spending level of about $6 billion contains large technology initiatives such as major programs for a centralized financial management system, consolidated networks, new technology under the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program and likely upgrades to border IT under the Americas Shield Initiative.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

DOD creates agency to manage business programs

The Defense Department has established a new business agency that will centrally manage some of the department's largest business programs.

The idea for the Defense Business Transformation Agency (BTA), officially established on Oct. 7, was approved by the Defense Business Systems Management Committee in late June. Eighteen of the DOD's business programs, systems and initiatives�including the Defense Travel System, the Standard Procurement System and the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System will be transferred to the BTA by the end of November.

The BTA will eventually be headed by a service two-star general or an equivalent Senior Executive Service official, said Gordon England, acting deputy secretary of Defense, in a memorandum he sent to service secretaries. Until then, Paul A. Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of Defense for business transformation, and Thomas Modly, the deputy undersecretary of Defense for financial management, will jointly serve as director.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Internal controls are not just for CFOs anymore OMB says

The Office of Management and Budget later this month will issue a list of best practices to help agencies implement internal controls for financial reporting information. OMB also will start providing feedback to agencies on the plans they submitted in August to put internal controls in place as part of revised Circular A-123.

Financial reporting is not just for chief financial officers anymore. Management needs to get its arms around internal controls, said Linda Combs, OMB controller. Circular A-123 is similar to management compliance requirements for private corporations under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in the wake of corporate fraud at Enron and WorldCom.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

GAO details acquisition best practices

The Government Accountability Office has found that acquisition success depends on instituting best practices in four broad areas, including data management and security.

Auditors said agencies should align their organizations so acquisition professionals have clear and defined roles and leadership gives officials the ability to make strategic decisions; have transparent policies that are implemented consistently; invest and train their workforces; and manage their data so it is timely, reliable, accurate and secure.

GAO has defined and outlined these best practices in a new document, titled "A Framework for Assessing the Acquisition Function at Federal Agencies".

www.GovExec.com - Bid to stop funding for Defense Travel System derailed (10/6/05)

An amendment that would have nixed spending on the Defense Department's $474 million electronic travel system was tabled after a spirited debate on the Senate floor over the program's merits and shortcomings.

SEC picks Appian for Web-based purchasing

Securities and Exchange Commission officials have awarded a $2.8 million contract to Appian to develop a Web-based purchasing system.

The company will overhaul what is essentially a manual procurement process, said Ambarish Desai, the company’s director of solutions. He said the SEC’s current homegrown system is a combination of paper files and spreadsheet software that lacks coordination among groups.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

OFPP to create interagency contracting working group

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy doesn’t need any more hints to realize it needs to look more closely at interagency contracting.

After the Government Accountability Office added interagency contracting to its high-risk list, and in light of the problems at the Defense Department and the General Services Administration over the past two years, OFPP deputy administrator Robert Burton today said his office will lead a working group made up of agency chief acquisition officers in looking at how to improve this type of contracting.

The group will follow up on the work by the Services Acquisition Reform Act panel, which is taking a look at three areas, including interagency contracting. The SARA panel will make recommendations to Congress and OFPP next year.

“We are setting up this group so, when the SARA panel closes down sometime in 2006, we will be in place to implement the panel’s recommendations,” Burton said at a conference in Washington sponsored by the Contract Services Association of America, an industry trade association based in Arlington, Va. “We will coordinate with the SARA panel so we don’t duplicate their work.”

Burton, who is managing OFFP until an acting administrator is named, announced the working group last week at the Chief Acquisition Officer’s Council meeting, and said he hopes to have the first meeting before Dec. 31.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Oracle Delivers PeopleSoft Enterprise Financial Management 8.9

Oct. 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) today announced general availability of Oracle's PeopleSoft Enterprise Financial Management 8.9, delivering on its commitment to PeopleSoft customers to support and enhance the functionality of PeopleSoft Enterprise applications. This new release provides customer-driven enhancements and new business applications. It is a launching pad for
PeopleSoft customers to migrate to Oracle(R) Project Fusion, the company's next generation of enterprise applications.

Auditors criticize Army Corps' 'just-in-time' financial strategy (10/3/05)

"The Army Corps of Engineers relies too much on shifting funds between projects and needs better planning and financial management, government auditors concluded in a new report.
The Army Corps has been using a 'just-in-time' financial strategy under which it reprograms funds between projects, often without notifying Congress and sometimes in violation of its own rules, the Government Accountability Office said in its report (GAO-05-946). "

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.

Monday, October 03, 2005

www.GovExec.com - Impossible Goals (9/28/05)

If you had told Clarence C. Crawford in 1979, when he was starting in federal financial management, that there would come a day when agencies would produce audited financial statements, he probably would not have believed you. And no way would he have believed that agencies could produce them 45 days after the close of the fiscal year. 'The idea of having audited financial statements seemed like almost an impossibility at that time,' Crawford says. Even five or 10 years ago, a 45-day close looked like an unrealistic goal.

But now, almost every federal agency is producing audited financial statements by Nov. 15 each year, a month and a half after the Sept. 30 close of the fiscal year. In financial management, that is a benchmark of sound accounting. It doesn't make federal agencies financial management leaders, but it shows they're capable of matching the performance of leading private sector firms.

Guidance for lines-of-business initiatives expected by year's end

The Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget by the end of the December will have answers to some of the biggest questions surrounding the lines-of-business consolidation initiatives.

OPM will issue minimum service-level agreement metrics for Human Resources Management Centers of Excellence. OMB is in the final stages of determining who would pay for transition costs when agencies switch from one shared service provider to another.

Both of these issues are part of a larger lines-of-business puzzle that slowly is coming together. During fiscal 2006, officials expect to see a lot of activity around lines-of-business consolidation. Agencies will migrate to Centers of Excellence, the private sector will begin participating in the centers, and the government will begin setting standards for human resources systems and approving vendor software that meets those requirements.

DHS releases RFP for multibillion-dollar Eagle project

The Homeland Security Department has released its request for proposals for the Eagle project, a program to purchase IT support services that is expected to garner billions of dollars of task orders over the next seven years.

Eagle and its partner procurement for hardware, FirstSource, form DHS’ latest effort to centralize IT procurement across the department’s 22 agencies. DHS now buys IT support services under dozens of contracts it inherited from its component agencies.

The RFP released Thursday calls for prime contractors to establish teams to carry out specific task orders issued under the contract. During an industry day in early August, DHS officials said they expect Eagle contracts to progressively supplant work done under existing department pacts.

The Eagle procurement could account for more than three-quarters of the department’s IT purchases of about $6 billion annually.