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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Road Ahead for DEAMS

The U. S. Transportation Command, U. S. Air Force and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service have joined forces to implement the Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System or DEAMS. DEAMS is a significant undertaking that will provide USTRANSCOM and the Air Force with a single financial system, dramatically changing existing business and financial management processes, improving combat support for the warfighter, and sharpening information accuracy for Department of Defense decision makers. In the longer term, DEAMS has the potential to support other DOD agencies.

This article examines the current status of DEAMS system requirements and concept of operations and provides a brief update on the training and change management initiatives.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

NASA OIG: NASA's Most Serious Management and Performance Challenges | SpaceRef - Your Space Reference

NASA received a disclaimer of opinion on its financial statements as a result of the Independent Public Accountant (IPA) audits in FY 2003 by PricewaterhouseCoopers and in FY 2004 and FY 2005 by Ernst & Young LLP (E&Y) because NASA has been unable to provide auditable financial statements and sufficient evidence to support statements throughout the fiscal year. The reports that the IPAs have submitted identify instances of noncompliance with generally accepted accounting principles, reportable conditions (with most being material weaknesses) in internal controls, and noncompliance with the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act and the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002. Many of the weaknesses the audits disclosed resulted from a lack of effective internal control procedures and continued data integrity issues, as well as problems related to NASA's conversion in FY 2003 from 10 separate systems to a new single Integrated Enterprise Management Program (IEMP).

New VA CFO Henke faces major management challenge

Robert Henke took the reins as the Veterans Affairs Department’s chief financial officer and assistant secretary for management earlier this month. One of his biggest tasks will be to determine how to implement an integrated financial management system.

Henke came to VA from the Defense Department, where he served as the principal deputy undersecretary and comptroller. Previously, he was a professional staff member with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Henke replaced William Campbell, who left VA last year.

VA scrapped its pilot of the Core Financial and Logistics System (CoreFLS) at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2004 after spending $342 million on the project. The contract with integrator BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., expired after the department disconnected CoreFLS and reverted to the legacy financial system, said VA CIO Robert McFarland

Monday, November 28, 2005

Federal Times - A fresh approach to program assessment

For Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., making sure taxpayers get the best value for their dollar isn?t just his job, it?s a personal quest.

Today, Platts wants the federal government to ask the same question when considering the hundreds of programs it funds every year. As chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on government management, finance and accountability, he introduced HR 185, the Program Assessment and Results (PAR) Act, for the second time this legislative session. The bill would put into statute rigorous, evidence-based assessment of all programs every five fiscal years.

While this may sound like it duplicates the Bush administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool, Platts' aim is not to codify PART or any other specific process for conducting the reviews. Instead, he wants to make sure the discipline of regular program reviews becomes a permanent part of the way the government does business.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

FEDERAL AGENCIES MEET FINANCIAL REPORTING DEADLINE

Every major federal agency issued its financial reporting within 45 days of closing the fiscal year for the first time ever, the Office of Management and Budget announced last week.

Since the end of FY 2001, agencies have been required to complete a Performance and Accountability Report in less than two months. Comparable private sector reports average almost 75 days to complete.

"Timely audits are vital for ensuring taxpayer money is spent honestly and wisely. For the first time ever, members of Congress and taxpayers now have timely access to every federal agency's Performance and Accountability Reports. We are holding agencies accountable with high standards and greater transparency. We are especially proud of the 18 agencies who received clean audits," said Linda Combs, OMB controller and head of the Office of Federal Financial Management.

This year, 18 Federal agencies received ?clean? audit opinions. Three agencies improved their audit results over last year (the Justice Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Small Business Administration) after successfully implementing corrective actions to resolve the previous year?s issues. The three agencies that declined relative to last year (the departments of Energy and State and the General Services Administration) have active efforts underway to address the reason for the decline.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Federal Times - Number of clean audits holds steady

Eighteen of the 24 agencies required to file their financial statements with the Office of Management and Budget received clean audits for fiscal 2005, according to results released Nov. 16.

Three agencies - the Justice Department, Housing and Urban Development Department and the Small Business Administration - improved this year to regain their clean audit status. However, the Energy Department, State Department and General Services Administration declined relative to 2004, making the net number of agencies receiving clean audits in 2005 equal to that of the previous year.

Despite ratings slips OMB calls PMA scorecard requirements 'very reasonable'

Although several agencies saw their grades fall on the e-government portion of the most recent President's Management Agenda scorecard, Office of Management and Budget officials do not believe they have set the bar too high for agencies to earn and maintain high marks.

Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT, said the milestones and requirements to achieve the coveted "green" scorecard rating - the highest score - are sufficient and resulted from negotiations with the top brass at all federal agencies.

"We finalized [the milestones] with the agencies in September," Evans said today in Washington at the Program Management Summit. If agencies "think there [are] too many milestones - they agreed to them. ... We did try to be very reasonable."

The latest PMA scorecard, released Wednesday, saw six agencies lose their green status related to compliance with OMB's e-government initiative.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

CSC Announces Modernization Program Success With IRS Clean Audit

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Nov. 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Computer Sciences Corporation (NYSE: CSC) today announced a significant milestone achieved on the Business Systems Modernization (BSM) program for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Government Accountability Office granted the IRS an unqualified or " clean" audit opinion one year after initial implementation and launch of a modernized financial management system -- the Integrated Financial System (IFS). The CSC-led PRIME Alliance was the lead systems integrator on the project, providing leadership, business transformation and systems integration services to support the roll-out of SAP's Federal Financial Management solution.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

USDA REOPENS NEW ORLEANS FINANCE CENTER

Over half of the Department of Agriculture National Finance Center's New Orleans staff has returned to their Crescent City offices.

Of the office's 462 employees, more than 300 are currently working at the New Orleans facility. The remaining workers will be brought back once the NFC stabilizes its information technology infrastructure and finds alternative housing for the displaced employees.

"Our return to the National Finance Center's worksite in eastern New Orleans is part of the USDA's commitment to the region. We will continue returning NFC's employees to New Orleans, just as we will continue our efforts to provide food and rural housing while also assisting farmers and ranchers in the region," said USDA Secretary Mike Johanns.

Input: IT spending on state, local tax systems to rise

State and local governments will be spending more money developing their taxation, revenue and collection information systems in the next five years, according to a new report by a research analysis firm.

Based on recent spending trends and contract activity, Reston, Va.-based Input forecasts that the market will grow from about $550 million in fiscal 2006 to about $755 million by fiscal 2010 at a compounded annual growth rate of 8.3 percent.

Although such systems represent a small proportion of total information technology budgets, state and local governments are focusing more on financial management and projects to improve financial performance, the report indicates.

ERP system provides value for U.N. organization

Officials from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are adding functionality to a 2-year-old enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which has reportedly improved integration, collaboration and transparency among offices worldwide.

UNDP employees already had secure Internet access to 17 modules - such as project management, finances, human resources and others - within the system. An e-procurement module was added in September, and an e-recruit one, which will help the organization better sift through job applications, is planned for next year.

In partnership with the U.N. Population Fund and the U.N. Office for Project Services, UNDP officials implemented an integrated Oracle PeopleSoft system in January 2004 through a "big bang approach" across offices in 145 countries. About 8,000 people use the ERP system - which replaced nearly two-dozen existing systems - and the plan is to expand access to thousands more.

www.GovExec.com - Agencies lose ground on e-gov section of management score card (11/15/05)

Six agencies saw their grades fall on the electronic government portion of the Bush administration's latest quarterly management score card, published Monday.

The lower marks in e-government, an initiative aimed at providing citizens with online access to government services and information, occurred 'primarily because [agencies] failed to complete key milestones in . . . implementation plans,' said Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, in a statement.

GAO Finds Serious Flaws in IRS Controls

The Internal Revenue Service has had serious shortcomings in its internal controls and financial management systems that caused it to sap its resources in the preparation of its financial statements in the fiscal years of 2004 and 2005, according to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

As a result of the controls and systems flaws, the IRS didn't keep effective watch over its financial reporting or legal and regulatory compliance, according to the GAO. Thus, the revenue service didn't 'provide reasonable assurance that losses, misstatements, and noncompliance with laws material in relation to the financial statements would be prevented or detected on a timely basis,' the report concluded.

In fact, for fiscal 2005, the GAO credited the tax service with successfully implementing the first phase of its new Integrated Financial System (IFS).The system is intended to replace the outdated financial management systems the IRS used in recent years to process and report administrative (nontax) transactions.

"This first phase of IFS provides for improved audit trails and more timely information for such activities and transactions as travel, purchases of goods and services, and budgetary activities," the GAO report asserted. Further, the IRS continued to progress in terms of addressing its "weaknesses in controls over hard-copy taxpayer receipts and data and over property and equipment."

Audit: TSA financial reporting beset with problems

The Transportation Security Administration displays material weaknesses in its information technology used for financial reporting and internal controls, largely related to legacy systems inherited from the Transportation Department, according to an audit report released today by the Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner. TSA is an agency of the Homeland Security Department.

KPMG LLP, an accounting firm in Washington, did the audit for the year ended Sept. 30, 2004. It is posted on the inspector general's Web site.

The evaluation found major deficiencies in TSA's IT access and "segregation-of-duties" controls related to primary financial applications owned and operated by the Transportation Department. TSA uses Transportation's core accounting system, known as Delphi, to process and record financial transactions.

www.GovExec.com - Accounting improvements underway at Pentagon (11/10/05)

The Pentagon is making progress getting its financial books in order, but senior officials said Wednesday that they still do not know when they will wrap up an audit of Defense Department spending.
It may take at least four or more years, they said.
Concerned that billions of dollars in the defense budget are squandered each year, Congress has pressed Defense officials to account for all dollars -- from health care to program development costs -- spent by DoD.

OMB asks agencies to practice project management discipline

Earned value management (EVM) is an unfamiliar discipline to many federal project managers, but it won?t be a mystery much longer. Federals agencies have until Dec. 31 to create policies for using EVM to reduce the inherent risk in large information technology projects.


All federal agencies should be using EVM as businesses have been doing for years, said Tim Young, associate administrator for e-government and IT in the Office of Management and Budget. That office set the Dec. 31 deadline.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

FINANCE: Clean Audits Weak Systems

The good news: More agencies are receiving clean audits on the their financial statements. The bad news: Their financial systems can?t generate the comprehensive data needed for day-to-day financial management.

'The underlying financial systems are a serious problem,' the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report (GAO-05-881 at www.gao.gov). 'Systems of most agencies are still unable to routinely produce reliable, useful and timely financial information,' as required by the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996.

Ultimately, this shortcoming prevents agencies from effectively managing major programs, according to GAO.

For fiscal 2004, auditors for 16 of the 23 agencies covered by the Chief Information Officers Act of 1990 reported that the agencies? financial management systems failed to comply with FFMIA. In reviewing the reports, GAO criticized auditors for six of the seven other agencies for providing only 'negative assurance,' meaning nothing came to the auditors' attention during their investigations to indicate that the systems didn?t meet FFMIA standards.

The E-government payoff: Where finance acquisition and HR converge, e-gov projects deliver

E-government, the electronic kiss that is transforming government from a wart-covered frog trapped in a stovepipe into a handsome, service-delivering prince, is no fairy tale.

Considered a bold vision three years ago, with the launch of the 25 Quicksilver initiatives, e-government may have lost some of its visibility and luster. But the fruits of more than three years of the Quicksilver initiatives have been very real: reduced costs, better service delivery and improved cooperation among agencies, experts in and outside of government say.

Initiatives where the core disciplines of finance, acquisition and human resources came together have wrought measurable, though sometimes hard-won, gains—and some clear management lessons.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Defense needs auditing

In what can aptly be described as a moment of bipartisan cooperation, a Democrat-controlled Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. In a report published shortly thereafter by the General Accounting Office, the CFO Act was heralded as 'the beginning of what promises to be a new era not only in federal management and accountability, but also in efforts to gain financial control of government operations.'

The report added: 'This is the most comprehensive and far-reaching financial management improvement legislation since the Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950... The CFO Act will lay a foundation for comprehensive reform of federal financial management.'

A key provision of the bipartisan legislation is a requirement that federal agencies undergo independent financial audits. Heretofore, this most basic of internal controls was too often foreign to the public sector. Accounts of a federal agency paying $200 for a hammer or $600 for a toilet seat were common fodder for journalists and late-night comics alike. To their credit, federal lawmakers recognized the need for reform and enacted the CFO act as an integral part.

ICE nominee would fix financial troubles first - Federal Times

If Julie Myers is confirmed as expected as director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Homeland Security Department, one of her top priorities - and major challenges - will be repairing the agency's financial integrity.

Federal auditors have singled out the agency's financial management problems as particularly troublesome in the last year.
Myers told senators at her Sept. 15 nomination hearing that fixing ICE's financial management will be paramount among her concerns. Myers said the problem stretches back to ICE's creation in March 2003, when it was cobbled together from remnants of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and Customs Service. She said ICE was shortchanged in those early days of Homeland Security.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

HoustonChronicle.com - Nominee promises to put NASA's finances in order

President Bush's choice to become NASA's second-in-command told a Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that cleaning up the agency's financial management problems would be a top priority for her.

"My plan is to have very aggressive oversight of where NASA is with its financial management system," Shana Dale told the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee. "This definitely needs to be brought under control."

Dale, deputy director for homeland and national security for the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, was nominated Sept. 9 to replace Fred Gregory as NASA's deputy administrator.

The committee is expected to send Dale's nomination to the full Senate this week.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Auditors again deride NASA financial system, EA

NASA risks inaccurate accounting of its most expensive space missions because the agency is still struggling to build a modern financial management system, after more than a decade of federal auditor warnings.

Since 2003, when the Government Accountability Office last reviewed the agency's integrated financial management program (IFMP), progress has been slow, especially in establishing an enterprise architecture. Of the 45 recommendations made in 2003, NASA has completed three and has barely started or not started 29.

"For more than a decade, we have identified weak contract management and the lack of reliable financial and performance information as posing significant challenges to NASA's ability to effectively run its largest and most costly programs," a GAO report released last week states.

"The longer NASA waits to fully implement our recommendations, the greater the risk is that the agency will continue to operate a system that does less than promised and costs more than expected."

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