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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

CFO looks to other agencies for financial management systems

"After scrapping a multimillion-dollar plan to consolidate its financial management systems, the Homeland Security Department is looking instead at piggybacking onto already existing systems.

Chief Financial Officer Andrew Maner said in a Jan. 10 interview that the department decided that using existing financial management systems will be more efficient than spending millions to develop a new one. Under this vision, Homeland Security will still have several systems, but fewer than it does now.

Homeland Security is figuring out which financial management functions its agencies need and what systems are available.

Maner said Homeland Security will look at both financial management systems run by department components such as the Coast Guard, the Secret Service and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and systems provided by agencies that the Office of Management and Budget has designated centers of excellence.

OMB is pushing all agencies to buy financial management services from the Transportation Department, General Services Administration, the Interior Department's National Business Center, and the Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt. OMB says consolidating financial services - as well as other areas such as human resources and grants - would save resources and improve efficiency.

The department has had problems managing its finances since its creation in March 2003. Inspector General Richard Skinner, former IG Clark Kent Ervin, lawmakers and others have highlighted problems the department has tracking and managing funds, property, equipment and accounting.

Maner said agencies that must improve their financial management, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), are meeting with him regularly to discuss what they need and what systems might fill those requirements.

Maner wants to have a plan by the end of March spelling out which agencies will move first and to what systems. He wants the first agencies to transfer by the end of September.

Maner said about five or six agencies need help with financial management. The process could take two or three years to complete, Maner said, but a total cost has not yet been estimated.

Maner also wants to create a “data mart” that will work in concert with agency financial systems to collect Homeland Security’s financial information in one place. This will help the agency more easily compile reports and give Maner quicker access to information he needs to make daily decisions as CFO."

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