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Friday, March 31, 2006

Inventories are step toward better property management

"Agencies have created detailed inventories of the buildings, structures and land parcels they own and lease, but the jury's still out on whether this will translate into better property management.

While the federal government owns and leases more than 3 billion square feet of space worth more than $300 billion, little has been known about the condition of this property and how it's used - until now.

As part of the administration's effort to improve real property management, agencies were required to provide the General Services Administration with detailed information of their assets by the end of last year.

GSA has recently finished reviewing these submissions and plans to release a report summarizing the inventory by June 1. "

EMERGE2's failure sends DHS back to drawing board

"The Homeland Security Department's acting chief financial officer said it's back to the drawing board after the failure of a high-profile project intended to establish a single enterprise financial and asset management system for the 22 agencies that make up DHS.

DHS officials awarded a blanket purchase agreement - potentially worth up to $229 million - to BearingPoint in fall 2004 for the Electronically Managing Enterprise Resources for Government Efficiency and Effectiveness (EMERGE2) initiative. But last year they scuttled the project after officials found it wasn't going in the right direction and was too risky to continue.

Eugene Schied, the acting CFO, said the department had spent $18.3 million before it found the project was unworkable. He said DHS officials have abandoned the notion to rebid the contract.

'I don't see there's going to be another,' he told congressional lawmakers at a hearing yesterday afternoon."

Management flaws cited for failed DHS contract

"A contract for a project to integrate financial data across the Homeland Security Department collapsed because management challenges were underestimated, a DHS official told lawmakers Wednesday.

BearingPoint Inc. in September 2004 won a blanket purchase agreement worth up to $229 million to work on the project, known as eMerge2. The contractor was to help fuse eight legacy financial systems, but within weeks the department realized that the project was unacceptably off schedule and the contract had problems, said Eugene Schied, DHS' acting chief financial officer.

Approximately $18.3 million was spent on the contract -- $9.4 million for the project's initial phase and $8.9 million under a task order that originally was worth $20 million, Schied testified at a joint hearing of House Government Reform and Homeland Security subcommittees. "

Cognos Courts SAP

"If business intelligence (BI) vendors are gentlemen callers, then German software giant SAP AG is the ERP equivalent of Amanda Wingfield.

The tragic heroine of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, Wingfield once claimed to have entertained as many as 17 gentlemen callers in a single day. SAP hasn't quite had that much attention from BI vendors, but the fact remains that a growing number of business intelligence players are cozying up.

Take Cognos Inc. The Ottawa-based BI giant this week unveiled an update to its Cognos 8 BI suite which improves that product's interoperability with SAP's NetWeaver platform. In this respect, Cognos joins a procession of SAP inamorata that (in the last three months alone) includes MicroStrategy Inc. and Applix Inc. Why are these vendors and a host of others - including Hyperion Solutions Corp., Informatica Corp., and Microsoft Corp., which have also outlined substantive SAP outreach efforts in the last 12 months - all but falling all over themselves to accommodate SAP? What gives?"

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Grants LOB managers out to prove consortia model works

"While there are no stated goals for agencies to migrate to the three consortia under the Grants Management Line of Business, the agency lead managers for the initiative are strongly optimistic that at least one agency will prove this year that the shared-services provider concept works.

In an effort to ensure success, Charlie Havekost, CIO of the Health and Human Services Department, and Mary Santonastasso, acting division director for National Science Foundation's Division of Grants and Agreement, will meet with agency leaders from the Financial Management LOB project and the Office of Management and Budget next week to figure out how to remove any potential barriers that might stop agencies from using a Grants shared-services provider.

Havekost said he will meet with General Services Administration's Mary Mitchell, the FM LOB agency leader; Stacie Boyd, OMB's portfolio manager; and others to discuss how to make sure data is shared between Grants consortia providers and the Centers of Excellence financial management systems.

“We need standardized touch points so there is feedback into the financial management system,” Havekost said during a lunch in Washington sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council of Fairfax, Va. “We have to collectively solve this issue, and any other one, so it is not a reason for an agency not to go to a consortia.”

OMB named three consortia providers in February when President Bush sent his fiscal 2007 budget request to Congress. "

Monday, March 27, 2006

The case for SOA

"Service-oriented architecture can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to implement. But the technology experts who can cut through the technical jargon and intense market hype say SOA has the potential to play a major role in the future of systems development.

In short, SOA provides a framework for developing software components to manage data communications among different systems. Because those components are platform-independent, they make it possible to build services that work with multiple applications. Therefore, SOA has the potential to increase interoperability and save time and money in application development.

This new way of thinking is slow to take hold in the federal market. Similar ideas have emerged before with great fanfare, only to fade away with barely a whimper. But experts say SOA is different."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Dr. Linda Combs (OMB)

"The Office of Federal Financial Management, led by the OMB Controller, is responsible for the financial management policy of the Federal Government. As Controller, Dr. Combs will lead the Improved Financial Performance Initiative for the President's Management Agenda. The initiative focuses on improving the quality and timeliness of Federal financial information. This year, 18 of 23 Federal agencies received clean audit opinions on their financial statements. Additionally, 22 agencies accelerated the completion of their financial statements, making vital financial information available to agency leaders within 45 days of the close of the fiscal year. In past years, these agencies took as long as five months to complete their financial reports.

Most recently, Dr. Combs served as the Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and Chief Financial Officer at the U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT). As Assistant Secretary, Dr. Combs oversaw all budgetary and management functions of the Department, including budget development and budget execution. As Chief Financial Officer, she was responsible for oversight of the Department's $57 billion appropriation, the Government Performance and Results Act, as well as general monitoring of programs. The Department of Transportation was the first Cabinet level Department to achieve four coveted 'green' scores on the President's Management Agenda.

Prior to her appointment at DOT, Dr. Combs served as Chief Financial of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001-2003. During the previous Reagan and Bush Administrations, Dr. Combs served in various oversight roles and executive level management positions at the Departments of Education, Veterans Affairs, and Treasury. She also worked for more than ten years in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system in North Carolina.

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Homeland Security management chief resigns

"The Homeland Security Department's first undersecretary for management announced her resignation Wednesday after more than three years on the job.

Janet Hale will step down in early May, according to a department statement. As chief of the DHS management directorate, Hale played a vital role in melding the 22 legacy agencies and 180,000 employees that make up the department.

'Janet's remarkable dedication to this department has led the way for a 21st century human resource system, fully integrated information technology architecture, a financial management structure with accountability and a successful strategic procurement program,' Chertoff said.

The department's five 'line of business' chiefs -- the chief financial officer, chief information officer, chief procurement officer, chief human capital officer and chief administrative officer -- report to Hale. That structure has been criticized by the Government Accountability Office and former DHS Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin as leaving the business chiefs with too little authority.

Prior to joining DHS, Hale was assistant secretary for budget, technology and finance at the Health and Human Services Department.

Before HHS, she worked as associate administrator for finance for the House of Representatives. She also has served as associate director for economics and government at the Office of Management and Budget, assistant secretary for budget and programs at the Transportation Department, and assistant secretary of housing at the Housing and Urban Development Department.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

GSA to release RFIs for new Lines of Business

"The General Services Administration plans to release requests for information and hold industry days for the three news lines of business - IT infrastructure, geospatial and budget formulation - in mid-April.

To prepare for these events and future needs, GSA hired SiloSmashers Inc. of Vienna, Va., to work with the managing partners on the documentation and analysis of the LOBs through a blanket purchase agreement established in February.

A company official said they began working on the project last week when the Office of Management and Budget held a LOB kick-off meeting.

The official said GSA will release an RFI for each new LOB in early April and then hold industry days April 18 and 19 in the Washington metro area. "

Government to the Nth Degree

"It is a graduate school with 100,000 students but no tenured faculty, no campus to speak of and no degree-granting powers. And despite its name -- 'Graduate School, USDA' -- it has very little to do with the U.S. Department of Agriculture or farming.

Instead, the unusual 85-year-old institution is one of the most popular adult education and federal training centers in the country, offering more than 1,000 classes in more than 70 cities for government workers and ordinary folks alike. It does it all without any money from Congress, paying for its operations through tuition charges and training contracts.

Every weekday, agencies all over Washington send hundreds of employees to a private office building near the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station, where the Graduate School offers federal training in subjects such as financial management, government auditing, human resources and information technology. The school is the place for unsexy but useful classes such as "Federal Budgeting for Non-Budgeting Personnel," "Position Classification for Supervisors and Administrative Staff," and "The Role of the Human Resources Specialist in Competitive Sourcing.""

Pentagon to streamline process for buying business systems

"A trial program to revamp the Defense Department's process for acquiring business systems will be formally announced in the next four to six weeks, an official leading the Pentagon's business transformation efforts said this week.

The five to seven years that it can take to field information technology systems is too long, and the process needs to move faster if the department is to adopt industry best practices, said Paul Brinkley, Defense deputy undersecretary for business transformation and co-director of the newly created Business Transformation Agency. "

Platts asks how OMB will align A-76 with LOB initiative

"Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.) is questioning whether the Office of Management and Budget needs to amend rules for determining if inherently commercial functions performed by government employees should be outsourced under the administration's Lines of Business Consolidation Initiative.

Platts, chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability, in a letter today to OMB controller Linda Combs asked if the administration was considering changing Circular A-76 - which details how agencies should compete commercial tasks against the private sector - if agencies outsource their financial management services to a private company.

'If OMB Circular A-76 is to be discarded or changed for purposes of this initiative, will the alternative process or the changed A-76 circular be consistent with the laws established to require public-private competition before conversion to contractor performance?' Platts asked.

Platts sent the letter after holding a hearing on OMB's initiative to encourage agencies to consider turning over their financial management services to both public and private centers of excellence (COEs). At the hearing, Platts raised concerns over how publicly funded COEs could compete against the private sector because of inequities built into the law that may hamper an agency COE from investing in capital improvements, including technology refresh. "

Yes Mr Johnson agencies really do make progress

"Last week the Office of Management and Budget's scorecards on agency cybersecurity came out. Uh-oh: Lots of lousy scores. Clearly, the tenets of the Federal Information Security Management Act haven't exactly caught fire in every department. (Read about the scores.)

But what about the President's Management Agenda, the other scorecard-producing effort that has been the bane of many an agency's existence? Under the PMA, 30 agencies and departments get rated periodically under several factors - human capital, competitive sourcing, financial performance, e-government and budget-performance integration.

Austin Russ of Robbins-Gioia LLC of Alexandria, Va., compiled and charted the quarterly PMA scores going back to the baseline of 2001, when OMB initiated the whole thing. The summary charts, shown below, show - ta da! - progress in the number of agencies achieving green, or good, scores. The company also put together the score histories for each of the 30 measured agencies. Looking deeper you'd see that progress has been scattered and more uneven than the aggregate results show.

To view can see the full report here. "

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

When Crisis Comes: How NFC overcame calamity and kept its operations going

"You can plan and practice from here to eternity, but until an actual disaster strikes, your business continuity preparations are just a theory. And even if they work, you'll encounter plenty of things you hadn't thought of.

Just ask officials at the National Finance Center in New Orleans, who saw to it that more than half a million federal workers got paid on time while Hurricane Katrina was bearing down, then made subsequent payrolls - NFC's largest ever - without missing a beat.

Their continuity-of-operations plans stood up to Katrina in the short term. But no COOP plan is perfect, and NFC's is being revised to account for unexpected long-term difficulties. "

OMB looks for lines of business payoff

"The Office of Management and Budget has begun a governmentwide analysis of how the three lines of business proposed as part of the fiscal 2007 budget could help the government cut costs and improve services.

An interagency task force for each of the new lines of business -- information technology infrastructure, geospatial operations and budgeting process -- will analyze the current state of systems and identify common solutions and target architectures. The task force will also develop a business case to be submitted for fiscal 2008 budget review, according to OMB.

After studying industry benchmarks and agencies' fiscal 2007 IT budget submissions, OMB officials say opportunities for savings exist. For example, by taking a more coordinated approach to spending on IT infrastructure, the government could save between 16 percent and 27 percent annually on its IT infrastructure budget over 10 years, which would add up to between $18 billion and $29 billion, officials say. "

OMB expands technology consolidation effort

"The Office of Management and Budget is pressing forward with its effort to consolidate and centralize federal information technology systems, despite admitting that not all the details are resolved.

OMB last week kicked off three governmentwide task forces to review additional areas -- called 'lines of business' -- it has deemed potentially ripe for consolidation.

The areas that will be examined are: IT infrastructure, geospatial systems, and systems for budget formulation and execution. Previous line of business task forces formed by OMB have recommended that agencies shut down individual IT systems and instead buy services from a handful of government agencies appointed as service providers, or from the private sector. "

Monday, March 20, 2006

Congress questions financial management consolidation

"In the two years since the Office of Management and Budget announced an initiative to consolidate agencies' financial management systems, there has been little indication of progress. Now, Congress is questioning the risks involved in continuing the project - and whether completion is feasible.

As called for in the President' Management Agenda, OMB intends for many financial management operations to be concentrated within shared services centers, where one service provider handles back-office functions for several agencies to save money.

The plan is referred to as the Financial Management Line of Business, one of six federal lines of business. The financial management shared service provider can be a federal agency - referred to as a Center of Excellence - or a private company. OMB wants any department planning a major change in its financial management system to consider using one of the agency COEs or a commercial provider, instead of conducting operations internally.

But last week, lawmakers held a hearing with OMB officials to voice their concerns about the lack of clear guidance on financial management shared services. Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's Government Management, Finance and Accountability Subcommittee, expressed his confusion about the murky guidance governing which agencies must eventually use or become a COE. "

NIST sets FISMA standards for federal IT systems

"The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released the final standard for securing agency computer systems under the Federal Information Security Management Act.

Federal Information Processing Standard 200 sets minimum security requirements for federal systems in 17 security areas. It is the third of three publications required from NIST under FISMA, which requires executive branch agencies to establish consistent, manageable IT security programs for non-national security systems. The intent of FISMA is to implement risk-based processes for selecting and implementing security controls. "

Friday, March 17, 2006

OMB: Questions remain in effort to consolidate financial systems

"Uncertainties cling to a governmentwide mandatory effort to consolidate information technology systems for financial management, Office of Management and Budget officials acknowledged Wednesday.

'There's a lot of questions out there that we still need to answer,' said Karen Evans, OMB administrator of e-government and information technology. She testified at a hearing called by the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability.

Speaking during a hearing break, Linda Combs, OMB's controller, acknowledged that aspects of the consolidation still need to be worked out. "We're working on something that's not been done before, and we're taking a deliberate look at every step we take," she said. "

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Grant Thornton Testifies Before Congressional Committee on OMB's Financial Management Line of Business Initiative: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

"WASHINGTON, March 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Grant Thornton LLP, one of the largest accounting and business advisory firms in the world, Wednesday, testified before a House Government Reform subcommittee that most federal financial leaders favor OMB's Financial Management Line of Business (FMLOB) initiative, but the same leaders question how the initiative will be executed.

Clifton A. Williams, a partner with Grant Thornton's Global Public Sector, and a former Federal financial manager, told the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability, that preliminary results of an on-going survey of Federal CFO's show that almost no survey respondents oppose the FMLOB's concept of shared services -- just so long as service quality is good and reasonably priced.

Williams presented the subcommittee with preliminary findings of the 2006 Association of Government Accountants (AGA) Federal Chief Financial Officer's Survey. On behalf of the AGA, since 1996, Grant Thornton has conducted an annual survey of federal CFOs, deputy CFOs and other federal financial managers. The 2006 CFO survey (findings due in June) includes questions about OMB's FMLOB initiative."

McFarland resigns as VA CIO

"Robert McFarland, chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, has resigned effective April 30.

VA Secretary James Nicholson announced McFarland's plans late yesterday and said he would be returning to his hometown of Austin, Texas, to retire."

SAP Financial Management Software Certified by the Financial Systems Integration Office for Compliance with Federal Standards

"WASHINGTON, D.C., - March 15, 2006 - SAP Public Services, Inc., a subsidiary of SAP AG (NYSE: SAP), today announced that its mySAP ERP 2005 financial management software has been recertified by the Financial Systems Integration Office (FSIO) - formerly referred to as JFMIP - as meeting their functional requirements for core financial systems. Improving federal financial management systems is critical to increasing accounting and forecasting accuracy for financial and program managers. The FSIO certification validates that mySAP ERP 2005 delivers the integrated business processes and financial management best-practices required by federal agencies to deliver increased visibility and transparency to manage budgets, operations and program performance to help improve the efficiency of services provided by the federal government. "

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Richard Strasser (USPS)

"Postmaster General Jack Potter praised the service of retiring Chief Financial Officer Richard Strasser during today's Board of Governors meeting. He presented Strasser with the coveted John Wanamaker Award - named after the former Postmaster General credited with championing rural delivery, commemorative stamps and employee appreciation.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

CIOs in survey: Still a long way to go on security

"Future challenges for the CIOs include consolidating and standardizing their systems, sharing services, managing projects and working across agencies to reduce duplication of IT activities and systems, such as those for payroll processing and financial management. "

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

OMB fleshes out agency financial management road map

The Office of Management and Budget will release a migration guidance document for public comment at the end of this month. It also will contain a set of performance measures and a sample service level agreement for agencies to help them plan to use shared-services providers under the Financial Management Line of Business.

The draft will be available for public comment for 30 days, said Danny Werfel, chief of OMB’s financial integrity and analysis branch.

“[The measures] are not an exhaustive list, but a set that are a good starting point,” he said Friday at the Federal Financial Management Conference sponsored by the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program and the U.S. Chief Financial Officers Council in Washington.

The performance measures will cover categories common among agencies, such as cost per transaction, response time, technical difficulties and customer feedback measures. Many of the measures are likely to be cost based, he said.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Data shows savings from LOB initiative

"New data from the Office of Management and Budget suggests that considerable savings and efficiencies are being realized from the Bush administration's Lines of Business consolidation initiative.

The Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Labor departments, along with the Office of Personnel Management, have seen or will see considerable savings from signing up with shared-services providers for human resources, payroll and travel services, said Tim Young, associate administrator of e-government and IT, this week at the FOSE trade show in Washington. FOSE is sponsored by PostNewsweek Tech Media, the parent company of Government Computer News.

'What this tells me is that we're making progress,' added acting associate administrator for the Office of Governmentwide Policy at the General Services Administration John Sindelar after his presentation at FOSE. "

Manage finances to help mission, panel says

"Good financial management helps agencies focus on what is important to carrying out their core missions, members of a panel said today.

Gwendolyn Sykes, chief financial officer at NASA and one of the panelists, said she had to reshape how NASA thought about its new agenda to go deeper into space. The costs of building space exploration vehicles and getting liftoff add up quickly, and the agency began for the first time doing tough independent financial analyses to see if projects were worth the money, she said.

'We can't do those things if we don't know how much it costs,' Sykes said at the Federal Financial Management Conference at the Hilton Washington in Washington, D.C.

NASA scientists and engineers now want the cost information to determine a project's future, Sykes said.

Financial data pulled from strong financial management practices can bring timely, reliable information to measure costs and determine if an initiative is worthwhile, said fellow panelist Michael Hettinger, staff director of a House subcommittee overseeing agencies' financial management.
Without cost management, agencies face budget shortfalls, Hettinger said."

Bleak fiscal future demands efficient agencies: Walker

"U.S. comptroller general David Walker advised some tough love for the Defense Department, calling for it to get to a modern integrated environment. Walker singled out DOD as one of the biggest challenges in financial management facing the federal government.

'DOD has bad systems [and] bad processes, but good people,' Walker said today at the Federal Financial Management Conference sponsored by the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program and the U.S. Chief Financial Officers Council in Washington.

DOD is one of four agencies whose financial statement failed federal standards for fiscal 2005. The Government Accountability Office also could not give an opinion on the financial reports from the Homeland Security and Energy departments and NASA because the data was unreliable. "

Friday, March 10, 2006

Federal Financial Management Conference 2006

The Federal Financial Management Conference, sponsored by the JFMIP Principals and the U.S. CFO Council, will be held on Friday, March 10, 2006. More information can be found at: http://www.jfmip.gov/jfmip/06_conference.shtml View the Conference Brochure at: http://www.jfmip.gov/jfmip/Images/2006_conference/9291-GS_FFMC_Final.pdf

Agencies should embrace private outsourcing of HR services: panel

"Tim Young, associate administrator of E-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget, said OMB is urging agencies to consider conducting competitions for the acquisition of IT services for HR and financial management services functions, and should consider both public- and private-sector providers to select the most cost-effective alternative.

Through its Lines of Business consolidation initiative, OMB is selecting public and private organizations to serve as centers of excellence and perform certain administrative tasks for other agencies. Young said OMB wants agencies to conduct fair and open competitions for these services so they can then focus attention on their core missions.

'We want improved focus on agency core missions,' Young said. Agencies should spend 'more time and resources on fulfilling' their own responsibilities.

While most federal agencies are familiar with the public centers of excellence under the LOB initiative, Young said they also should look outward to the private sector as well. While admitting that the public-private competitive framework 'is not the most popular model,' he said the government 'is not in a position to sustain unnecessary duplication of back office IT investments.'

OMB is employing a 'carrot and stick' approach as it encourages agencies to embrace the LOB initiative, according to Young. The carrot, he said, is that agencies will have more options, access to higher quality service, decreased overall cost and lower risk if they sign up with a public or private center of excellence.

The stick, Young said, is OMB's budget authority. When agencies submit their budget requests and business cases, if certain programs 'are not aligned in a way that supports the LOBs,' OMB will have something to say about it. “We want agencies to adopt this,” Young said.

IBM Business of Government Hour - Lisa Fiely, CFO USAID

"Lisa Fiely , chief financial officer at the Agency for International Development, will be the guest on 'The IBM Business of Government Hour' at 9 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday March 11, 2006) on WJFK (106.7 FM)."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Ramesh Punwani (FAA)

"Ramesh K. Punwani was named as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief financial officer (CFO) on March 26, 2004. As CFO, Punwani oversees the FAA's $14 billion operating budget as well as the development and agency-wide application of cost accounting and financial management systems. Punwani joined the agency following his work as senior vice president for global strategy at the Cendant Corp.

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OPM expects HR LOB migrations to accelerate this year

"The Office of Personnel Management anticipates that the three agencies that have moved their human resources needs this year to a shared service center will accelerate the shift by others to shared services, said Norm Enger, OPM's e-government program manager.

Five agencies are certified shared service providers under the Human Resources Line of Business: the Treasury, Defense and Health and Human Services Departments, Interior Department's National Business Center and the Agriculture Department's National Finance Center.

In fiscal 2006 so far, the Housing and Urban Development Department migrated its human resources services to Treasury, while the Coast Guard and the Transportation Safety Administration, both part of the Homeland Security Department, are using the National Finance Center.

The move to a shared-services provider is voluntary now. However, under the Office of Management and Budget's Lines of Business consolidation initiative, when agencies need funding to continue or to modernize their HR systems, agencies will have to move to a shared-services provider unless they can prove that their independent system is just as cost effective, said Catherine Conner, business strategist at Treasury's HR Connect program office. "

InformationWeek | Government IT | Financial Management Still a Challenge, Senate Employee Says | March 7, 2006

"The government is trying to standardize financial business processes and data models and promote data exchange among agencies. But, when forced to rely on outdated technology, that's hard to do, a federal financial manager says.

Even with a Line of Business devoted to the cause, federal agencies have a long way to go to get financial-management systems up to par, says David Salem, financial manager for the Office of the Sergeant at Arms in the U.S. Senate, at the Fose show.

'So often [agencies] rely on these old mainframes for maintaining finances and tracking expenses,' he says. 'There's so much that still needs to be done to get these systems to where they need to be.'

The administration made financial management a priority by launching a Line of Business dedicated to a governmentwide financial-management solution that standardizes business processes and data models, promotes seamless data exchange between federal agencies,and strengthens internal controls. "

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

U.S. government kisses more IT work goodbye - Computerworld

"The U.S. federal government is expected to outsource $17.6 billion in IT work by 2010, an increase of more than $4 billion over last year, according to a recent report by market research company Input.

The projected increase in outsourcing is being driven primarily by the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) lines-of-business initiative, according to the report. The government's lines of business include financial management, IT security and grants management. Government agencies will have to apply to the OMB to become Centers of Excellence for a specific business function, and only agencies that receive that designation will be deemed qualified to perform that function. "

Enterprise efforts are in tune at UDSA

"Agriculture CIO Dave Combs, who took the reins last summer, has had a career as varied as USDA's business lines. He was an industry IT executive - he spent 20 years with AT&T Corp. in North Carolina - music producer and composer before coming to USDA's Rural Development agency in 2002. His instrumental, 'Rachel's Song,' topped easy-listening charts in the mid-1980s, and he has written or produced 15 albums.

As CIO, he's finding some common ground across the disparate operations of one of the largest and most decentralized federal departments. USDA has business spanning research, geospatial, health care, bioterror, commodities and recreation. "

Interior taps IBM for $100 million ERP job

"The Interior Department has chosen IBM Corp. to take over as systems integrator on the Financial and Business Management System project that is designed to replace a hodgepodge of financial and administrative apps with a single enterprise resource planning system.

'The contract has been awarded and performance has begun on the first task order,' said Debra Sonderman, Interior's director of acquisition and property management. 'This first task order is for detailed project planning and will culminate in an integrated baseline review.'

Sonderman said the baseline review would ensure that all project tasks have been identified, that resources have been assigned to the tasks and that the project schedule is achievable.

BearingPoint had been working to install enterprise resource planning software from SAP America Inc. of Newton Square, Pa. at Interior. The department continued its relationship with SAP after jettisoning BearingPoint from the project.

After firing BearingPoint and requesting proposals from integrators to take over the work, Interior received proposals from IBM and Accenture.

FBMS is intended to replace an existing array of systems that are “expensive, complicated, and difficult to operate and maintain” as well as hard to secure, according to the project’s Web site. "

Outgoing EPA inspector general tells of search for accountability (3/6/06)

"Nikki Tinsley, inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency since 1997, retired from the federal government last Friday after almost 35 years of public service. An ambitious leader within the inspector general community, Tinsley shared her reflections on the past decade as a federal auditor in an interview with Government Executive.

In April 2003, her office released a grants management plan to guide EPA and help it serve as a model for grant-making at other agencies. Last October, a governmentwide effort to increase accountability for the $450 billion the federal government dispenses in grants culminated with the publication of a best practices guide developed with 14 inspectors general, GAO, the Office of Management and Budget and representatives from several state and local governments. "

Monday, March 06, 2006

INTERNAUT: LOB impact? You ain't seen nothing yet

"Just when federal agencies thought they were catching up with the Office of Management and Budget's six existing Line of Business initiatives, they now have three more LOBs to consider. These recently announced LOBs could well have the greatest streamlining effect of any of the initiatives thus far. What's more, agency IT budgets could see significant cuts in the years ahead if they succeed. "

Can OMB's new centers of excellence really compete?

"Designated providers are prevented from retaining and reinvesting earnings putting them at a disadvantage

The Office of Management and Budget's strategy for moving agencies to consolidated financial and human resources management systems is about to be put to the test. As agencies begin to adopt shared-services providers, federal experts question whether a 74-year-old law that applies to agency balance sheets will prevent some of the service providers from competing on level ground.

But chief among the concerns is whether COEs have the legal and financial latitude to support and sustain these systems over the long term, providing better and less expensive services. A related concern is how COEs would pay to remedy shortcomings in service-level agreements. Some experts are concerned that the COEs will not be able to compete with private-sector companies or even some other agency providers, known as franchise funds, that operate under a different set of rules that let them retain earnings for capital investment.

Three civilian COEs, led by the Interior Department's National Business Center, the Health and Human Services Department and Agriculture's National Finance Center, are stuck in a government time warp - unable to act like a private-sector business but being asked to compete like one and against them.

The time warp stems from the Economy Act, a law written in 1932 to govern how agencies procure services from one another."

OMB gives e-gov status report to Congress

"An Office of Management and Budget report to Congress describes how the agency put e-government initiatives into action in fiscal 2005 and made information more available to agencies and the public.

OMB's report, titled "FY 2005 Report to Congress on Implementation of the E-Government Act of 2002," states that the government spent about $62 billion on information technology in 2005."

GAO Cites Material Weaknesses

"Several material weaknesses kept the federal government from maintaining effective internal controls over financial reporting. Also, deficit still a concern.

Officials at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that for the ninth straight year it is unable to provide an opinion as to whether the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government are fairly stated and conform with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). The GAO cites material weaknesses in internal controls and selected accounting and financial reporting practices as the reason for the qualified opinion.

In a March 1 report on fiscal year 2005 government financial statements, the agency cited three major impediments to rendering an opinion on the financial statements: serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense; the federal government's inability to adequately account for, and reconcile, intragovernmental activity and balances among federal agencies; and the federal government's ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements."

Friday, March 03, 2006

President Nominates John Cox to be CFO at HUD

"The President nominated John W. Cox, of Texas, to be Chief Financial Officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Cox currently serves as a Private Consultant. He previously served as Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Accounting Officer for BMC Software, Inc. Prior to this, he served the company as Vice President for Investor Relations and Taxation and Manager of Taxation. Earlier in his career, he served as Tax Manager for Ernst & Young, LLP. Mr. Cox received his bachelor's degree from Texas A & M University. "

Director for Financial Management and Deputy Chief Financial Officer

The Office of Financial Management (OFM) at the Department of Commerce, in Washington, DC, is seeking a highly qualified individual for the position of Director OFM/Deputy CFO.

For information or to apply for this position visit http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/
vacancy number OS-OFM-004-2006-DHP. The Department of Commerce is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Position closes: Monday, March 20, 2006.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

VA plans CoreFLS successor

"The Veterans Affairs Department has returned to the drawing board and is planning a new financial and logistics program to succeed where its Core Financial and Logistics System failed, a VA official said today.

The Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise (FLITE) is a result of recommendations and lessons learned from the CoreFLS fiasco, said VA CIO Robert McFarland.

FLITE will be designed to meet the requirements for an integrated financial system to fix perennial department material weaknesses.

VA hired PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP to evaluate the department's financial environment after VA scrapped CoreFLS in 2004. VA had spent $342 million on the project.

The system, piloted at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Fla., did not operate correctly, resulting in postponed surgeries because equipment was not available. VA also had customized the commercial system on which CoreFLS was based to such an extent that it could not be repeated at other facilities even if it operated properly, McFarland has said.

VA re-established its legacy Financial Management System (FMS), which FLITE ultimately would replace.

“FLITE is the second try at eliminating the material weaknesses in financial and logistics that we have. It is another spin at trying to do what CoreFLS was supposed to do,” he said after a hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee oversight subcommittee. "

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - George Schutter III (Peace Corps)

George Schutter was appointed Chief Financial Officer of the Peace Corps in June of 2005. In this position, Mr. Schutter is responsible for directing and managing the agency's financial operations as well as developing and monitoring sound financial policy for Peace Corps globally. Peace Corps' financial operations include the internal budget processes, managing agency financial systems, performance reporting, international cash management, fiscal compliance, and accounting operations. He also organizes the development of the Peace Corps' budget requests to Congress.

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Medicare's new accounting system is good for the bottom line

"Cash flow improvements generate more than $1 million per month, officials report

Cash flow improvements from a new financial management system at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have generated $9 million in interest for the Medicare trust fund in just seven months of partial operation.

CMS officials said the system has other benefits as well, including more accurate reimbursements and faster reporting to agency officials. Although CMS is not yet claiming that the system has speeded payments to health care providers, agency Administrator Mark McClellan said that that might occur in the future.

The new system, known as the Healthcare Integrated General Ledger Accounting System or HIGLAS, is based on Oracle Federal Financials, a commercial product. It is part of the Unified Financial Management System being installed in Health and Human Services Department agencies."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Meta-Mania

"The federal government has a hard time keeping track of its money -- especially money that goes from one agency to another. In fact, agencies often can't agree on how many dollars they transfer among themselves. Year after year, the Government Accountability Office declares intragovernmental transactions a material weakness in its annual assessment of federal finances.

This is one reason Samuel Mok, chief financial officer for the Labor Department, wants his colleagues to adopt a standardized way of exchanging financial data. It's called Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), and now is the time to initiate it, Mok urges. Many federal agencies are updating their financial systems, so they're well-positioned to adopt new technologies. But Mok recognizes that educating people about XBRL's benefits can be difficult. 'It's not a software, it's not a hardware, it's not a programming language; it's a new concept,' he says."

Homeland Security gets help strengthening financial controls

"The Homeland Security Department awarded a contract worth as much as $42 million over five years to PricewaterhouseCoopers for assistance in assessing internal controls over financial reporting, DHS announced last week.

Since 1983, agency heads have been required under the 1982 Federal Managers Financial Integrity Act to produce an annual statement on the state of internal controls. That requirement was made more stringent in 2004 with a revision to Circular A-123, the Office of Management and Budget's guidance document for implementing the act. The circular allows OMB to demand an audit if agencies fail to make clear progress.

DHS last year initiated efforts to comply with its accounting requirements by assigning responsibilities for internal controls, launching a series of pilot projects to document and correct material weaknesses and deploying a Government Accountability Office tool for managing internal controls.

The internal control audit is in addition to an annual financial management audit required of DHS and 23 other agencies covered by the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act. "

AABPA Spring 2006 Symposium "Budgeting for Disasters"

American Association for Budget and Program Analysis (AABPA) Spring 2006 Symposium "BUDGETING FOR DISASTERS" will be held Wednesday, May 24, 2005 at:

Capital Hilton Hotel
16th and K Street, NW,
Washington, D.C.

For more information, visit the AABPA website.

@FedCFO