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Thursday, November 30, 2006

FederalNewsRadio - Federal Financial Report - Bad Accounting

You know you have a problem when an agency's bad accounting is called into question. According to Government Executive, eight agencies reported no improper payments in fiscal 2005, including the Department of Homeland Security. But Congress has held hearings on about $1 billion in improper FEMA hurricane payments, and that's DHS. GAO auditors also found, governmentwide improper payment estimates omitted information on ten major programs. Nine programs that were reported used faulty methods to reach their numbers.

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CIO - Stephen Warren (FTC)

As Chief Information Officer of the Information and Technology Management Office of the FTC, Stephen Warren ensures that antitrust and consumer protection missions, and administrative and management support functions of FTC are supported.
  • Protecting the consumer from hackers -- and how the FTC helps consumers help themselves
  • The FTC and VoIP -- how the FTC makes sure it's conversations are secure
  • Why the FTC doesn't buy the latest gadgets and gizmos

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FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Paul Brinkley (BTA)

Mr. Brinkley was appointed Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Business Transformation in January, 2006. In this role, Mr. Brinkley leads business management modernization for the Department of Defense, working across the Military Services & Defense Agencies to drive rapid transformation of business processes & systems to ensure improved support to the warfighter and improved financial accountability. In partnership with the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Financial Management, Mr. Brinkley also oversees the Business Transformation Agency, a new organization accountable for delivery of common systems and processes supporting logistics, acquisition, finance, and personnel activity across the DOD.
  • Eliminating the gap at the top
  • Breaking through the layers of cultural barriers
  • Understanding the "brick wall" -- budgeting around the constraints unique to a successful military
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BTA names Fisher acting director

David Fisher has been named acting director for the Defense Department’s Business Transformation Agency.

One year after the BTA was established, Paul Brinkley and Thomas Modly — who had been serving jointly as directors — announced an organizational restructuring, placing Fisher at the helm of the business oversight agency until a permanent director is hired. Fisher has formerly worked as DOD’s lead for transformation planning and performance. Before joining the Defense Department, Fisher was a managing director with BearingPoint.

In a November memo, Brinkley and Modly estimated that the process to hire a permanent director could take several more months. They also realigned the Priority Projects directorate to report directly to Army Maj. Gen. Carlos “Butch” Pair, BTA’s Defense business systems acquisition executive.

In addition to Fisher, Brinkley and Modly named Radha Sekar as assistant deputy chief financial officer in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense. In that position, Sekar will serve as the “functional sponsor” of several initiatives, including the Business Enterprise Information Systems (BEIS), Intragovernmental Value Added Network (IVAN) and Strategic Resource Decision System (SRDS) programs. Cindy Beck will become the BTA lead for the BEIS, IVAN and SRDS initiatives.

BTA was established last fall to centrally manage 18 of DOD’s largest departmentwide business programs.

-Dawn S. Onley, WashingtonTechnology.com

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

FederalNewsRadio - Federal Financial Report - FMLOB

The Bureau of the Public Debt is one of four agencies qualified to be shared service centers in financial management. But the Office of Management and Budget has ended its own effort to develop a financial management system for the agency. Federal Computer Week reports OMB will conduct a public/private competition to acquire a new system, under Financial Management Line of Business guidelines. The competition might not begin, however, until the fourth quarter of 2007.

Pentagon expects business transformation to go on under new secretary

Defense Department business transformation efforts may be mostly unaffected by the Pentagon’s change in leadership, according to an official helping oversee the transition.

Thomas Modly, deputy undersecretary of Defense for financial management, has been tapped to lead the transition support team if Robert Gates is confirmed as secretary. With Gates likely to focus on more prominent issues, efforts to standardize business systems and improve financial management will probably continue uninterrupted, Modly said Nov. 28 at the annual North American Logistics Conference.

Modly oversees the Defense Business Transformation Agency, which was created to coordinate the transformation. Efforts include assuring that business system investments are made as part of an enterprise transition plan and improving the availability of departmental information.

Modly said the difficulty of quickly learning what occurs in the department was brought home by one of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s “snowflake” memos, named for their frequency and tendency to drift to lower levels.

“I just don’t get a good sense for where all the money goes in the department,” Rumsfeld wrote, according to Modly.

While the secretary sees high-level budget information on spending for departments, he does not get detail on how much goes into “buckets” like personnel or aircraft, Modly said. Providing that breakout took 50 people weeks, he noted.

“Our ability to understand the state of the department is very limited,” Modly said.

The Government Accountability Office and Defense Business Board, an advisory group of private industry executives, have said the Defense Department’s transformation efforts have improved in recent years, but would benefit from high-level coordination by a strong chief management officer.

Modly, however, said Deputy Secretary Gordon England already fills that role.

“He’s willing to drop a hammer on people when they don’t cooperate,” Modly said.

-DANIEL FRIEDMAN, FederalTimes.com

FedCFO Charity Considerations

As the time of year has arrived for many people to consider their charitable giving options, I would like to call your attention to two charities of importance. Each has a section 501(c)(3) status under the Internal Revenue Code. Both provide a high return to society from your donation.

The Holly Davidson Fund for Lymphoma Research
Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Attn: Office of Advancement
3300 Whitehaven St., NW
Suite 4000
Washington, DC 20007

"Holly's Fund" was established to support the lymphoma cancer research efforts at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Hospital. Many research programs' successes hinge on the ability to sustain funding through the project lifecycle. Holly's Fund provides sustainment funding to several Lymphoma research projects ongoing at Lombardi. Additionally, the "Holly Award" is a distinguishment bestowed upon the nurses and staff of the Lombardi Center who are nominated by the Lombardi Center patients and their families as outstanding caregivers. The "Holly Award" silver holly leaf is proudly worn on the uniforms of many exceptional Lombardi staff members.

Yellow Ribbon Fund
Make a Donation Online or, by mail at:
Yellow Ribbon Fund
7200 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 310
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
http://www.yellowribbonfund.org/

Every day, our wounded servicemen and women return from combat, many to long-term rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital. Beginning in late 2004, over 500 individuals and businesses in the Washington Metropolitan Area donated funds to help these service members and their families. In February, 2005, the Yellow Ribbon Fund was created specifically to welcome them into our community through community volunteers--friends who care.

Yellow Ribbon Fund meets two needs:

  • helping the families of soldiers as well as marines, especially those in long term care at Walter Reed Hospital and Bethesda Naval Hospital, and
  • helping all injured servicemen and women to make the transition from military to civilian life.

OPM drops effort to shift financial management to Treasury bureau

A much-touted effort to move the Office of Personnel Management's back-end financial management operations to the Bureau of Public Debt's Administrative Resource Center has collapsed.

In an announcement released last week, OPM officials said they will conduct a public-private competition to determine the best place for the agency's financial management and procurement operations. The contest will take place by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007, which begins July 1.

As part of a consolidation effort known as the lines of business initiative, the Office of Management and Budget generally requires agencies that want to change or upgrade their financial management systems to move either to an agency-run shared service provider or to a qualified private sector provider. OPM's competition will be held according to financial management lines of business guidelines released in September.

The competition will result in the selection of a public or private sector shared service center that has experience operating technology that is certified by the General Services Administration's Financial System Integration Office.

OPM selected the Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt -- which is on a list of OMB-approved shared service providers -- to run its financial management systems in August 2005.

The transition was scheduled to be complete in 2007, but last week's OPM announcement stated that the effort to "implement a tailored solution" was canceled.

With 5,000 employees, OPM would have been one of the largest agencies to turn to a government shared-service center for its financial management needs.

Peter Hollenbach, a spokesman for the Bureau of Public Debt, said the decision for OPM to fulfill its financial management needs elsewhere was mutual. The bureau's administrative resource center, located in Parkersburg, W.Va., currently provides service to 63 small government agencies and employs about 500 people.

-Daniel Pulliam, GovExec.com

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

FederalNewsRadio - Federal Financial Report - PMA Scores

The Office of Management and Budget has been busy directing traffic with those red, yellow and green President's Management Agenda scores. But the Government Accountability Office thinks OMB could do a better job when it comes to the financial management portion of the scorecard. Federal Computer Week reports the GAO is recommending OMB more methodically document what's behind the decisions that determine those scores. As of September 30th, eight of 24 agencies have green financial management.

Auditors cite progress on SBA management challenges

The Small Business Administration made significant progress in boosting oversight of two lending programs in fiscal 2006 and improved its financial reporting and information technology security, according to a report from the agency's inspector general.

The IG's summary of the top 10 management challenges SBA faces in fiscal 2007 listed recent progress in nine of the 10 areas identified, though four areas had seen slippage over the past year as well. Overseers analyzed agency action on a series of specific recommendations in each area, rating the agency on progress.

The report noted significant progress in financial management and reporting, and said remaining goals have been clarified to underline the need for procedures and policies that ensure accurate, timely financial reports.

The report also recognized advances in several IT areas, including security program controls and access controls. But auditors noted that the resources available to maintain systems, manage IT security and security training, and provide technical support are "below what is generally necessary for an entity the size of SBA." They said resource shortages drain an already weak IT security program, and promised that additional audit work would spotlight the area.

-Jenny Mandel, GovExec.com

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Monday, November 27, 2006

FederalNewsRadio - Federal Financial Report - CGAC

A big step toward getting the entire government's books to make sense. The Office of Management and Budget has released a draft of a common, governmentwide accounting classification structure. Government Computer News reports it'll eventually be incorporated into core financial management systems, so that when an agency makes upgrades or moves to a shared-services provider, the new software can be configured accordingly. Comments on the draft are due in mid-January for a discussion session a month later.

Report: Security agency needs better financial management

The Homeland Security Department's largest investigative agency needs to improve its invoice management and make a variety of other financial management enhancements, according to a report from a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization.

The report, released last week by the National Academy of Public Administration, criticized the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Federal Protective Service in particular. FPS, responsible for helping secure thousands of federal facilities across the country, faces a budget shortfall recently estimated to be as high as $60 million.

"Stability, understanding and adequate oversight should be highlighted as the immediate financial management objectives for FPS," the report stated, adding that "according to the majority of those interviewed, FPS is the most difficult program to service."

NAPA called for a better analysis of FPS expenses and revenues and said "service level changes or fee modification" will be needed to remedy the financial problems. The report said "hundreds of vendors" working for the agency have "varying degrees of financial sophistication to support and understand."

The NAPA report was not the first to call for changes in how FPS collects funds; multiple sources confirmed that the protective service has trouble getting timely payments. Agency sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said the service may have to increase fees by as much as 60 percent to make up for shortfalls. The agency has already pulled its officers from some federal buildings at off-peak hours, multiple sources confirmed.

The Homeland Security Department's largest investigative agency needs to improve its invoice management and make a variety of other financial management enhancements, according to a report from a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization.
The report, released last week by the National Academy of Public Administration, criticized the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Federal Protective Service in particular. FPS, responsible for helping secure thousands of federal facilities across the country, faces a budget shortfall recently estimated to be as high as $60 million.

"Stability, understanding and adequate oversight should be highlighted as the immediate financial management objectives for FPS," the report stated, adding that "according to the majority of those interviewed, FPS is the most difficult program to service."

NAPA called for a better analysis of FPS expenses and revenues and said "service level changes or fee modification" will be needed to remedy the financial problems. The report said "hundreds of vendors" working for the agency have "varying degrees of financial sophistication to support and understand."

The NAPA report was not the first to call for changes in how FPS collects funds; multiple sources confirmed that the protective service has trouble getting timely payments. Agency sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said the service may have to increase fees by as much as 60 percent to make up for shortfalls. The agency has already pulled its officers from some federal buildings at off-peak hours, multiple sources confirmed.

-Jonathan Marino, GovExec.com

READ MORE...

Data management master class

Master Data Management, or MDM, is touted as the silver bullet for ridding companies of inconsistent and untrustworthy business data. But does its real value lie in being an enabler of SOA?

MDM isn't new by any means. So why do proponents think it will fare better than past approaches? There are several reasons. First, MDM works by establishing master data rather than by focusing on operational (transactional) data. Second, MDM is an active approach to managing the entire information lifecycle, allowing companies to define new data, monitor exceptions as the data changes and rationalise and synchronise data as it is updated.

Last, and perhaps most promising of all, is that MDM takes a services-based approach that is in line with modern service-oriented architecture (SOA) initiatives. In other words, it treats data as another enterprise service in an SOA. Some refer to it as the 'fourth layer' of an IT architecture that sits between data and the business logic and presentation layers.

Master data management has gained prominence in recent years because of a highly fragmented application landscape caused by lines of business applications optimised for specific functions or departments. Having these multiple ERP and CRM instances and home-grown IT systems creates data silos that make it difficult for a business to get a single authoritative source against which all other data is compared, or, in MDM parlance, a 'golden record'.

"The problem stems from the fact that companies don't have all their business data in one place," notes Cliff Longman, chief technology officer at data warehousing and MDM firm Kalido.

Longman ultimately blames a lack of strategic thinking about data as one of the root causes of the problem. "Companies didn't treat data as an asset," he says. "There was no holistic discipline or training for managing it like financial assets." For instance, financial accounts software supports a consolidation process for a unified chart of accounts, mapped to multiple financial systems for integrated reporting and performance management. So why aren't other types of business data treated with the same level of respect?

Clearly having a shared and flexible IT architecture that works with consistent, accurate and up-to-date master data is vital. For that reason many point to MDM as a seminal development for IT setting the goal of moving towards SOA.

The MDM approach seems to sit nicely with how SOAs are supposed to work - ie by decoupling master data from business applications. The real promise of SOA is that you don't need to know in advance which applications will be talking to each other. But with that paradigm it's critical to first agree on common data definitions.

Longman argues that one can't have SOA without having an enterprise data service. "MDM inherently creates that data service component within an enterprise SOA, actively synchronising clean and consistent data to applications as an on-demand service," he says.

- Madan Sheina , CBRonline.com

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GSA's closed financial books... and an appology

This morning on Federal News Radio, GSA CFO Kathleen M. Turco was on talking about how the agency's fiscal 2006 financial statements earned an unqualified, or “clean,” audit from independent auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers. You can hear Turco in Windows Media Format here.

This is no small step -- for any agency. But it is a particularly significant step for GSA, which has been struggling.

A clean audit, however, does not address the real questions about GSA's financial situation: What is GSA's financial health? For most of this year, FCW has been working to have GSA make its financial data public. We are interested in not only seeing its annual reports. What matters is the real data that provides an indication of GSA's financial health.

-Chris Dorobek, FCW Insider Blog

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Auditors question agency estimates on payment errors

Reporting on erroneous program payments is fraught with gaps and federal agencies almost certainly underestimate how much they misspend, according to a new report.

Government Accountability Office auditors who reviewed agencies' fiscal 2005 reports under the 2002 Improper Payments Information Act -- which covers payments made mistakenly to ineligible recipients or as a result of fraud or other error -- found that some large high-risk programs had been excluded from reporting. Some financially troubled agencies reported few or no risk-susceptible programs, GAO found.

Auditors said 18 agencies together estimated $38 billion in improper payments in 57 programs and activities. But the Homeland Security Department, General Services Administration and NASA were among eight reporting they had no programs susceptible to improper payments, the auditors' report (GAO-07-92) stated.

Homeland Security has never received a clean audit opinion on its financial statements, and House Government Reform Committee hearings over the past year have sought to work through 10 major recurring problems in the agency's accounting processes. GAO reviewers noted that in the DHS fiscal 2005 audit, the agency was cited for noncompliance with its statutory improper payment obligations, primarily because of inadequate risk assessments.

In addition to nonreporting agencies, GAO noted that the fiscal 2005 improper payment estimates did not include information for 10 major programs with more than $234 billion in spending -- among them Medicaid, the Agriculture Department's school lunch and breakfast programs and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Those 10 programs, for which the statute explicitly requires reports, have adopted target reporting dates ranging from 2007 to 2010. Three did not inform GAO of any target reporting date.

GAO auditors also found that nine programs with $389 million in improper payment estimates had not used proper methods to reach those numbers. They said appropriate statistical sampling methods would likely have found higher erroneous payments, noting that the program costs together were more than $58 billion.

Auditors recommended that Congress amend the statute to clarify how agencies should identify programs susceptible to significant improper payments. Such a change would almost certainly increase the number of programs subject to estimation and remediation planning.

They also recommended that OMB develop more explicit guidance for agencies' risk assessments and improper payment reporting, enforce existing guidance on how to estimate payments in a statistically valid way, gather additional information on payments that are made according to existing laws but later found to be improper and require agencies to justify their decisions not to conduct recovery audits to recoup erroneous payments.

OMB generally agreed with the recommendations, and emphasized progress made in reporting since the improper payments law went into effect. OMB justified the decision to use some statistically unsound methodologies while programs develop more solid ones, and said the threshold criteria for improper payment tracking has changed to reduce the chances of missing high-risk programs.

-Jenny Mandel, GovExec.com

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Friday, November 24, 2006

FederalNewsRadio - Federal Financial Report - 1990 CFO Act

All 24 agencies under the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act met the November 15th deadline to submit their financial audits. Government Executive reports the Office of Management and Budget gave 18 of those agencies unqualified opinions, meaning their books are reliable. Five agencies, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, State and NASA, got disclaimers, meaning their statements couldn't be evaluated. Transportation received a qualified opinion, meaning its accounting was satisfactory except for one particular problem.

GAO: DOD business practices risky

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- One of the most important tasks in the next session of U.S. Congress is to oversee the Pentagon's business operations, the Government Accountability Office said.

The GAO has identified 26 federal programs or activities that are at risk for waste, fraud and abuse because of lax oversight. Eight of them are in the Defense Department and six are programs for which the DOD bears some responsibility.

The high-risk areas include DOD's overall management approach to business transformation, business systems modernization, financial management, the personnel security clearance process, supply chain management, support infrastructure management, weapon systems acquisition, and contract management, according to the report.

-UPI

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Richard Greco (Navy)

Richard Greco, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management and Comptroller

Richard Greco, Jr. was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as The Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller) on September 10, 2004 and was confirmed by the Senate one month later. In his capacity Secretary Greco is the chief financial officer of the Department of the Navy and is responsible for directing and managing the Department's financial activities, including the preparation, justification, and execution of a $126 billion budget; all financial policy, comptroller, accounting, audit, treasury, fiscal, legal, reporting, and Congressional relations functions; and recruiting, training, and leading a financial management workforce of 9,000 people. He also serves on the Department's many governance boards, including the executive steering group of the United States Naval Academy and the Acquisition Integrity Board. For exceptionally distinguished service, the Secretary of the Navy bestowed on Mr. Greco the Distinguished Public Service Award, the Department of the Navy's highest civilian honor.
  • Running the equivalent of the 7th largest corporation in the world based on revenues
  • Measuring performance ahead of time as opposed to after the fact
  • Making the internet a tool to communicate not just with the public but with your employees

Listen with Windows Media Player

Panel praises management turn-around at DHS agency

Following well-publicized woes that crested in 2005, a National Academy of Public Administration panel said a financial action plan published earlier this year for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a major step toward establishing stability and soundness at the bureau.

As long as the Homeland Security Department supplements this plan with the development of a new strategic focus to complement its tactical attention to financial integrity, the panel said, “ICE should be well positioned to lead DHS forward financially.”

That’s a far cry from what was being said about ICE just a year ago. The NAPA panel listed a series of events — loss of staff, leadership change within DHS, an unfamiliar financial system, changing expectations from DHS, and others — that it said merged to create “substantial and adverse financial issues in 2005.”

In a report it published last year, the Government Accountability Office said a major information technology modernization program for ICE had been put at risk because the bureau had done minimal planning and management.

It had also redirected funding and employees for the program to other competing priorities and had not made the necessary investments in program management capabilities, GAO said.

“ICE has too much transactional activity, information flow, accounting requirements and analysis to manage without the aid of user friendly and effective technology,” the panel said. “ICE will not be able to achieve major financial systems and IT improvements until DHS develops a more explicit IT strategic plan or framework from which to operate.”

The panel recommended that ICE explicitly make technology part of the financial action plan. It also said ICE officials should work with DHS to identify the needs of ICE, the department and its stakeholders and develop alternative approaches to meet ICE’s technology needs if DHS guidelines are not available.

“If adequate IT systems are not available in the mid-term, and certainly long-term, the gains of the past will be lost as the workload will exceed staff’s ability to perform, analyze and manage ICE financial demands,” it said.

-Brian Robinson, FCW.com

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

GSA replaces career leader of policy office with political appointee

The chief of the General Services Administration has replaced the acting head of the agency's Office of Governmentwide Policy -- a 33-year career federal employee -- with a political appointee.

GSA Administrator Lurita Doan selected Kevin Messner to serve as the policy office's acting associate administrator, replacing John Sindelar, who has headed it with the same title since December 2005. Messner will also continue in his role as associate administrator for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, a position he has held since June 2006.

Neither of Messner's jobs are subject to Senate confirmation, and officials in acting positions do not have to be approved by the White House's Presidential Personnel Office. This is the first time the office has been headed by a political appointee, according to GSA.

A GSA spokeswoman said that Doan made the decision to name a political appointee because of the office's involvement with the President's Management Agenda initiatives. The five main items on the agenda are personnel reform, improved financial management, electronic government, opening work not considered core to government to contractors and use of program performance information to inform budget decisions.

The Office of Governmentwide Policy was created in December 1995 as a means of consolidating GSA's policy functions. It has authority to set policies in the areas of personal and real property, travel and transportation, information technology, regulatory information and use of federal advisory committees.

Sindelar has played an instrumental role in launching and implementing the Bush administration's e-government and lines of business initiatives, which are part of the President's Management Agenda. The e-government effort is designed in part to make government services more accessible to citizens online, and the lines of business initiative is aimed at consolidating back-end technology systems across government, in areas such as financial management and human resources.

-Daniel Pulliam, GovExec.com

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OMB must sell e-gov to new 'in' party

Uncertainty hangs over how House Democrats will deal with ongoing IT issues

If the White House couldn’t sell e-government to its own party on the Hill, what chance will officials have now that the Democrats control Congress?

Actually, according to industry observers and former government officials, it could be a pretty good chance. But the window of opportunity could be small, and open for only a short time.

“It all depends on how much [the Democrats] want to play ball with the White House,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation of Washington. “I could see them being more supportive of e-government. ... Democrats have a stronger stake in making government work, they’re the party of government, and they want it to work.”

For its part, OMB is optimistic. “Both sides of the aisle share our goal of improving program performance and agency management,” said OMB spokeswoman Andrea Wuebker. “We will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans to achieve this goal through the implementation of the President’s Management Agenda.”

At this point, though, it is unclear whether the Democratic takeover of Congress will be a blessing or a curse for OMB’s e-government agenda.

Also due to change is the oversight of OMB’s Financial Management Line of Business initiative, currently under Rep. Todd Platts (R-Ohio), chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability. The ranking member of the subcommittee is Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.).

- Rob Thormeyer, GCN.com

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But Atkinson and others say OMB has to demonstrate—now more than ever—that e-government programs will truly result in the efficiencies and cost savings they project.

If not, agencies, with the end of the Bush administration looming, could dig in and wait for the next White House to pursue its management agenda, experts say.

OPM searches for financial management providers

The Office of Personnel Management has ended an effort to develop financial management and procurement systems with the Bureau of the Public Debt and will conduct a public/private competition to acquire them, according to an OPM announcement issued Nov. 21.

The agency is looking for software, integration, hosting and application management services for the systems. OPM will conduct the competition according to Financial Management Line-of-Business guidelines. It may be the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007 before the agency begins the competitions, however.

Through the competition, OPM will choose a shared service center, either in an agency or the private sector. OPM needs to enhance the agency's ability to generate accurate and up-to-date financial information, to prepare for future upgrades and to implement enhancements certified by the General Services Administration's Financial Systems Integration Office.

The Office of Management and Budget named the Bureau of the Public Debt as one of four agencies qualified to become a shared service center in financial management. OPM officials did not offer any additional explanation for ending the joint effort.

- Michael Hardy, FCW.com

USCG Seeks Accounting Division Chief

U.S.COAST GUARD (USCG)

Supervisory Accountant GS-0510-15
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / US Coast Guard (USCG)
Vacancy Announcement: 06-1288R-HQVS-D2
Salary Range $107,521.00 - $139,774.00

The Incumbent serves as a Division Chief. In this capacity, leads and serves as the senior technical expert for numerous Coast Guard wide initiatives. Provides managerial direction to professional accounting and support personnel and service-wide coordination to program and field personnel engaged in the development of input for external audit/review activities as they relate to the CFO Act audit of the Coast Guard's financial statements. The selectee must attain a Secret clearance, and undergo pre/post-appointment random drug testing. EOE.

For additional information, call (202) 475-5271 or to apply please visit our website at http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cgpc/cpm/jobs/vacancy.htm

U.S. Citizenship required.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

OPM cancels work on financial management system

The Office of Personnel Management has canceled a year-old contract with the Treasury Department to upgrade its financial management and procurement systems. It will put the project up for bids again next year.

OPM selected Treasury’s Administrative Resource Center in August 2005, rejecting bids from other federal shared service centers and the private sector. At the time, OPM said it selected Treasury’s center because OPM’s financial management system could be married easily to Treasury’s Oracle financial system.

But in a Nov. 20 press release, OPM announced it will hold a public-private competition by next summer to migrate its financial management and procurement systems to a new shared service center, public or private. The winning contractor must have demonstrated experience with commercial off-the-shelf software that is certified by the General Services Administration’s Financial Systems Integration Office (FSIO) and must be able to leverage its expertise and other resources to achieve the best value for the agency, OPM said.

The need to implement recent FSIO enhancements, facilitate future upgrades and support, and generate timely and accurate financial information drove OPM’s decision to move to another shared service center, OPM said.

-Tim Kauffman, FederalTimes.com

GAO GIVES PMA SCORECARD PASSING GRADE

The President’s Management Agenda scorecard has been a valuable tool in helping agencies improve their financial management, according to a recent Government Accountability Office investigation.

The PMA scorecard consists of five governmentwide areas -- human capital, competitive sourcing, improving financial performance, e-government and budget and performance integration -- and nine agency-specific goals. Each quarter, the Office of Management and Budget grades agencies in these areas via a three-color ranking system. “Green” equals success, while “yellow” indicates mixed results and “red” symbolizes unsatisfactory results.

“The scorecard process has clearly been a catalyst to improve financial management and to encourage agency managers to use financial data to enhance decision making as envisioned under the CFO Act;” however, “better documenting the key decisions would strengthen what is already a useful internal management tool by helping ensure consistency and continuity in the process and would enhance the value of the process to external users,” said GAO in its report.

Seven of the nine goals, GAO found “are objective and verifiable using publicly available information.” The two remaining goals, however, “are more subjective and require OMB to make judgments about whether agencies currently produce accurate and timely financial information that is used by management to inform decision making and drive results in key areas of operations” and if agencies “have acceptable plans (which are referred to as “Green plans”) to continuously expand the routine use of financial data in decision making in additional areas of operations.”

The 29-page report can be found at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0795.pdf.

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GAO: OMB can improve score card process

The Office of Management and Budget could improve the way it grades agencies on financial management, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

OMB generally does a good job, according to the report, but GAO suggests establishing a process to more methodically document the basis for important decisions and judgments made in determining scores. GAO also recommends that OMB give receipts to agencies for approved green plans, which earn agencies a top score on the three-tiered President’s Management Agenda quarterly score card.

A green score means an agency is applying its initiatives as planned. Yellow shows a need for adjustments to achieve the objectives in a timely manner and red means an initiative is in jeopardy.

The score card evaluates agencies in five areas of the management agenda: workforce, competitive sourcing, financial performance, e-government, and budget and performance integration.

As of Sept. 30, eight agencies earned green scores for financial performance. However, 16 agencies earn the red. No agencies improved or backslid from their June 30 scores, according to the score card.

OMB has a reasonable process for assessing scores for financial management, the GAO report states. Seven of nine criteria are objective and verifiable from publicly available information. Two however are more subjective, relying on the judgments of OMB officials. The criteria are based on whether agencies can produce accurate financial information for managers to inform decision-making in key operations and whether agencies have plans to continue expansion of the data’s routine use, according to the report.

OMB Controller Linda Combs wrote in a letter to GAO that OMB already is improving the review process. It is developing a tracking system for green plans and summaries for all green plan initiatives. The initiatives clarify what initiatives are approved and how they meet green plan criteria, according to the GAO report.

-Matthew Weigelt, FCW.com

GAO: DOD needs chief management officer

The Defense Department needs a chief management officer (CMO) to coordinate its business transformation efforts and provide long-term leadership, according to the Government Accountability Office.

DOD needs an official who has authority, experience and tenure to drive change and be accountable for results, the GAO said.

Without such an official, “reconciling competing priorities will be difficult and could impede DOD’s progress in its transformation efforts,” Comptroller General David Walker testified before the Senate Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee on Nov. 16.

READ MORE...

-Josh Rogin, FCW.com

U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Seeks Deputy CFO

SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE
DEPUTY CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER (CFO)
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY (DHS)
U.S. COAST GUARD (USCG)

Vacancy Announcement: CG-SES-07-01
Salary Range: $109,808 - $165,200

The Deputy CFO of the USCG serves as the primary advisor to the CFO in the areas on budget formulation; budget execution; financial management and policy; financial systems; financial and cost reporting: as well as evaluation and corrective actions relating to audit recommendations. The Deputy CFO also serves as the Deputy to the Assistant Commandant. The selectee must attain a Top Secret clearance, and undergo pre/post-appointment random drug testing. EOE.

For additional information, call (202) 475-5274 or to apply please visit our website at http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cgpc/cpm/jobs/vacancy.htm.

U.S. Citizenship required.

Monday, November 20, 2006

FSIO Common Government-wide Accounting Classification (CGAC) Structure Exposure Draft Released

The Financial Systems Integration Office (FSIO) posted an exposure draft of the Common Government-wide Accounting Classification (CGAC) Structure on its website, http://www.fsio.gov/fsio/fsiodata/.

Please send your comments by January 17, 2007 in writing to fsio@gsa.gov, using the comment template provided on the webpage.

If you have any questions, please contact Dale Miller,
202-219-0543 or email dale.miller@gsa.gov

OMB proposes accounting standards

The Office of Management and Budget today released a draft of a common governmentwide accounting classification structure. It is among initiatives designed to standardize business processes and data elements in support of the Financial Management Line of Business.

The Financial Systems Integration Office in the General Services Administration, which coordinates with OMB on guidance related to the Financial Management Line of Business, expects that the draft will help promote broad understanding of data elements and help agencies standardize accounting codes internally.

The common accounting classification structure will eventually be incorporated in requirements for core financial management systems so that software products will be configured to support the structure, the draft said.

An agency will likely adopt the finalized structure when it implements a new financial management system, makes major upgrades to an existing certified system or moves to a shared-services provider. Adoption of the common accounting classification structure will be mandatory.

The common accounting classification structure establishes a standard way to classify the financial effects of government business activities. It includes data elements needed for internal and external reporting, and provides flexibility for specific agency needs. Standardization aims to reduce the cost and improve the accuracy of data that financial management systems produce.

Although a number of standards already exist, they provide latitude for each agency to develop its own classification structure. As a result, classification structures vary by agency and sometimes within agencies.

The proposed standard classification structure identifies and defines the elements, names them where appropriate, promotes consistent use and establishes a uniform structure for capturing them.

Comments are due Jan. 17, and a discussion session is set for February.

GAO lauds OMB effort to improve government’s financial performance

The Office of Management and Budget should better document its reasons for giving agencies green ratings on its financial performance scorecard, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Overall, GAO praised OMB’s effort in a Nov. 16 report: “The Improved Financial Management Performance Initiative scorecard process has clearly been a catalyst to improve financial management and to encourage agency managers to use financial data to enhance decision making.”

In interviews, agency officials generally said the process made top officials focus on financial management, according to GAO.

But the auditing agency noted that, to award green ratings, OMB must make subjective judgments about how effectively agencies produce financial data and use the data to make decisions. And OMB officials do not thoroughly document how they reach those judgments or track agency documents used in the process.

More documentation would ensure consistency and allow others to learn from the process, GAO said.

In a letter responding to the report, OMB Controller Linda Combs agreed with the recommendations. She said OMB already is developing a tracking system for agency documents. It is also preparing summaries of approved agency plans to show how they meet OMB’s criteria.
Improved financial performance is one of five governmentwide management-reform initiatives that OMB evaluates under the president’s management agenda, launched in 2001 to improve agencies’ efficiency. Other initiatives are competitive sourcing, strategic management of human capital, expanded electronic government, and budget and performance integration. OMB gives agencies ratings of red, for unsatisfactory; yellow, for mixed results; and green, for success.

The report notes that OMB initially refused to give GAO access to agency documents used in the scoring process, because it considered the documents “deliberative and predecisional.” Officials relented after seeing a draft GAO report describing that limitation. But OMB still did not give GAO access to its written comments on agency plans or e-mails and other communications relating to scoring decisions.

READ MORE...

Government Agencies In Compliance for 2nd Consecutive Year

AccountingWEB.com - Nov-20-2006 - The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reports that for fiscal 2006, eighteen of 24 agencies received clean audits. GovExec.com reports that all 24 agencies required by the 1990 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act also closed their books within 45 days of the end of the fiscal year for the second year in a row.

READ MORE...

USNRC seeks Sr. Systems Accountant for Rockville, Maryland.

Senior staff member and lead advisor to management during analysis of business processes and development of financial IT systems.

Bachelor's Accounting or related w/exp. in operation, development, and management of automated financial system.

Apply. Ref. #OCFO/DFM-2007-0001.
Deadline: 12/11/06. EOE-M/F/D/V. U.S. citizenship.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Interior reaches financial management modernization milestone

Two Interior Department bureaus have begun using an updated financial and business management system (FBMS), part of what department officials have called a challenging effort to eventually consolidate more than 80 unique financial systems into one.

The Minerals Management Service and Office of Service Mining started using the system Nov. 16. Interior officials have said they hope to extend the system to the Bureau of Land Management next year and throughout the department by 2010.

FBMS is an enterprise resource planning system designed for work including budgeting, financial management and acquisition.

“The [system] will help the department become more efficient and customer-friendly,” Tom Weimer, Interior’s assistant secretary for policy, management and budget said in a news release.

Consolidating redundant financial systems is a component of the President’s Management Agenda, an Office of Management and Budget effort to save money by combining back-office functions.

But Interior’s decentralization makes extending FBMS difficult, department officials have said. Interior has a wide variety of systems and limited bandwidth between geographically dispersed offices.

The project fell behind schedule due to problems with contractor BearingPoint. Interior removed the company in 2005 and has awarded the work to IBM Global Business Services.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Most agencies get clean audits, but big problems persist

Eighteen agencies received clean audit opinions for fiscal 2006, and for the second year in a row all 24 major agencies met a deadline to close their books within 45 days of the end of the fiscal year, the Office of Management and Budget announced Thursday.

The 24 agencies named in the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act had a Nov. 15 deadline to submit the results of their annual financial audits along with annual Performance and Accountability reports. Eighteen of those received unqualified opinions, indicting that auditors were satisfied that the agencies' financial statements were reliable.

Auditors returned disclaimers of opinion, reflecting such major problems in an agency's accounting that its financial statement could not be evaluated, to the Defense, Energy, Homeland Security and State departments, and NASA.

The Transportation Department earned a qualified opinion, meaning auditors identified a particular problem, but were otherwise satisfied with the accounting.

Even among agencies judged well, auditors identified problems to be addressed. Some were in the area of internal controls, the processes that guard against fraud and error, which agencies for the first time were required to test and report on. The requirement is in OMB's Circular A-123.

Rep. Todd Platts, R-Pa., who has pressed agencies to address their financial management problems from his seat as chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Management, Finance and Accountability, lauded agencies for meeting the demanding 45-day reporting deadline.

"With this focus on internal controls ... I expect to see some of the longstanding financial management issues resolved over time," Platts said. The subcommittee has worked closely with DHS, in particular, over the past year to make progress on recurring financial management problems.

The audit results announced this week are likely to change for some agencies, as chief financial officers work with their auditors to resolve questions in the fiscal 2006 books and arrive at a final result. An October Government Accountability Office report found that 11 agencies restated the results of their fiscal 2003 audits; nine of those agencies initially received unqualified opinions.

In the study, GAO concluded that agencies and OMB were not fully transparent in how they restated financial results. They didn't always indicate which results had changed or the causes or results of those adjustments. It was not immediately clear how many agencies took the 2006 audit as an opportunity to restate past results, because of delays in agencies' release of their reports.

READ MORE...

Agencies improve financial rigor

All major federal agencies beat out the private sector for the second consecutive year by completing their Performance and Accountability Reports and financial statements on the 45-day accelerated schedule. The accelerated deadline for corporate filers is 60 days.

Again, 18 agencies received clean audit opinions this year, while auditors said the information from five agencies was unreliable. These were the Defense, Energy, Homeland Security and State departments, and NASA. The Transportation Department earned a qualified opinion because it had serious weaknesses.

The Housing and Urban Development Department not only received a clean audit, but for the first time since audited financial statements were required reported no material weaknesses. The General Services Administration regained its clean opinion, implemented actions to fix last year’s major weaknesses and completed its PART several days ahead of the accelerated Nov. 15 deadline.

“We are holding agencies accountable with high standards and greater transparency,” said Linda Combs, OMB controller and head of OMB’s Office of Federal Financial Management, in a statement after release of the report.

Combs has said that use of integrated financial systems by agencies provides timely and accurate financial reports that make the year-end statement process smoother.

“Now we are closer to the goal of making financial information more timely and useful in the budget process,” said Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.), chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on government Management, Finance and Accountability.

Last fiscal year was the first time that agencies evaluated the effectiveness of internal controls over financial reporting under Circular A-123, helping to root out financial management problems that may have gone undiscovered in the past. Agencies included their A-123 reports in their year-end statements.

Even among agencies that earned clean audits, auditors identified financial problems, Platts said, especially weaknesses in safeguards to protect against fraud and error.

“With this focus on internal controls, I expect to see some of the long-standing financial management issues resolved over time,” he said.

Today's GAO Report

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released the following report:

President's Management Agenda:
Review of OMB's Improved Financial Performance Scorecard Process.
GAO-07-95, November 16.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-95
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d0795high.pdf

Military services questioned over financial management

Lawmakers on Thursday voiced concerns during a Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee hearing that the military services have failed to make substantial changes in their business operations, leading to continued cost hikes and schedule delays on the Pentagon's expensive weapons systems.

The result is billions of dollars squandered every year that could be better spent on more pressing needs both for the military and elsewhere in the government, the senators said. "This is mundane stuff," said Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee Chairman John Ensign, R-Nev. "This is not fighting wars."

But a failure to transform business operations, which makes warfighting more difficult, he added. Ensign was joined in his criticism of the services' business efforts by Government Accountability Office Comptroller General David Walker, who urged Congress to establish a chief operating officer in the Pentagon to keep program costs and schedules under control.

Army, Navy and Air Force officials, meanwhile, touted their attempts to transform their business offices over the last year. However, they also acknowledged that more work must be done to boost financial oversight and accountability.

"Improving the Army's financial accountability and modernizing business systems are challenging endeavors, which require a long-term commitment to ensure that enduring improvements are implemented," John Argodale, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for financial operations, said in his prepared testimony.

READ MORE...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CIO - William Vajda (ED)

William E. Vajda
Chief Information Officer (CIO)
U.S. Department of Education

Mr. Vajda has served in a number of roles within the U.S. Government, NATO, and private industry, and has enjoyed a widely varied and unique career. Prior to joining The Department of Education, Bill served as Vice President with Washington-area high technology vendors, and as a private consultant and board member for a variety of non-profit organizations. Mr. Vajda was appointed to the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service by General Michael V. Hayden and served as the Associated Director for IT and Chief Information Officer with the National Security Agency for three years, starting on 9/11/2001. During his tenure, Mr. Vajda held global responsibility for NSA IT capabilities, and supported a number of successful transformational initiatives, including the GROUNDBREAKER and TRAILBLAZER programs, as well as supporting U.S. activities during the GWOT. Mr. Vajda also served for four years as a member of the U.S. Senior Executive Service with the Internal Revenue Service, and was appointed by Commissioner Charles Rossotti to serve as the Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Systems Development/Deputy CIO, as well as the Deputy Assistant Commissioner, International, during the organizational restructuring period of 1998 - 2001. Mr. Vajda was responsible for several initiatives, including Consolidation of all mainframe systems and remediation of all tax processing applications. Mr. Vajda spent 11 years in Europe in a variety of NATO and industry roles, including a diplomatic posting to the SHAPE Technical Centre/NATO C3 Agency, and he has been recognized as an international expert in the development and implementation of US and coalition intelligence and command and control systems in support of deployed operations. Mr. Vajda has earned this reputation through support to military operations during the First Gulf War; Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, as well as several theaters of the GWOT. Mr. Vajda has over 20 years of executive leadership experience, and has been recognized with several significant Government and Industry awards, including a U.S. Vice Presidential Hammer Award, a Distinguished Service Medal, and an SES Presidential Meritorious Rank Award. Mr. Vajda has a considerable background in the Federal market space, and is a member of several industry groups, and has been sought after as a featured speaker with the Gartner Group, IAC, AFCEA, and several other conferences and events. Mr. Vajda is a graduate of Marquette Senior High School, and graduated with an A.B. and an M.P.P from the University of Michigan.

Brian Burns
Deputy Chief Information Officer (CIO)
United States Department of Education

Brian P. Burns is the United States Department of Education (ED) Deputy Chief Information Officer (CIO). Mr. Burns has 22 years of federal and commercial information management and technology service and product development experience including senior executive service positions as the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Chief Technology Officer for Infrastructure; the DOI Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information Resources Management and CIO; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information Resources Management and Deputy CIO; and U.S. Department of Treasury Internal Revenue Service senior executive positions. His commercial experience includes Coleman Research Corp., BDM Federal, Inc. and IBM Corp.

Jerry Davis Director,
Information Assurance (IA) Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
US Department of Education

Jerry Davis is the Director, Information Assurance (IA) for the US Department of Education and serves as the Department's Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). Jerry's role is to oversee all aspects of Information Security and Privacy for the Department to include the development and implementation of IT security policies and procedures, deliver IT security awareness training, provide an incident response and management capability and generate IT and data security solutions and services to the Department's customers and constituents. Jerry's team proactively defends over 500 million dollars in annual IT investments.

  • How PIV cards keep IT -- and employees -- secure
  • Taking the Department of Education into the future with IPv6

Listen with Windows Media Player

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Curtis Coy (ACF)

Curtis (Curt) L. Coy was appointed the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) on October 6, 2002. Prior to his appointment, he served briefly as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management at the Administration on Aging and for two years as the Director of the Program Support Center (PSC) at the Department of Health and Human Services. The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration is responsible for exerting corporate leadership to ensure the success of the business aspects of the Administration's mission. Mr. Coy serves as ACF's Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Grant Officer, FMFIA Management Control Officer, and Deputy Ethics Officer. In addition to providing the highest quality advice and service to the Assistant Secretary concerning grants, financial and human resources, systems management and administrative services, Mr. Coy oversees a staff of approximately 125 who carry out contract management, grants policy, financial management, internal and state systems, human resources and administrative functions.

  • Fighting the stereotype of the stuffy Government Bureaucracy
  • Building support for the President's Management Agenda with the Green Broom
  • Using logic in entitlements

Listen with Windows Media Player

Today's GAO Report

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released the following report:

Financial Audit:
Securities and Exchange Commission's Financial Statements for Fiscal Years 2006 and 2005.
GAO-07-134, November 15.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-134
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d07134high.pdf

DOI financial, business management system goes live

The Interior Department has activated crucial components of a new SAP system that will consolidate all of the agency’s financial and business management platforms by 2010, according to DOI officials.

About 152 management systems, including property, acquisition and grants operations, will be rolled into one departmental Financial and Business Management System (FBMS) that will service all of the agency's bureaus. On Nov. 14, DOI officials moved the accounting systems at the Minerals Management Service and the Office of Surface Mining to FBMS.

“This is the real test of the system. At this point, the heart’s beating very well,” said W. Hord Tipton, chief information officer at DOI, who is retiring from the agency after this year. He wanted to see the operation get off the ground before leaving, he said.

The project is behind by 13 months because Interior was experiencing problems with contractor BearingPoint and ultimately severed ties with the company. A new contract for FBMS integration was subsequently awarded to IBM Global Business Services in March.

Making that change "did delay our schedule somewhat, but we feel confident about the product that we are deploying," said Nina Hatfield, senior procurement executive at DOI.

Next year, the department would like to integrate the Bureau of Land Management’s operations with the new system but budgetary constraints may hamper that goal.

“This is a funding issue and we’ve not yet made a total decision,” Hatfield said.

Tipton describes FBMS as the department’s entrĂ©e into a major chunk of the government’s shared services business. He sees it as a potential service for Interior's Center of Excellence. A COE is an organization within one agency that handles back-office functions for several agencies to save money.

Mandated by the President’s Management Agenda, the Office of Management and Budget intends for many financial management operations to be concentrated within COEs. Interior’s COE, the National Business Center, hosts financial management and human resources support for outside agencies on platforms other than SAP.

“As we bring up the FBMS, that will enable us to offer our customers a suite of services using SAP as the core,” Hatfield said.

“Our big focus right now is trying to get ourselves on to a single financial system,” she said. “When we get that accomplished, we will turn to making it available to external customers.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Agencies share secrets for boosting e-gov grades

Federal agencies graded on the Bush administration's quarterly management score card continue to have mixed results in the area of expanding electronic government. But progress on the final fiscal 2006 score card could represent a turning point for several agencies.

Four moved out of the failing red category in e-government: the Environmental Protection Agency, Small Business Administration, and State and Transportation departments. The turnarounds at Transportation and SBA were particularly noteworthy because the agencies jumped up two levels, from red to the top mark of green.

Three agencies -- the Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments and NASA -- fell from yellow to red. Another 10 agencies are at the middle mark of yellow.

The Army Corps of Engineers and Homeland Security Department have never moved out of red in the e-government category, and the Veterans Affairs Department has not moved higher since the fourth quarter of fiscal 2004.

Agencies' grades are based on a set of standards developed by the President's Management Council.

To achieve a green e-government grade, agencies must show that they have an effective enterprise architecture describing the structure of their IT processes and systems. They also need adequate IT security and acceptable business cases for all major system investments. None of the business cases can be on the "management watch list." They must also comply with the lines of business initiatives to consolidate back-end technology systems in areas such as financial management.

Agencies that score red have an inadequate enterprise architecture, unacceptable business cases for more than half of major IT investments, and inadequate compliance with IT security policies and procedures.

READ MORE...

Today's GAO Report

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released the following report:

U.S. Government Accountability Office:
Performance and Accountability Report, Fiscal Year 2006.
GAO-07-2SP, November 15.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-2SP

****Look for more PARs to be submitted to OMB as midnight tonight is the deadline.****

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

GSA’s latest financial report on sound footing, says audit

The General Services Administration received a clean bill of health on its financial reporting for fiscal 2006 by its auditing firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“Federal agencies can now rely on GSA in terms of being able to accurately report the use of funds, have financial control over funds and not improperly use their funds,” GSA Chief Financial Officer Kathleen Turco said Nov. 13.

GSA Administrator Lurita Doan said the agency was the first to file its annual financial statement with the Office of Management Budget. She said the clean opinion was the result of a “Herculean effort” by the agency’s financial managers to resolve six material weaknesses that prevented the agency from receiving a clean opinion in its 2005 financial audit. Doan discussed the news at a Nov. 13 dinner hosted by the Coalition for Government Procurement, a trade association representing GSA vendors, and Federal Times.

GSA received a failing grade the preceding year from independent auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, when the 2005 audit uncovered problems in tracking and returning unspent funds from customer orders.

READ MORE...

When the Bush administration rides off, how much of the PMA will remain?

Rob Portman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, hopes the PMA is here to stay. He says the next president, regardless of party affiliation, should adopt the President’s Management Agenda and continue to press ahead on its goal of improving management in the federal government.

“This should not be something that changes from administration to administration,” Portman told Government Leader. “We have to keep the momentum moving. We have to be sure there is a seamless transition to the next administration, Republican or Democrat.”

Whether agencies lose the incentive to meet performance goals as the Bush administration winds down in the next 12 to 24 months remains to be seen. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said it’s up to the executive branch to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“It’s going to depend on how the administration drives it,” he said. Whatever happens in the next two years and in the 2008 presidential election, there are threads of government reform woven into law that will connect future administrations, experts say.

READ MORE...

How to avoid turf battles and keep programs moving

First, the bad news about turf battles in federal agencies: They still exist. In fact, they’ve become more common than ever with the proliferation of chief executive, or CXO, titles over the past decade.

But here’s the good news: Current and former federal officials we spoke with agree that turf battles are less acrimonious, easier to overcome most of the time, and, perhaps most important, less about managers wanting to mark their territory and more about the best way to meet agency mission.

Still, turf battles span the gamut from squabbles over petty matters to clashes over issues of major significance.

Offering an example of the latter, one federal official recently described on ongoing rift at his agency between the CIO and chief financial officer over several high-profile issues, including Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 and IT security.

“For many agencies, physical security is under the CFO and IT security is under the CIO, so where does the [HSPD-12] card fall?” the official said. “No one wants to deal with it, and there is no teamwork.”

How can you survive or avoid turf battles? Experts offered the following tips:

READ MORE...

Today's GAO Reports

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released the following reports:

Financial Audit:
IRS's Fiscal Years 2006 and 2005 Financial Statements.
GAO-07-136, November 9.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-136
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d07136high.pdf

Improper Payments:
Agencies' Fiscal Year 2005 Reporting under the Improper Payments Information Act Remains Incomplete.
GAO-07-92, November 14.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-92
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d0792high.pdf

Monday, November 13, 2006

Agencies see green in final 2006 management grades

Many agencies closed fiscal 2006 with improvements to their quarterly scores on the President's Management Agenda, with 15 grades improving across the five main initiatives and four dropping.

Notable changes on the Office of Management and Budget's traffic-light style score card ratings, released late Thursday, included a bump for the Defense Department in competitive sourcing from red, signaling unsatisfactory performance, to yellow, for mixed results. Defense has no scores that are green, for success.

Top agency officials take the quarterly management score cards seriously, and the timing for major announcements and new activities is often tied to just before -- or safely after -- scores are finalized. During the past several months, OMB officials have spoken publicly about securing the president's management legacy.

Observers have said the upcoming shift to a Democratic House and Senate could have mixed effects on the administration's management projects.

On the controversial competitive sourcing initiative, some advocates from both the industry and union sides say the initiative has already ground nearly to a halt, with agencies winning more than 80 percent of competitions. Others say the shift could lead to more anti-competition language being inserted into authorization and spending bills. Paul Denett, the new head of procurement at OMB, has said since taking the helm in August that he intends to ramp up competitive sourcing.

Efforts under the financial and human capital management initiatives have mostly been bipartisan, and are not expected to change drastically in the 110th Congress. Lawmakers have been ambivalent about the administration's initiative to rate the effectiveness of virtually every government program -- using the Program Assessment Rating Tool -- to facilitate performance-based budgeting, as well as its strategy of paying for e-government projects by pooling funds from multiple agencies. Those initiatives, critics on both sides of the aisle say, circumvent lawmakers' intentions for program design and agency appropriations.

READ MORE...

Democratic leaders may be wary of president’s management agenda

Elements of the president’s management agenda, never fully embraced by the Republican Congress, could be endangered under a Democratic Congress, some information technology industry analysts say.

“The new Congress doesn’t too much care about or even support the president’s management agenda,” Kevin Plexico, executive vice president of operations at INPUT, a market research firm, said at a Nov. 9 conference on government IT spending.

With federal employees’ groups and their legislative allies empowered, Plexico and other analysts singled out competitive sourcing, an administration effort to let private contractors compete for federal jobs like data collection and administrative support, as particularly vulnerable.

Linda Brooks Rix, a former Office of Personnel Management official who now heads a human resources consultancy that competes for federal human resources work, said “the election will have a dramatic impact on what gets outsourced.”

Rix argued certain “lines of business” — back-office functions like financial management and human resources that the Office of Management and Budget is pushing to consolidate across agencies — could face trouble when Congress weighs their renewal in February.

Congress has never fully funded the program and has remained unenthusiastic, in part because cost savings have not appeared, Rix argued. And Democrats will be even more wary, she said.

OMB spokeswoman Andrea Wuebker said both political parties want to improve program performance and agency management. “We will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans to achieve this goal through implementation of the president’s management agenda,” she said.

READ MORE...

Private sector grows skeptical of IT consolidation efforts

Flaws in the Bush administration's attempt to streamline agency management systems are frustrating potential private sector participants and putting the initiative at risk for derailment, industry representatives said Thursday.

The lines of business effort, backed by the Office of Management and Budget, is an aggressive attempt to consolidate agency information technology systems that support common functions such as financial management and human resources. The goal is to move all agencies to a handful of federal or private sector service providers.

But murky competition guidelines for prospective service providers, congressional skepticism, union opposition and ambiguity surrounding interagency contracting are poised to sink the initiatives, industry representatives said at the FedFocus 2007 conference hosted by the Reston, Va., market research firm INPUT.

Speaking before an audience composed mostly of industry officials, Amy Laderberg O'Sullivan, counsel in the government contracts practice group at Crowell & Moring, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, said the lines of business initiative has noble intentions but is bogged down in implementation.

OMB has said that public-private competitions under the dictates of Circular A-76, the rule book agencies use when they open federal jobs to bids from the private sector, will be required for federal agencies outsourcing their financial management systems under the lines of business initiative. Private sector competition for agency IT work is an important way of keeping prices low and service satisfactory at cross-agency service centers, OMB has said.

In a competition framework released in late September, OMB said that once agencies determine they're ready to replace their in-house financial management operations in favor of a shared service center, they must hold a competition that includes bids from the private sector.

Government officials have said that agencies and contractors vying to be selected as providers under the human resources line of business likely will follow the A-76 rules too, but a competition framework has not been released.

In response to questions raised by industry officials, OMB spokeswoman Andrea Wuebker said the government is using established procurement laws, policies and regulations to guide the development of the lines of business.

"As we continue to work through implementation issues, the intent is to take advantage of both private and public competitions in order to ensure we deliver the best services at the best prices in the interest of the American taxpayer," Wuebker said.

READ MORE...

Events of Note

Date: Dec 4 - 5, 2006
Location: Washington, D.C.
Event: Ethical Decision Making for Financial Managers
Sponsor: Management Concepts
Description: This 2 day course is designed for federal financial management personnel and others interested in ethics in the federal government. Discuss ethical challenges encountered by government financial personnel and apply the principles of federal ethics to a range of scenarios to propose valid courses of action.
Contact Information: Customer Service { finmgmt@managementconcepts.com } 703-790-9595
Web site: { http://www.managementconcepts.com }


Date: Dec 4 - 7, 2006
Location: Washington, D.C.
Event: Budget Formulation
Sponsor: Graduate School, USDA
Description: Budget execution is not a science but a refined art. Master the skills necessary to build an accurate and defensible budget compliant with the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) strict standards. Learn how strategic planning and performance measures are the keys to compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act and why federal budgets need to be mission driven. You also explore effective techniques for estimating the costs of a program by object classes, formulating a solid budget, the relationship between current-year and prior-year budgets and how to comply with the requirements of OMB Circular A-11. You learn to use the documentation that you have developed during earlier budget phases to prepare, present and defend your organization's budget. This class is also scheduled in Atlanta, GA for December 11 - 14, 2006.
Contact Information: Alyssa Barnes { Alyssa_Barnes@grad.usda.gov } 404-586-6383
Web site: { http://www.grad.usda.gov }

Thursday, November 09, 2006

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CIO - John Grimes (DOD)

Mr. Grimes was nominated by President Bush on June 17, 2005 and sworn in as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration (ASD NII) / Department of Defense Chief Information Officer (CIO) on November 14, 2005. Mr. Grimes has extensive technical and policy experience in telecommunications, information systems and the command and control fields. His public service includes five years on the White House National Security Council Staff as Director for National Security Telecommunications Policy, Director of Defense Command, Control and Communications Programs, and Senior Director White House Situation Support Staff from 1984 to 1990. Mr. Grimes served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Defense-wide Command, Control and Communications and was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counterintelligence and Security Countermeasures from 1990 to 1994. As a member of the DoD senior executive service (SES), he held senior technical and staff positions with the National Communications System, Defense Communications Agency (predecessor to DISA), and the U.S. Army Communications Command following his military service in the U.S. Air Force.

  • How the Department of Defense is working to improve IT security for the warfighter.
  • What will IPv6 mean for the warfighter?
  • What's GIG? (Hint: It has nothing to do with music or bands)

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OMB Scorecard Shows GSA Near the Top in Ratings

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The latest Executive Branch Management Scorecard released today by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) shows that the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) achieved green in four of five categories on the President's Management Agenda (PMA) -- Human Capital, Financial Performance, E-Government and Budget Performance Integration -- and yellow in one -- competitive sourcing.

This represents an improvement over previous results issued in September that had GSA green in two categories, yellow in two others and red in Financial Performance.

GSA Administrator Lurita Doan said, "We are pleased with this progress, and I expect all greens sooner rather than later, especially now that we have the newly appointed Vince Warrick heading up the office that handles performance improvement here at GSA."

As head of the Office of Performance Improvement, Mr. Warrick will report directly to the Administrator and will work as part of GSA's senior management team to drive the process for successful implementation of major Performance Improvement initiatives throughout all areas of GSA.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Today's GAO Special Publication

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today issued the following special publication:

Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, Third Edition
Volume I http://www.gao.gov/special.pubs/d04261sp.pdf
Volume II http://www.gao.gov/special.pubs/d06382sp.pdf
Index and Table of Authorities http://www.gao.gov/special.pubs/d061059sp.pdf

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Interior's ERP project in a bind

Inadequate systems, pending lawsuit could hinder modernization project

The Interior Department’s troubled project to build an enterprise resource planning system faces a series of stumbling blocks, including limited bandwidth among some of its geographically dispersed offices, a ragtag menagerie of legacy systems and a pending lawsuit from its previous contractor.

Department officials and vendor sources said Interior’s long-running Financial Business Modernization System project is at risk of turning into a fiasco unless the initiative is improved.

Additionally, Interior faces litigation from BearingPoint Inc. of McLean, Va., the systems integrator it ousted last year after about two years of work.

Interior officials plan to deploy the FBMS core financial system to two bureaus on Nov. 13, the Office of Surface Mining and the Minerals Management Service. And while officials expect those implementations will go well, they are concerned about what happens when the system is expanded.

The FBMS system relies on enterprise resource planning software from SAP America Inc. of Newtown Square, Pa. Interior plans to roll out SAP’s core financial system as well as its other integrated administrative tools designed to replace the department’s diverse array of legacy applications.

Hope Mentore-Smith, deputy CIO and chief technology officer of the Fish and Wildlife Service, described some of the problems during a recent lunch meeting of the Industry Advisory Committee in Washington.

She said the CTOs in the department’s bureaus had been working closely with the FBMS project management office “to identify some of the technical challenges that we may have [in deploying FBMS].”

Mentore-Smith said: “Unfortunately, DOI is still a very decentralized organization. We don’t have a lot of standard configurations in our bureaus for the workstations that we need to use this application. We all have different infrastructure in our bureaus to use this application.”

Mentore-Smith added that the range of technologies at different offices is quite broad. “I’ve got people on satellite, I’ve got people on dial-up. So if they need to use this application there are going to be some real, real challenges there,” she said.

That disparity makes it difficult to use apps such as FBMS.

An industry specialist in ERP projects noted that, “There is nothing unique about [Interior’s implementation of] the SAP system. If someone is concerned about a new solution taxing their infrastructure, they should have thought about that beforehand.”

The industry source said, “The Interior Department has an IT infrastructure that is a collection of a multitude of systems and products, and the SAP implementation will reduce the cost of that.”

On top of these problems, the FBMS project also faces a legal tangle resulting from Interior’s decision in mid-2005 to fire BearingPoint, the systems integrator that had been implementing the SAP software.

After Interior fired BearingPoint, the department conducted a competitive procurement to recruit a new systems integrator for FBMS, and chose IBM Corp. under a contract with one base year and five one-year options that could be worth about $100 million.

Industry analysts suggested that Interior could not have terminated BearingPoint’s contract on the grounds of “convenience,” because if the department had done so, it could not have immediately sought to recruit a replacement contractor.

The analysts noted that it is very likely in this case that Interior terminated the contract for “default,” and that BearingPoint’s litigation is a means of clearing its reputation in the field of providing systems integration services for ERP projects.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Forest Service centralizes business functions at N.M. site

The Forest Service is centralizing its human resources, financial management and information technology functions in Albuquerque, N.M., to improve service and reduce costs.

“We’re no different than other non-Defense government agencies. Our budgets are flat, our fixed costs are increasing, and we’ve got to get to the most efficient, leanest organization possible,” said Hank Kashdan, deputy chief of business operations at the Forest Service.

Consolidating the three functions began in fiscal 2005 and should be completed by next September. Once complete, the centralization will save the Agriculture Department bureau $100 million a year — roughly a third of the budget spent on those services today, Kashdan said.

Consolidating the functions also will improve efficiency, help the agency meet accounting standards and increase the number of employees served by a single personnel specialist, he said.

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Bush picks Homeland Security management chief

President Bush announced late Thursday the nomination of a former Defense Department senior executive to lead management efforts at the Homeland Security Department.

If confirmed, Paul Schneider will become the undersecretary for management at DHS, filling a job left vacant with the May departure of Janet Hale, the department's first management chief. Scott Charbo, the department's chief information officer, replaced Hale on an interim basis, spokesman Larry Orluskie said.

The schedule for Schneider's confirmation has yet to be determined. Orluskie said Charbo will continue to serve as both CIO and management undersecretary until Schneider is approved.

If confirmed, Schneider will have DHS' line of business chiefs - the chief financial officer, the chief information officer, the chief procurement officer, the chief human capital officer and the chief administrative officer - reporting to him. He also would have input on budget requests and oversee some segments of how the department's new personnel system will be implemented. Schneider was not available for comment.

Hale spent three years as DHS' undersecretary of management, and earned Chertoff's praise for her role uniting the 22 legacy agencies and 180,000 workers that formed the department.

But the position itself has been criticized: the Government Accountability Office and DHS' former inspector general said the departmental structure failed to provide business chiefs with adequate authority. They called for DHS to consider reorganizing the management directorate to provide the chiefs that authority, but officials deflected the criticisms and opted to continue with the existing chain of command, with the exception of the CFO. The financial chief now has a dual report to management chief and the secretary.

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From the Top Echelons, a Look Beyond the Elections

Top policymakers who oversee federal management issues talk all the time in the privacy of their offices and are rarely seen in public together. But yesterday, five officials appeared together in public to discuss internal workings of the government.

They shared no secrets, talking in general terms about the urgency of reshaping the federal workforce, cleaning up the government's financial books and pulling the plug on duplicative technology systems.

It was, for the most part, a comfortable venue for the five -- four from the Office of Management and Budget and one from the Office of Personnel Management. They took questions from a lunchtime audience of about 200 current and former federal officials, scholars and public administration experts.

Karen Evans , the OMB's technology chief, said she would find it hard to believe that the next president wouldn't care about privacy and cybersecurity issues. She promised to keep pushing agencies to shut down overlapping computer networks and produce long-term savings.

Robert Shea , who has headed up a project to rate federal programs based on their performance, said he would urge the next White House to use a scorecard to track agencies' progress toward management goals.

Joining Shea, Evans and Dennett were Linda Combs , who handles financial management policy at the OMB, and Solly Thomas , the acting associate director at the OPM who oversees efforts to hold agencies accountable for managing their workforces.

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This year’s IAC Executive Committee embodies the high-level expertise that is essential to good government and the advancement of the IT industry

From its inception in 1989, the Industry Advisory Council’s purpose has been to bring industry and government executives together to exchange ideas, develop professionally, and build relationships and trust. In the loftiest terms, IAC is the government’s partner in the application and advancement of information technology.

Bill Piatt, chairman of IAC’s Executive Committee, said the group has provided vendor-neutral advice to federal procurement and IT officials during its more than 16 years. IAC’s members participate in public service through voluntary contributions of their time and ideas. The group is part of the American Council for Technology, a relationship that contributes to a more effective use of IT in the federal government, Piatt said.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

OMB: Management agenda will outlast Bush administration

Regardless of what happens in Tuesday's mid-term elections and in the 2008 presidential race, the fundamentals of the Bush administration's management agenda most likely are here to stay, officials said Thursday.

In the area of information technology, for example, "I really find it hard to believe ... that a president would come in and say, 'I really don't care about privacy, so everything you were doing in the area of privacy -- forget it, throw it out,'" said Karen Evans, head of e-government and IT for the Office of Management and Budget. She said a new administration in 2008 might make changes in where investments are made to reflect different priorities, but the basic elements of IT management likely will remain the same.

At a lunch hosted by the IBM Center for the Business of Government and the National Academy of Public Administration, leaders of the five key initiatives in the President's Management Agenda -- improving financial performance, competitive sourcing, e-government, performance-based budgeting and human capital management -- answered audience questions on the future of the efforts.

Linda Combs, OMB's controller, said the administration's quarterly traffic-light style score card to grade management agenda accomplishments has proven popular with private sector chief financial officers. She said the CFOs universally approve of the score card's simple format, and some assured her they would introduce it at their own companies.

"Results speak for themselves," Combs agreed. "We're going to have to continue to ... change the culture of what we're dealing with in federal agencies and departments in order to promote that great idea that it is as 'cool' to have an efficient and effective measure as it is to create policy."

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