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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Agencies post business cases online

Sixteen agencies complied with the Office of Management and Budget’s request to post their information technology business cases online.

Karen Evans, OMB’s administrator for e-government and IT, said earlier this month that redacted versions of every agency's business case would be posted online about two weeks after the administration issued its budget request to the Hill.

An OMB spokeswoman said there likely will be no central Web portal where the public can find links to the business cases.

OMB and agencies have been reluctant to share business cases in the past and would issue them only when someone filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Some of the largest agencies did not meet the OMB deadline of noon Feb. 22 to provide a link to their business cases. The agencies that missed the timetable include the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, State and Veterans Affairs; the Small Business Administration; the Smithsonian Institution; and the Agency for International Development.

-Jason Miller, FCW.com

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Today's GAO Correspondence

Improper Payments:

Posthearing Responses on a December 5, 2006, Hearing to Assess the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002.

GAO-07-533R, February 27.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-533R

Sunday, February 25, 2007

OMB: Financial system consolidation already tested

In response to a report recommending that the Bush administration test the consolidation of agency financial management systems before making the moves permanent, the Office of Management and Budget released a statement arguing that the testing phase has already occurred.

The "pilot" or "proof of concept" for the financial management "line of business" took place over the past decade as seven large agencies and 79 smaller agencies moved to a government or commercial shared service center for hosting their core financial management systems, OMB stated.

According to OMB, the financial management line of business project, which is part of the President's Management Agenda, represents a continuation of these ongoing efforts to improve the cost, quality and performance of financial management systems.

A recent Congressional Research Service report by CRS analyst Garrett L. Hatch said the OMB effort to streamline financial management systems by moving them into shared service centers would stand a greater chance of success if tested using pilot projects. Hatch, who used to work in OMB's Office of Federal Financial Management, could not be reached for comment.

Karen Evans, OMB administrator of e-government and information technology, initially said in response to the suggestion that government pilot projects "never go away" and agencies should work testing, along with associated costs, into the initial implementation.

OMB also stated that the notion agency officials are fearful of investing funds into shared service center migrations because of the potential for failure is misguided, because the centers have all shown they are capable of performing well.

As for the concern raised by critics that transitions to shared service centers should not occur until potential risks are addressed, OMB said migration planning guidance urges agencies to consider the financial management line of business as part of their long-term planning process and take into account performance gaps, business case analysis and budget requests.

- Daniel Pulliam, GovExec.com

Friday, February 23, 2007

Business Transformation Agency names first director

Two years after the creation of the Defense Department’s Business Transformation Agency, David Fisher has been named the agency’s first official director. Fisher will provide the continuity needed to shepherd BTA into the next administration, officials said today.

Until now, two political appointees, Paul Brinkley, deputy undersecretary of Defense for business transformation, and Tom Modly, deputy undersecretary of Defense for financial management, led BTA. But they both anticipate leaving their posts in early 2009. Fisher, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, will stay on, they said.

“One of our challenges is to create a nonpolitical organization,” Brinkley said, adding that it was impossible to complete modernization of DOD, the world’s largest business enterprise, in only four years.

Fisher had been acting director of BTA since November 2006. Institutionalizing an enterprise perspective on business transformation and continuing the maturity of the young organization are his main goals, he said.

BTA has responsibilities for 26 DOD programs and is expanding into new areas such as fundamental business analysis, officials said. For example, BTA recently completed an assessment of the Defense Cooperation Security Agency, which manages sales of U.S. weapons to foreign militaries.

BTA will perform similar assessments of three other DOD agencies in the next 18 months. One will be the Defense Security Service, which will focus on the problems with processing security clearances.

The agency will also increase its involvement in enterprise resource planning, including the Navy’s ERP program, the Defense Logistics Agency’s Business Systems Modernization program and the Army’s General Fund Enterprise Business System.

-Josh Rogin, FCW.com

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

H.R. 875, The Accountability in Government Act of 2007

Feb. 7, 2007 - 110th Congress - Rep. Cardoza introduced H.R. 875; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

H.R. 875 would amend the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996 to require the head of an agency to be reconfirmed by the Senate unless the agency is found to be in compliance with the requirements of such Act, as reported by the Comptroller General.

Accountability in Government Act of 2007 - Prohibits a federal agency head from continuing in office without reappointment by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, in any case in which the Comptroller General's annual report under the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996 states that the agency is not in substantial compliance with federal financial management systems requirements, applicable accounting standards, and the U.S. Government Standard Ledger at the transaction level.

READ THE BILL...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Research service suggests test runs for financial system consolidation

The Bush administration's plan to consolidate agency financial management systems into shared service centers might enjoy a greater chance of success if first tested using pilot projects, the Congressional Research Service recommended in a recent report.

The report, written by CRS analyst Garrett L. Hatch, stated that the debate over financial management streamlining focuses on when, not if, the consolidation should take place. As part of the so-called lines of business effort, the Office of Management and Budget is requiring agencies to move to one of several centralized financial systems run by the government and the private sector, once their existing systems need upgrades. But critics argue that these transitions should not happen until risks are adequately addressed, the report stated.

Hatch, who works in the Government Organization and Management section of the CRS' Government and Finance division, suggested that agencies address this by undertaking pilot projects before making transitions to shared service providers. This would allow officials to analyze and discuss the results of a potential move in a controlled environment.

But Karen Evans, OMB administrator of e-government and information technology, said the problem with pilot projects in government is that they "never go away."

All agencies are scheduled to move to shared financial management service providers by 2015, and OMB officials have said consolidating financial management and human resources systems will save $5 billion over 10 years.

Despite the concerns cited by Hatch that given the scope and complexity of financial management systems, the project is moving forward too quickly, the administration has not shown signs of slowing the drive toward consolidation.

The CRS report stated surveys have shown that agency officials' greatest fears are investing millions of dollars into moving to a shared service provider, only to have the provider fail to furnish the promised services. In several cases, OMB-designated shared service providers have failed to comply with financial regulations, the report stated.

A lack of regulations governing the agency-run centers have caused some to doubt that any large agency will successfully allow another shop to run its financial management systems. Several smaller agencies have moved to shared service providers. The available agency-run centers are the Bureau of Public Debt, the Interior Department's National Business Center, the Transportation Department and the General Services Administration.

In November, the Office of Personnel Management's much touted effort to move its back-end financial management operations to the Bureau of Public Debt's Administrative Resource Center collapsed. OPM officials have said they will conduct a public-private competition in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007 to determine who will host their financial systems.

The CRS report also suggested that plans to develop performance metrics for financial management, standardize business processes across agencies and establish a governmentwide accounting code could provide the earliest opportunity to realize the benefits of improved agency financial management.

OMB has sent signals that may indicate it is backing away from the concept of consolidating agencies' IT systems around shared centers.

The agency is pursuing the adoption of uniform governmentwide standards rather than shared centers in three of the newest areas in which it is hoping for streamlining: budget formulation and evaluation systems, geospatial information systems and IT infrastructure.

-Daniel Pulliam, GovExec.com

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Budget formulation needs sharper tools than spreadsheets, scholars say

The federal budget process is stuck in an era of convoluted Excel spreadsheets, and could benefit from more sophisticated planning and analysis technology to meet the growing demand for integration with data on program performance, according to two budget scholars.

In a new book on "the budget office of tomorrow," Jonathan Breul, a senior fellow with the IBM Center for the Business of Government, and Carl Moravitz, a managing consultant with the center, argue that Internet-based "performance scoreboards" and "dashboards" that give instant, dynamic readouts of key business information are the kinds of budget tools needed to inform federal officials' day-to-day decisions.

The authors point to the traffic-light-style score card used in the President's Management Agenda as an example of a quick-read tool that synthesizes complex program information. They said more and more complex options are in demand.

The work that falls to budget offices has greatly expanded over the last 20 years, largely because of new requirements contained in legislation such as the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act and the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act, Moravitz said. But budget processes have remained largely the same, he said.

More sophisticated tools would help managers answer such questions quickly and easily by dynamically tracking key data points, eliminating the need to dig through spreadsheets and potentially update numbers to answer questions.

Breul said OMB has increasingly focused on the integration of budget and performance data -- through the Program Assessment Rating Tool for example. But it is also important to link performance with backward-looking program costs, as well as forward-looking projections, he said.

Based on a 2005 study of nearly 900 chief financial officers at public and private organizations, they argued that the implementation of standard policies, common processes, process simplification and best practices is more rapid at high-performing organizations than at lower-performing ones. "The need for and benefits of these sorts of changes are every bit as applicable to budget officers as they are to finance organizations," they wrote.

"The important end state is to tie together the total process of developing, securing and managing budget resources" to support decision making and resource management, they said.

-Jenny Mandel, GovExec.com

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The big issue for FM LOB

Small agencies see the benefits in shared services, but large agencies don’t want to give up their control

The Office of Management and Budget’s plan to turn agency financial management upside down has left many large agencies with motion sickness.

Large agencies shudder at the thought of outsiders performing their financial-management processes, and that fear is causing a delay in the across-the-board savings OMB has been hoping to achieve under the Financial Management Line of Business Consolidation effort.

“Hosting, that’s not scary. Someone else handling your business processes, that’s scary,” said Danny Harris, Education Department deputy chief financial officer and team leader of the Financial Systems Oversight Team for the CFO Council. “Nightmares of poor internal controls come to mind.”

At least five large agencies have justified not moving to one of the four public-sector shared-services providers or a private-sector vendor in the past few years. Their justifications centered on the fact that they were already implementing a new system or upgrading an existing one that meets the governmentwide financial requirements (see story, Leaders want reporting on same page, Page 8).

While large agencies have been tepid about using the FM LOB, small agencies are jumping on the shared-services-provider bandwagon in large numbers. And these smaller agencies may have something to teach their larger brethren when it comes to moving to SSPs.

Small agencies have been taking advantage of shared services for years, even before OMB initiated the Financial Management Line of Business, said Anton Porter, deputy CFO at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and liaison for small agencies to the CFO Council.

“If you are a large agency, you don’t see any real examples of a shared-services provider handling a large external customer that has a tremendous amount of volume and complexity in their financial-business processes,” Harris said.

And there really are no commercial providers that handle a large volume of federal financial business transactions, he said.

Despite the perception that shared-services providers cannot adequately handle large agencies’ business, the providers can indeed handle the volume of transactions, locations, number of dollars and the number of heavy users, said Doug Bourgeois, director of the Interior Department’s National Business Center, a financial-management and human resources shared-services provider. NBC, for example, is supporting Interior’s move to Financial Business Modernization System, including operations and services, he said.

OMB directed in the fiscal 2006 budget request that agencies migrate their core financial services to providers when they upgrade their financial-management systems.

OMB said that, to date, of the 25 CFO Act agencies, four have become SSPs and four have migrated to one of them, including the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month (see story, Page 8). Currently, the Agriculture Department, Housing and Urban Development Department, and the Office of Personnel Management are in various phases of their FM LOB competitions, OMB said.

Over the next 10 years, OMB anticipates that two to three of the CFO Act agencies annually will compete to migrate to a shared-services provider.

The Federal Accountability for Tax Dollars Act of 2002 placed the same financial reporting requirements on small agencies as on large CFO Act agencies, including requirements for financial statements and use of a financial system that meets federal requirements.

For larger agencies, OMB and FSIO need to bolster the business case to move. Agencies have to have good financial, programmatic and management reasons to move, Harris said.

The likely scenario is that FM LOB will prove to be good for small agencies; some large agencies will come aboard, some will not, Bourgeois said.

“From a leadership standpoint, it may not be the right answer because economies of scale and effectiveness gains are not achieved until you migrate the service part,” he said. “The transactions and operations folks are where you get maximum effectiveness and efficiency gain for the government.”

- Mary Mosquera, GCN.com

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Leaders want reporting on same page

Common accounting code could weed out some of the ‘thousand flowers’

There are five authoritative sources that describe the codes agencies use in their financial management statements. And there are 35 elements that agencies include in those statements, but there is no standard definition for each of the components.

Those are just two of the most obvious examples of how agency financial-management systems have grown together and apart, leaving agency reporting inconsistent and reconciliation for the Treasury Department, which handles all the money, a difficult task.

But by developing a common governmentwide accounting code, the Office of Management and Budget hopes to align financial-management data, improve business processes and reduce the cost and risks of implementing financial systems. Or as one vendor put it, it’s time to end the “thousand flowers bloom” approach that has developed over the last 20 years.

“Anytime you standardize financial practices, it always gives you efficiency, reduces errors and provides more portability,” said Sam Mok, the Labor Department’s chief financial officer. “Right now, if you take any subject, any line item on a financial statement, each agency has a different interpretation of what it is.”

These standards are the key to the success of the Financial Management Line of Business Consolidation effort, said Mary Mitchell, FM LOB’s program manager and the executive director of the Financial Systems Integration Office.

FM LOB officials issued their exposure draft in November, received 600 comments from government and industry, and will issue the final version in April, Mitchell said.

“This is the most foundational document of all we are working on,” Mitchell said. “The things we are including in the code are the first things agencies worry about setting in stone when they migrate to a new system.”

An OMB spokeswoman said four agencies—the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services and Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency—have been developing their own accounting codes.

Mitchell said the goal for both the accounting code and the business processes is to develop an 80 percent solution and leave agencies with enough flexibility so they can tweak their systems to meet unique needs.

“Defining the governmentwide standard will eliminate the need to create a different standard at every federal agency,” the spokeswoman said.

- Jason Miller, GCN.com

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

OMB seeks input on FederalSpending.gov

The Office of Management and Budget wants the public to help it work out kinks with FederalSpending.gov, a new Web site permitting scrutiny of how taxpayer funds are spent by federal agencies. A September law requires OMB to create by January 2008 a user-friendly site to allow the public to search through all federal contracts, grants, loans and other awards. OMB launched the site early so the public could help shape it.

“This site is about transparency. That’s why we’re posting our implementation plan and asking for feedback directly from the public about how they want to design this Web site that puts information about federal spending at their fingertips,” said Clay Johnson, OMB’s deputy director for management.

The site also provides links to information about federal spending, frequently asked questions about the law, and an ambitious schedule for how OMB plans to comply with the law by the end of this year.

By the end of the month, OMB plans to identify what financial information reporting requirements will need to be changed and what it will take to make that data searchable. Agencies will be informed of new information collection and reporting requirements in March. A Web site with search capabilities will be developed by April.

-M.Z. Hemingway, FederalTimes.com

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

GCN eSeminar: An Inside Look at the Financial Management Line of Business

Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Time: 10:00 AM, Eastern Standard Time

Dr. Danny Harris, deputy chief financial officer with the Education Department and leader of the Financial Systems Integration Office's Oversight Transformation Team, and GCN assistant managing editor for news Jason Miller will host a discussion at 10 a.m. Feb. 27 on the status and impact of the financial management Line of Business consolidation effort.

During this program, you will hear:
  • An overview of FM LOB.
  • An update on the status of initiatives to date, including guidance and standards that the initiatives are producing.
  • Tips to moving to a shared service provider.
  • The benefits of the FM LOB and using a shared service provider.

After Dr. Harris’ online presentation, there will be an in-depth question-and-answer session moderated by Mr. Miller. The entire InSight eSeminar will be made available in an online archive for your review.

Register Here

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Maritime Administration Seeks CFO

Department of Transportation - Maritime Administration, Washington, DC

Title: Chief Financial Officer

Description: The Chief Financial Officer position is responsible for executive oversight and leadership over a comprehensive financial management program which includes the Office of Budget and the Office of Accounting. Other responsibilities include the following:
  • Responsible for ensuring the effective operation of the budget and financial management process.
  • The proper utilization of and accounting for agency resources, and the up-to-date information on status of program funds.
  • Serves as the principal consultant and advisor to the Maritime Administrator, as well as, management at all levels of the agency on financial matters, including the availability of appropriations and allocation of program funds.
Experience:

  • Knowledge of, and experience with the CFO Act, the Government Performance and Results Act, Circular A-11 and the Federal Budget Process including end-to-end Federal budget process, compliance with FFMIA, FMFIA, OMB Circular A-123, and all federal financial practices and principles.
  • Experience with multiple fund types including various appropriations, working capital/revolving funds, credit/loan accounts and in addressing and resolving complex budget formulation and budget execution issues.
  • Experience in addressing and resolving complex financial audit issues and findings.
  • Program Management experience in successfully leading a major program to ensure cost, schedule and technical performance goals are met. This includes connecting program requirements with budgetary resources and analysis of program goals and legislative mandates as well as demonstrated experience in managing complex issues with senior Administration officials and professional staff in Congress.
  • Other executive requirements and procedures for applying are listed in the vacancy announcement MARAD-SES-2007-1 which can be obtained from the USAJOBS web link at http://jobsearch.usajobs.opm.gov.
Contact: Theresa Brown, Thersa.Brown@dot.gov

US ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) SELECTS CGI FEDERAL FOR US$84 MILLION FINANCIAL SYSTEM MODERNIZATION PROJECT (FSMP)

Fairfax, Virginia, February 13, 2007 - CGI Federal, Inc., a wholly-owned U.S. operating subsidiary of CGI Group Inc. (CGI), (NYSE: GIB; TSX: GIB.A) today announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has chosen CGI as the financial management shared service provider (SSP) for EPA’s Financial System Modernization Project (FSMP). The 10 year deal, valued at US$84 million, modernizes EPA’s financial system to CGI’s commercial off-the-shelf Momentum® software, and migrates EPA’s financial system IT hosting and application management to CGI as a commercial SSP under the Financial Management Line of Business (FMLoB) initiative.

“CGI is a recognized leader in solving complex problems through the application of managed services for government and commercial clients alike,” said Donna Morea, President of CGI’s U.S. operations. “Our selection by EPA is further validation of CGI’s strategy of delivering the full spectrum of business management services across technology management, application management, systems integration and consulting and business process services.”

EPA’s FSMP award to CGI culminates the first large-scale financial system procurement conducted by a CFO Act federal agency under the FMLoB. This also marks the first time a federal agency has conducted a full and open FMLoB competition across both public and private sector shared service providers, holding them to the same standards in offer evaluation. CGI, bidding its commercial off-the-shelf Momentum software, was selected over both private and public sector SSPs. EPA joins the General Services Administration (GSA), the Administrative Office for the U.S. Courts (AOUSC), and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in awarding financial system shared services contracts to CGI over the past year. GSA, CNCS and AOUSC currently operate production Momentum systems hosted with CGI.

“EPA’s move to our Momentum financial management solution and to a hosted solution in CGI’s southwest U.S. based data center signifies both EPA’s and our own commitment to federal financial management excellence,” said Donna Ryan, Vice-President, CGI Federal. “CGI’s selection over other vendors further solidifies the CGI SSP and Momentum as the market leading FMLoB solution that best enables agencies to improve mission support, comply with federal accounting and system standards, and modernize on a large-scale with the greatest efficiency and lowest risk.”

COMMON GOVERNMENT-WIDE ACCOUNTING CLASSIFICATION (CGAC) STRUCTURE: EXPOSURE DRAFT

From the FMLOB Quarterly Newsletter:

The FMLoB released the Common Government-Wide Accounting Classification (CGAC) Structure Exposure Draft on November 17, 2006. The CGAC 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 agency mission-specific needs. The proposed standard CGAC structure identifies and defines the elements, names them where appropriate, promotes consistent use, and establishes a uniform structure for capturing them. The CGAC structure will promote a universal understanding of the elements used to classify transactions, provide a uniform framework as a starting point for agency classification structures, standardize accounting classification functionality in systems offered to the Federal government, and aid in the aggregation and comparison of data across the government.

The CGAC structure will eventually be incorporated into requirements for core financial management systems so that the structure will be embedded in standard software products.
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 service provider (SSP). Eventually, adoption of the CGAC structure will be mandatory. Figure I shows the adoption of standardization within the 24 Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Act
Agencies today, as analyzed through the CGAC Survey that was conducted in the Fall of 2006.


The central Federal financial management agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of the Treasury, have participated in the definition
of this common government-wide accounting classification structure. They are committed to making the changes needed to align their systems and processes to the new structure.
Facilitated sessions are planned in February 2007 to discuss comments on the Exposure Draft from the Federal financial management community before the final structure is adopted.
Once the CGAC structure is finalized, additional work will address implementation issues and planning.

The CGAC Exposure Draft can be found at the Financial Systems Integration Office (FSIO) web site (www.fsio.gov).

SHARED SERVICE PROVIDER (SSP) FORUM

From the FMLOB Quarterly Newsletter:

The FMLoB has proposed to create an SSP Forum for both Federal and commercial SSPs to promote information sharing, improve communication, and encourage collaboration between the key FMLoB stakeholders and designated SSPs in order to foster improvements in Federal financial management. The SSP Forum will enable the following:
  • Provide support to agencies migrating to an SSP;
  • Provide sound advice and recommendations to the Executive Steering Committee, the Financial Systems Integration Office (FSIO), and FMLoB Program Management Office (PMO);
  • Provide an opportunity for SSPs to market their services;
  • Provide a forum for sharing government-wide requirements with SSPs; and
  • Discuss issues that might otherwise impede the adoption of shared services.

The FMLoB conducted the initial SSP Forum with the Federal SSPs in November 2006.

MIGRATION PLANNING: DUE DILIGENCE CHECKLIST ( DDC)

From the FMLOB Quarterly Newsletter:

The FMLoB has updated the Due Diligence Checklist (DDC) that was used in the selection of Federal SSPs. The revised Due Diligence Checklist will be applied to both Federal and commercial SSPs in the future. DDC responses will be used to assess potential and current SSP’s abilities in several areas, including but not limited to past performance, current capabilities, and ability to operate a customer-focused organization. The FMLoB has obtained comments from Federal SSPs and other stakeholders. This document will be released as part of the next release of the Migration Planning Guidance, currently targeted for late February 2007.

BUSINESS PROCESS: FUNDS CONTROL

From the FMLOB Quarterly Newsletter:

The FMLoB is developing the Standard Business Process for Funds Control, the first in a series of documents that describes government-wide standard processes and activities for financial management. This document addresses standardization requirements for the Funds Control process, which prevents the expenditure of funds in excess of established budgetary limitations as established through the Funds Distribution process. Funds management and funds control activities are the first steps to ensure that financial managers are assessing the status of programs with timely and accurate data. Accurate data presented to financial managers from the budget and financial systems are critical to making decisions associated with government
operations. Standardizing the funds management process will improve the quality and performance of financial management systems across the Federal government. The FMLoB is expected to release the Funds Control Exposure Draft in February 2007 to solicit comment from the Federal financial community.

PERFORMANCE MEASURES: FINANCIAL SERVICES ASSESSMENT GUIDE (SAG) EXPOSURE DRAFT

From the FMLOB Quarterly Newsletter:

The Performance Measures team released the Financial Services Assessment Guide (SAG) Phase I Exposure Draft on January 3, 2007. This document helps identify a series of
metrics which stakeholders can use to measure the performance of financial services and then can be used for making any number of decisions, including how to improve. The Phase I measures focus on the two mandatory service categories that all SSPs must offer: 1) IT Infrastructure Hosting and Administration and 2) Application Management. Phase I will be critical to building a baseline of performance and learning lessons for subsequent phases.

The SAG includes an initial set of ten metrics that were developed based on SSP and Agency responses to the Value and Burden Survey (VBS) conducted by the FMLoB during November and December 2006. Specific attention was given to ensure the metrics selected offered both a high value for potential users and a low burden of collection. The survey results indicated that the collection of cost measures would pose a significant burden, and therefore no cost metrics were selected for Phase I. Both the SAG Exposure Drafts and analysis of the Value and Burden Survey can be found at the FSIO web site.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sykes, Radford Appointed to AGA National Executive Committee

On February 1, the Bylaws and Procedures Committee certified the current slate of officers and Samuel T. Mok, CGFM, officially became AGA’s National President-Elect Designate. He will begin his term as President-Elect on July 1. Mok, the chief financial officer at the U.S. Department of Labor, was already serving on the National Executive Committee (NEC) as the presidential appointee of National President-Elect RIchard Fair, CGFM. As a result of the nomination of Mok as President-Elect, Gwendolyn Sykes, MBA, CGFM, CDFM, has been named by Fair to be his new presidential appointee to complete Mok’s original term.

Sykes, the chief financial officer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, will join the NEC on July 1 and will serve until June 30, 2009. Sykes joined NASA in November 2002 when she was selected as the deputy chief financial officer for Financial Management. Since that time, she has made significant strides toward improving agency-wide financial integrity. She has launched several management initiatives designed to improve NASA's financial health and performance. Her leadership and resourcefulness are invaluable assets to the NASA community. A member of AGA’s Washington, D.C. Chapter, Sykes served as co-chair of the 2005 PDC Technical Committee. She received an AGA National President’s Award in 2005.

Mok has named Oregon State Controller John J. Radford, CGFM, CIA, CFE, to be his presidential appointee to the NEC. His three-year term will begin on July 1. Radford began his career working for the City of Omaha, Nebraska, in various financial management positions. In 1983, he moved to Oregon and began work as the budget officer in the Oregon Judicial Department and was promoted to management services director in 1985. In 1989, the governor appointed him to the position of state controller. He has served in this capacity under five consecutive Oregon governors.

A founding member of AGA’s Mid-Willamette Valley Chapter, Radford received an AGA National President’s Award in 2006 for his chapter development and human capital initiatives. Radford was also recently appointed to a three-year term as a trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation, the oversight body of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

Friday, February 09, 2007

AGA Fifth Annual National Leadership Conference - Feb. 12-13

Highlights:

February 12, 2007
8:15 a.m.: Juan Zarate, deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism; and Assistant Treasury Secretary Donald Hammond discuss, "Leading the Battle to Combat Terrorist Financing"

February 13, 2007
8 a.m.: Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Mark Everson; and Relmond Van Daniker, executive director of AGA, discuss "Leading and Managing the IRS: Progress and Obstacles"

12:40 p.m.: Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., discusses "Fiscal Imbalance"

1:20 p.m.: Deputy U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), discusses "GAO's High Risk Program and 21st Century Challenges"

Location: Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C..

Contact: 800-242-7211

Thursday, February 08, 2007

DHS transformation remains at risk: GAO

For the fourth consecutive year, the Homeland Security Department remains at high risk of not achieving its goals due to serious challenges in managing the agency, according to testimony yesterday by David M. Walker, the General Accountability Office comptroller general.

The department, which was created in 2003, faces numerous hurdles in achieving a transformation from 22 separate agencies to a single cohesive unit. Despite improvements it continues to struggle with financial and IT systems as well as human capital and acquisition efforts, Walker told the House Homeland Security Committee.

The GAO has labeled DHS’ transformation into a single unit at high risk of organizational challenges since January 2003. The designation was upheld in 2005 and again this year.

-Alice Lipowicz, WashingtonTechnology.com

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bush asks for $5M for e-gov fund

The proposed fiscal 2008 budget requests $5 million for the E-Government Fund and again proposes the use of surplus Acquisition Services Fund (ASF) money to help pay for the initiatives, according to the budget, which was released today.

The General Services Administration, which largely institutes the e-government initiatives, wants its administrator to retain as much as $40 million in surplus funds in any fiscal year generated by the operation of the ASF for the initiatives, the budget states.

The Bush administration also requested $5 million for e-government initiatives in fiscal 2007. The House decreased the fund to $3 million. The Senate would have raised the spending ceiling again to $5 million, but it did not pass the appropriations bill. The fund is now operating under a continuing resolution.

GSA’s chief financial officer, Kathleen Turco, said the E-Government Fund is breaking even.

The proposal to use money in the ASF for e-government requires legislative action before the GSA administrator can draw from it, according to the budget. No such law has been passed.

E-government funding supports interagency projects that develop and apply innovative uses of the Internet and other electronic technologies to offer simpler and updated access to federal information, benefits and business opportunities, according to the proposal.

-Mathew Weigelt, FCW.com

Monday, February 05, 2007

Agencies scrutinize more payments for mistakes

Administration officials announced Wednesday that the number of federal programs susceptible to making erroneous payments has gone up, as has the total estimate of federal outlays at risk of mistakes -- and that the increases represent good news for the government's ability to assess mistaken payments.

For fiscal 2006, the federal improper payment rate, which includes payments made mistakenly to ineligible recipients or as a result of fraud or other error, was 2.9 percent, translating to $40.5 billion in errors, according to a new Office of Management and Budget report.

That represents a drop from the fiscal 2005 rate of 3.1 percent.

But in its latest report, OMB focused on increases in the federal dollars that have come under scrutiny for improper payment risk in the third year of reporting under the 2002 Improper Payment Improvement Act. Those outlays rose to $1.7 trillion in fiscal 2006, from $1.4 trillion in fiscal 2004. Of that amount, $184 billion was newly identified in 2006 as risk susceptible.

Officials said major progress was made in reducing mistaken payments in Medicare, which reduced errors from $12.1 billion in fiscal 2005 to $10.8 billion in fiscal 2006. They attributed much of the change to better processes for documenting claims.

OMB also highlighted progress at the Housing and Urban Development Department, which reduced payment problems in its rental assistance and public housing programs. The Agriculture Department also made strides by improving its error rate in the Food Stamp program. And at the Social Security Administration's Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program, a 0.1 percent drop in the improper payment rate yielded a $401 million reduction.

The Government Accountability Office has questioned agencies' mistaken payment estimates. A November report noted that the Homeland Security Department, General Services Administration and NASA were among eight agencies reporting that they had no programs with significant risk of improper payments.

Senior GAO and OMB officials have debated where the risk threshold should be set, and how cost-benefit analyses should be used to focus on priorities. The officials agreed that lawmakers can help address the problem by allowing greater sharing of data on the beneficiaries of federal payments.

-Jenny Mandel, GovExec.com

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

GAO Releases Revised Government Auditing Standards

GAO today released the January 2007 revision of the Government Auditing Standards ("Yellow Book"). Links to an electronic version of the Yellow Book and an advisory about the revisions can be found at http://www.gao.gov/govaud/ybk01.htm.

@FedCFO