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Friday, April 27, 2007

Today's GAO Publication

GAO has posted the Annual Update (March 2007) of the Third Edition of the Principles of Appropriations Law (Red Book) to the Legal Products page of its website.

Continuing resolutions put agencies on edge

It’s been a decade since Congress has provided all agencies with operating budgets by the beginning of the fiscal year. Congress requires program managers to make plans almost two years in advance but forces them to operate under the prior year’s budgets based on those two-year-old plans. This is no way to run an operation of any size.

Unfortunately, Congress seems incapable of delivering the first step in the accountability chain: a funded budget in the form of an appropriations bill.

By not meeting the Oct. 1 deadline, Congress is funding 47 activities that had been proposed to expire in 2007 and simultaneously preventing the start of 10 activities that were planned for 2007. In dollar terms, $8.4 billion is being spent for activities that should have ended this year, and $1.9 billion is not being spent for activities that were planned to begin. How is one to manage in this environment? Who is accountable for what?

Perhaps it’s time for the Government Accountability Office to report on the true costs of Congress’ continuing-resolution habit.

- Steve Charles, ImmixGroup, Commentary for WashingtonTechnology.com


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

DFAS Awards Financial Integrated Systems Services (DFISS III)

The contract was awarded to CSC, EDS, Lockheed Martin and Booz Allen Hamilton on April 24, 2007 for a total value of $475 million to fulfill the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) Financial Systems Organization's (FSO) continuing requirement for services to support more than 200 automated information systems in the areas of finance, accounting, payroll, transportation, logistics, personnel and management.

Monday, April 23, 2007

HHS CIO Heads Off to Austria

GovExec's TechInsider Blog reported this afetrnoon that....

Charles Havekost, chief information officer at the Health and Human Services Department, told his staff Monday that he will be leaving his position in mid-June to take a position with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria.

Havekost has been a career civil servant at HHS for 29 years. He became the agency's CIO and deputy assistant secretary in April 2004. He led the Grants.gov e-government initiative from 2002 through 2004. At the IAEA, Havekost will serve as the director of the organization's information technology division in its Office of Management.

Can metrics persuade holdouts?

OMB hopes performance measures will make the case for using shared-service providers

Federal officials could soon have a clearer picture of how effectively and efficiently agencies provide financial-management services compared with other agencies and particularly compared with providers that operate shared-service centers under the Bush administration’s Financial Management Line of Business program.

Recent Financial Management LOB reporting guidance presents performance measures for evaluating financial-management services. Mandatory reporting based on those measures will provide a credible basis for evaluating financial-management services that federal agencies might seek from shared-service providers, said Keith Thurston, assistant deputy associate administrator at the General Services Administration’s Office of Governmentwide Policy.

Officials responsible for the Financial Management LOB say they expect the metrics and new reporting requirement to provide evidence that will help persuade agencies to use shared-service providers. The Office of Management and Budget established the metrics in the Financial Services Assessment Guide, which agencies and shared-service providers must begin using to report April data to OMB by June 15 and monthly thereafter.

Agencies would use the performance data to evaluate potential providers for hosting their financial systems and developing applications, said Trisha Broadbelt, deputy program manager of the Financial Management LOB at the Interior Department’s National Business Center in Denver. The data will provide a better sense of the overall value that a shared-service provider can deliver, she said.

Agencies have worked with OMB and GSA through participation on the Chief Financial Officers Council’s Performance Measures Working Group to determine which measures would be most appropriate.

Thurston said he anticipates that agencies will comply with the requirement to report their performance data or at least their progress toward setting up that capability. “The results and peer comparisons are in themselves the motivation for agencies to move to better performing solutions,” he said.

Some agencies perform financial-management functions their own way and without a clear business reason for doing so, which makes it difficult to compare their performance with that of other agencies and providers, said Dianne Copeland, program director of the Financial Systems Integration Office. The performance measures will provide data on a consistent level so services can be evaluated and compared.

-Mary Mosquera, FCW.com


Friday, April 20, 2007

Today's GAO Testimony

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

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Serious Economic, Fiscal, and Accountability Challenges.
GAO-07-746T, April 20

OMB reports progress in IT management

A new Office of Management and Budget report gives agencies positive marks for making strong business cases for information technology projects, but identifies an increasing number of high-risk initiatives.

The report shows that the number of IT business cases on the OMB management watch list dropped from 346 as of December 31, 2006, to 183 as of March 31, 2007.

Business cases for IT investments end up on the list if OMB officials find one or more weaknesses. The plans -- required under the 1996 Clinger-Cohen Act -- are then targeted for follow-up so that potential problems can be corrected before the project begins.

Plans are dropped from the list once agencies demonstrate through additional documentation and information on planning that they have addressed the problems.

Meanwhile, the number of projects on a separate "high risk" list jumped from 477 to 549 during the first quarter of 2007 (from Dec. 31, 2006, to March 31, 2007). According to OMB, the high-risk designations have increased because agencies are doing a better job of overseeing projects.

Placements on the high risk list, established by OMB in August 2005, are determined by projects' complexity or level of importance. The 549 initiatives on the list represent about $12.9 billion in projected IT spending for fiscal 2008. OMB has decided they need attention from "the highest level of agency management," but in a statement, noted they are not necessarily at risk for failure.

- Daniel Pulliam, GovExec.com

Notable Projects Included on the Watch List:

Human Resources Line of Business: Service Center
Farm Program Modernization (MIDAS)

Grants Administration Payment System (GAPS)
Travel Management System (TMS)
Contracts and Purchasing Support System (CPSS)
Budget Formulation and Execution Line of Business
Federal Student Aid Financial Management System (FSA FMS)

HHS Consolidated Acquisition System

DHS - Financial Management Transformation (2008)
FEMA -Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) (2008)

OCFO - DOL Labor Executive Accountability Program

DOTXX071: DOT eGrants Consolidation

Financial Analysis & Reporting System (FARS) Applications -Major
Debt Management Accounting System (DMAS)
Oracle e-Business Suite
Travel Reimbursement and Accounting System
Financial Management Information System (FMIS)
Integrated Financial System/CORE Financial System (IFS)

VA-Wide e-Travel Solution-2008
Financial & Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise (FLITE)-2008
Financial Management System (FMS)-2008
Payroll/HR Systems-2008
Capital Asset Management System-2008

NASA Integrated Enterprise Management - Core Financial
NASA Integrated Enterprise Management - Integrated Asset Management

Budget Formulation Application (BFA)
License Fee Billing System Replacement (Fees System Replacement)
Human Resources Management System (HRMS)
License Fee Billing System (Fees System)
Cost Accounting System (CAS)

Human Resources Line of Business (HR LOB)


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Today's GAO Testimony

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released the following testimony and presentation:


Coast Guard: Observations on the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget, Performance, Reorganization, and Related Challenges.
GAO-07-489T, April 18
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d07489thigh.pdf

Climate Change: Financial Risks to Federal and Private Insurers in Coming Decades are Potentially Significant.
GAO-07-760T, April 19
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d07760thigh.pdf

Presentation By The Comptroller General

"Federal Oversight: The Need for Good Governance, Transparency, and Accountability" by David M. Walker, comptroller general of the United States, before the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency/Executive Council on Integrity and Efficiency's national conference, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
GAO-07-788CG, April 16.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Everson to become CEO at the American Red Cross

Tom Shoop at GovExec.com noted in his Fedblog today that the NY Times is reporting IRS Commissioner and former Controller and Deputy Director of OMB, Mark Everson, is headed to the American Red Cross to become its Chief Executive Officer. Included on Fedblog is the content of a personal email Everson sent to IRS staff about his departure.

CBP Recruiting for Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Finance (Deputy CFO)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is searching for a current or former career SES executive to serve as its Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Finance (Deputy CFO). CBP, an agency with a $10 billion budget and 43,000 employees, is responsible for guarding our Nation's borders and preventing the entry of terrorists and their weapons into the United States.

For additional information, please visit: www.usajobs.opm.gov or call (202) 863-6144.

Send your resume to Stephen.Chostner@dhs.gov

In the subject line of your message, indicate: EXSER/07-032CBP.

[Click Here for Job Posting]

Vacancy Ann.#: EXSER/07-032CBP
Who May Apply: All groups of qualified individuals within the civil service, U.S. citizenship is required.
Pay Plan: ES-0505-00/00
Appointment Term: Permanent
Job Status: Full-Time
Opening Date: 4/17/2007
Closing Date: 5/8/2007
Salary: From 111,676.00 to 168,000.00 USD per year

Friday, April 13, 2007

EVENT - A New Road to Improved Financial Management in Government: Process-Based Financial Reporting

The Government Results Center In Association with the United States Department of Agriculture and Grant Thornton Present:

Tuesday April 17, 2007, 8:45-Noon, [Agenda]

A PRACTITIONERS SERIES FORUM ON: "A New Road to Improved Financial Management in Government: Process-Based Financial Reporting"

Meeting location is in the Jefferson Auditorium, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 12th and Independence Avenue, S.W.

The purpose of the Government Enterprise Integrators Group is to enable sharing between government agencies and offices of lessons learned and better practices to integrate planning, budgeting, financial management, execution through people, technology and evaluation feedback into an effective performance management system.

All GEIG meetings are free of cost but restricted to government officials or public administration academics. Reservations are required for security, badge preparation, and copying of handouts.

In 2006 the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), with funding from the Grant Thornton’s Global Public Sector group, initiated a research study to determine the applicability of process-based accounting to federal agencies. Process-based accounting was first proposed by James A. Brimson in his book The Handbook of Process-Based Accounting: Leveraging Processes to Predict Results (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 2002). Through interviews with 28 Federal Chief Financial Officers and other top government executives involved in financial management, the survey revealed a need for financial and performance reporting that was not focused on compliance but rather toward providing information necessary for sound business decisions.

The GEIG April session will feature an explanation of process-based accounting in developing integrated financial and performance reports. Secondly, we will explore how all federal agencies might use process-based accounting tools to increase transparency, highlight problems and opportunities for operations improvement, and increase the amount of forward-looking information for decision-making. Finally, we will consider how some agencies are integrating and institutionalizing these tools to create value-added financial and performance reports.


Navy Awards SAP ERP SeaPort Contract

The Navy has awarded a task order worth up to $22 million over three years to Science Applications International Corp. for enterprise resource planning work under the SeaPort contract.

SAIC will provide support to the Navy Enterprise Resource Planning Program Office during the deployment of the Navy Enterprise Resource Planning Systems, Applications and Products common business solution.

The Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Center in Charleston, S.C., issued the order.

- Michael Hardy, WashingtonTechnology.com


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Freddie, Fannie a 'Concern' To OFHEO

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are trying to fix widespread weaknesses in financial controls that contributed to accounting scandals in 2004 and 2003, "remain a significant supervisory concern," a federal agency responsible for regulating them said yesterday.

The government-chartered mortgage funding companies have taken much more time and money to put their houses in order than either they or regulators expected, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said yesterday in an annual report to Congress.

The scandals revealed severe flaws in the systems the companies use to manage their business and generate financial reports.

- David S. Hilzenrath, WashingtonPost.com


Monday, April 09, 2007

GAO: SEC's internal repayments controls less risky

The Securities and Exchange Commission has improved internal controls and information systems for repayments and penalties paid by securities violators to the extent that the Government Accountability Office has eliminated them as major weaknesses that increase risk.

- Mary Mosquera, FCW.com


IAC pitches XBRL

The Industry Advisory Council released a white paper on the eXtensible Business Reporting Language, an international open-standard electronic business language. The report outlines the potential benefits for the federal financial-management community, such as data traceability, consistency, flexibility, reuse and visibility. XBRL streamlines processes for collecting and reporting data. The paper may be found here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Biggest spenders are least accountable agencies, report finds

Agencies with the biggest budgets are the least transparent when it comes to explaining their results to the public, according to a study released April 3.

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a government watchdog, has analyzed the annual performance and accountability reports issued by 24 major federal agencies for the last eight years. The group rates whether the reports are easy to find and read, communicate the benefits of agency work and help drive management changes.

Nearly 90 percent of federal funds in 2006 were spent by agencies with unsatisfactory performance reports, according to Mercatus. The four lowest-ranking agencies alone — the Office of Personnel Management and the Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services departments — accounted for almost $800 billion in federal spending in 2006.

That’s a problem since trust and transparency are essential in a democracy, said Comptroller General David Walker at a press conference announcing the results.

According to the ratings, agencies had the most trouble with linking results to costs, explaining why they failed to achieve major goals and resolving major management challenges.

- Mollie Ziegler, FederalTimes.com


IGs face more work as Democrats increase oversight

For government auditors, there’s new competition in town.

And it’s Congress.

Until January, inspectors general offices and Congress’ Government Accountability Office were effectively the only independent overseers of executive branch agencies in recent years, Ken Gold, director of Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute, said April 4 during a panel discussion at the Excellence in Government Conference. But these officials now have company from committee chairs with pent-up desire to investigate the Bush administration, he said.

Gold said cuts in the mid-1990s to congressional committee staffs and new fund-raising requirements on members mean Congress may struggle to sustain a high level of oversight. Nevertheless, the Democratic-run Congress has altered life for IGs, who as executive branch appointees are required to report to Congress and who have already had to straddle “a barbed-wire fence,” between the two branches, he said.

CIA Inspector General John Helgerson, speaking at the panel discussion, said the new Congress has sharply increased requests for his testimony and for reports prepared by his office.

Helgerson also said that in recent years, requests from both Congress and the Office of Management and Budget have steadily reduced his time for reviews initiated at his own discretion. Congress sometimes legislates that inspector general offices review certain programs, while OMB has asked IGs to play a bigger role in annual reports on areas like data security and financial audits.

- Daniel Friedman, Federal Times.com


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Treasury CDFI Seeks CFO

Position: Chief Financial Officer
Department: Department of Treasury
Agency: Departmental Offices
Sub Agency: Departmental Offices
Job Announcement Number:07-CDFI-019PA

OPEN PERIOD CLOSES: April 12, 2007

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has a distinguished history dating back to the founding of our Nation, and today, continues with a critical role in the economic and financial life of the country and the world. The Departmental Offices have responsibility for formulating policy and the management of the Department as a whole.

This position is that of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund. The CFO reports to the Director of the CDFI Fund and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Fund's awards management and financial management functions.

Selection(s) may be made from vacancy announcement(s) 07-CDFI-018, 07-CDFI-019P, or from any other appropriate source.

Position Location:
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund
601 13th Street, NW
Washington, DC

Go to: http://usajobs.opm.gov

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Today's GAO Correspondence

GAO released the following correspondence.

Internal Control:
Improvements Needed in SEC's Accounting and Operational Procedures.
GAO-07-482R, April 3

Labor, Transportation, VA win kudos for performance reports

The Labor, Transportation and Veterans Affairs departments won accolades for the transparency and accountability of their reports on their performance Tuesday, as officials discussed the possibility that such data could be linked more closely with budget submissions in future years.

The three agencies earned top rankings for overall reporting, transparency and leadership on an annual evaluation of agencies' performance and accountability reports conducted by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The same agencies were among those at the top of the list last year, too.

The center judges the agencies' reports on their activities, rather than the activities themselves. It found that the 10 agencies that scored "satisfactory" or better on their fiscal 2006 reports accounted for just 13 percent of federal noninterest spending, down from 15 percent the previous year.

At an event announcing the center's findings, researchers and officials discussed the possibility that the Office of Management and Budget will require additional performance information in the congressional budget justification documents that agencies send to Capitol Hill every year.

Some participants questioned whether the performance information would be removed from the annual reports and moved to the budget documents, to reduce the burden on agencies, which are sometimes asked to provide similar information in slightly different formats for the two processes.

But Robert Shea, OMB's associate deputy director for management, said removing the information from the performance and accountability reports is not under discussion, in part because of statutory requirements that it be publicly available.

Shea said it ultimately comes down to what information lawmakers want, noting that performance data "will only be useful to the appropriators if the appropriators want it."

He cited the Education Department as ahead of the curve in sharing performance data with the Hill, and noted that some appropriators have passed language requiring other agencies to use Education's format.

He said updated guidance for next year's performance and accountability reports will be issued through OMB's Circular A-11, to be finalized in June.

- Jenny Mandel, GovExec.com


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Agencies to report financial services metrics under LOB

Agencies and their financial management shared-services providers must begin to report in June how well their financial services perform as part of the Financial Management Line of Business.

The Office of Management and Budget established metrics detailed in the Financial Services Assessment Guide, published March 30, which agencies and shared-services providers will use to evaluate their financial services to identify where they can improve performance and reduce cost.

Major agencies and providers will report April data by June 15 and monthly thereafter.

The financial-management performance of agencies and shared-services providers will be more transparent and accountable under the metrics produced by OMB, the General Services Administration and the CFO Council’s Performance Measures Working Group.

The first phase will focus on defining and collecting a set of baseline metrics for information technology infrastructure hosting and application management. These include infrastructure availability, help desk response time, core financial-system application availability and report production time.

The next phase will refine the metrics, collecting an expanded set of measurements including cost, improving reporting capabilities and accountability mechanisms, and streamlining the collection effort.

Agencies will report performance data through the Chief Financial Officers’ Metric Tracking System.

- Mary Mosquera, FCW.com

Financial Services Assessment Guide (Financial Systems Integration Office)


AGA FMSB Weighs in on Intangible Assets

AGA's Financial Management Standards Board (FMSB) sent a comment letter March 23 to the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) on the Exposure Draft of a proposed statement, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Intangible Assets. In the comment letter, the FMSB asked that the GASB consider clarifying terms used in the ED such as “minimal incremental effort” and “nonfinancial nature” and commented on the specified-conditions approach to recognizing internally generated intangible assets.

Read the letter

Today's GAO Presentations

GAO released the following presentations by the Comptroller General:

"Internationalizing and Modernizing the Accountability Profession" by David M. Walker, comptroller general of the United States, before the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountability (CIPFA), in London, England.
GAO-07-723CG, March 26, 2007.

"Measuring the Performance of Audit Organizations: GAO's Evolving Experiences," by David M. Walker, comptroller general of the United States, before the 19th UN/INTOSAI [International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions] Seminar, in Vienna, Austria.
GAO-07-598CG, March 28-30, 2007.