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Thursday, May 31, 2007

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Mark Reger (OPM)

Office of Personnel Management

Mark Reger - Chief Financial Officer

The numbers are eye-popping. Almost $750 billion in assets under management. $60 billion in retirement and life insurance benefits in FY 2006. And to top it off, the world's largest single employer health care program. But that's just a day at the office for OPM CFO Mark Reger. Reger says its never easy, but that a big part of OPM's success -- getting to Green on the PMA and a clean audit opinion with no material weakness for FY 2006 -- has been building in the right performance metrics and using internal controls that help everyone understand they have a stake as well as a valuable role in the process.

Today's GAO Publication

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

Improper Payments Information Act of 2002: Department of Defense Travel Expenditure Reporting.
GAO-07-767R, May 31
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-767R

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Today's GAO Publication

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

Improper Payments: Responses to Posthearing Questions Related to Agencies' Progress in Addressing Improper Payment and Recovery Auditing Requirements.
GAO-07-834R, May 30
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-834R

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

FEMA embarks on IT upgrades

New strategy will enable the agency to use DHS administrative systems

The Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to make up for what it says has been a decade of information technology neglect. In the next six months, FEMA will upgrade many of its back-office systems and submit a fiscal 2009 budget proposal loaded with requests for IT project money.

Tony Cira, FEMA’s chief information officer, said the agency needs to synchronize business functions agencywide and share information among its accounting, finance, procurement and human resources organizations.“The way we are set up now causes mistakes and costs to rise,” said Cira, who has been CIO since November 2006.

FEMA hired auditors to analyze 17 business functions, including procurement, human resources and financial management, and the results were worse than expected.

“We found out we had no business processes, no metrics and no accountability,” Johnson said. The auditors provided documentation that will help program managers and executives address the problems.

Cira said one of the first planned changes will be to move payroll processing to the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center and various human resources functions to the Homeland Security Department’s MaxHR system.

By the end of the summer, FEMA will begin using the Customs and Border Protection agency’s financial management system, which runs SAP software. And by winter, FEMA will move to Prism, DHS’ standard contracting system.

-Jason Miller, FCW.com

READ MORE...

Agencies urge legislation to ease disposal of excess property

Top officials of five federal agencies Thursday asked for legislative help to clear obstacles they face in disposing of an estimated 21,000 federal properties no longer used but worth $17 billion.

Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Financial Management Subcommittee his office will propose a five-year pilot program that would give agencies incentives, more flexibility and additional tools to help them dispose of unneeded property.

Asked the extent of the challenge, Johnson told the panel his full report is due June 15 but gave the preliminary estimate of 21,000 excess properties. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Financial Management Subcommittee Chairman Thomas Carper, D-Del., said he is working up legislation on the matter but he wants to see action before five years are up. "I'd like to pick up the pace," he said.

Offering another measure of federal property management challenges, Mark Goldstein, director of Physical Infrastructure Issues for the Government Accountability Office, reported his staff found a backlog of $77 billion in maintenance in the entire federal government's inventory of 1.2 million properties.

A major barrier to disposing of a building or piece of land is the cost of arranging and going through with a sale. Sometimes holding onto the property and "going another year" deferring maintenance on a piece of property seems cheaper to a federal agency with annual budget concerns than selling it, Johnson said.

-Basil Talbott, GovExec.com

READ MORE...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Today's GAO Publications

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

Internal Control: Improvements Needed in the Library of Congress' Capitol Preservation Fund-Related Internal Controls.
GAO-07-732R, May 25
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-732R

Managerial Cost Accounting Practices at the Department of the Interior.
GAO-07-298R, May 24
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-298R

Thursday, May 24, 2007

OMB restates fiscal 2008 IT budget request

The Office of Management and Budget restated the federal government’s information technology budget today, raising the fiscal 2008 request by almost $1 billion.

Every spring, usually by April, the Bush administration recalculates its IT budget after receiving missing data from agencies. The administration’s IT budget request for 2008 rose to $66.4 billion, up from the initial estimate of $65.5 billion in February.

In all, eight agencies saw their requests rise, 10 saw their requests fall and nine stayed the same under the reconfigured numbers.

...the Veterans Affairs Department, requested $47.9 million for its financial and logistics integrated technology enterprise program — more than $27 million more than in 2007.

-Jason Miller, FCW.com

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The FY2008 Financial Systems IT Budget total for the Federal government comes just under $1.97 Billion.

OMB: Government owns $17 billion in excess properties

Agencies have 21,000 excess buildings and land holdings worth a combined $17 billion, according to preliminary estimates by the Bush administration to be made final next month.

Agencies hold on to the unused properties rather than selling or destroying them largely because of legislative and budgetary disincentives that need to be removed, said Clay Johnson, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, at a May 24 hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on federal financial management, government information and international security.

The large inventory of unneeded properties costs taxpayers millions of dollars every year in maintenance, security and utility expenses, said subcommittee chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., who plans to introduce legislation later this year to streamline the property disposal process and allow agencies to retain at least 20 percent of the profit from the sale of unused properties.

-Tim Kauffman, FederalTimes.com

READ MORE...

Today's GAO Publication

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

Federal Real Property: An Update on High-Risk Issues.
GAO-07-895T, May 24
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-895T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d07895thigh.pdf

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Steve Shed (GPO)

Government Printing Office

Steve Shedd - Chief Financial Officer

It may not be the most recognizable of all government agencies, but the Government Printing Office is a key player, providing printing services to all three branches of government. But unlike most agencies, the focus for the CFO isn't on spending efficiently. It's on the bottom line and making a profit. Shedd says the challenge for the GPO is to keep moving, from it's century old facilities built to accommodate old-fashioned printing machines, to a new building, ready to take on the digital future of government documents.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Agencies have new choices in financial, performance reporting

The Office of Management and Budget is starting a pilot program through which agencies can choose to produce an alternative format to the consolidated Performance and Accountability Report (PAR).

The program seeks to improve the presentation of financial and performance information and make it more meaningful and transparent to the public, flexible, yet comply with laws, OMB said in a memo posted May 18.

Agencies must notify OMB by May 25 if they are participating, including what alternative they are using, how they will organize their reporting and what improvements they expect.

OMB will analyze the results of the pilot to determine future guidance on financial and performance reporting.

-Mary Mosquera, FCW.com

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OMB publishes draft payment standard under line of business

The Office of Management and Budget released an exposure draft of the payment management standard, a common business process that supports the Financial Management Line of Business consolidation initiative.

Standard business processes provide common activity sequences, data elements and definitions for business processes used governmentwide. Standards let agencies better account for their funds and report financial transactions.

OMB, the Financial Systems Integration Office and the Chief Financial Officers Council’s FSIO Transformation Team developed the payment management standard. FSIO is accepting comments on the draft until June 18.

The payment management standard spans requisition, obligation, receiving, acceptance, invoice and payment for commercial contracts and small acquisitions disbursed by the Treasury Department.

-Mary Mosquera, FCW.com

READ MORE...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Today's GAO Publication

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

Management Report: IRS's First-Year Implementation of the Requirements of the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Revised Circular No. A-123.
GAO-07-692R, May 18
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-692R

OMB Circular A-123 - Internal Controls Training Workshop

OMB Circular A-123 - Internal Controls Training Workshop

Lessons Learned and New Strategies (Continuing the Effort to Document, Test and Report)

Date: June 12, 2007 - New Date

Location: Ronald Reagan Building & Int'l Trade Center – Washington D.C.

Practical Training for Civilian & DoD Agencies. This One-day Workshop will provide hands-on, practical training presented in a focused, interactive classroom format.
Practical Information from Practitioners – Not Theory

Presentations by experts with extensive, practical experience in DoD and Civilian Agencies
Information which will help you in to plan for and implement an internal controls program at your Agency

Latest information on OMB A-123 – What it means and how to implement the Circular
Learn the why, what and how

Instructors: The Instructors are Partners and Senior Executives from the Grant Thornton LLP Global Public Sector who have unquestionable extensive experience in financial management and internal controls. Each executive is a recognized leader in the government financial community.

Register here.

Upcoming Events - May 23, 2007

The Association of Government Accountants (AGA)
Dinner and awards ceremony in honor of eleven federal agencies that have been awarded the 2007 Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting.

The recipients include: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; the Housing and Urban Development Department; the Interior Department; the General Services Administration; the Government Accountability Office; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the Patent and Trademark Office; the Securities and Exchange Commission; the Small Business Administration; and the Social Security Administration.
[Note: There will be a media availability following the event.]

Participants: Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget; U.S. Comptroller General David Walker of the Government Accountability Office; Linda Combs, comptroller of the Office of Management and Budget; and Redmond Van Danker, executive director of the AGA

Location: National Press Club, 14th and F Sts., NW, 13th Floor, Washington, D.C.. 6 p.m. (May 23, 2007)

Contact: Jennifer Curtis, 703-562-0770, jcurtin@agacgfm.org; [http://www.agacgfm.org]

Federal Accounting Standards
Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FAR. Page 39318)

Meeting to discuss their conceptual framework, social insurance, application of the liability definition, the federal entity, natural resources, inter-entity costs, technical agenda, and any other topics as needed. May 23-24.

Location: Government Accountability Office, 441 G St., NW, room 7C13, Washington, D.C..
9 a.m. (May 23, 2007)

Contact: Wendy Comes, 202-512-7350

Thursday, May 17, 2007

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Lee Loftus (DOJ)

Department of Justice

Lee Lofthus - Assistant Attorney General for Administration and CFO

Investigators going after the bad guys have long been told to follow the money trail. Making sure those bad guys get locked up means money also has to be following to the good guys. Assistant Attorney General for Administration and CFO Lee Loftus says at the Justice Department that means juggling a whole range of responsibilities, from strategic planning to procurement, not to mention coordinating with partner agencies. Loftus says one way to make sure all priorities get the necessary funding has been to emphasis financial accountability. He also weighs in on the Integrated Wireless Network and pay-for-performance.

An Audio link can be found here.

Walker takes GAO from accounting to accountability

David Walker, comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office, is busy in the way only a man on a mission can be. In a town of BlackBerry-thumping, cell phone-addled, calendar-crazed, would-be world-changers, Walker is a multitasking reformer of the first order.

When he took command of GAO in 1998, the investigative arm of Congress was in a sling, hampered by budget cuts of 40 percent. Since then, however, Walker has expanded GAO’s reach well beyond its historical mandate to ferret out waste, fraud and abuse. Today, the agency routinely examines broad structural issues and the implications of government decisions — and indecision — for future generations.

As an agent of change, Walker has ruffled a few feathers.

Walker tells it like it is, his friends said, because he is a former Marine with a strong moral compass, a patriot, a dedicated public servant and a student of U.S. history. In 2004, several years into his tenure, Walker succeeded in changing the name of the agency from the General Accounting Office to the Government Accountability Office. The change is subtle, but it says much about the man and the direction he is taking the agency, his admirers said.

Walker said he’s not done yet. His intention is to use the remaining six-plus years of his time in office to pursue far-reaching reforms of a type may be his most ambitious yet.

In remaking GAO, Walker has striven to create a model of reform he hopes other federal agencies will replicate. An organization that had been divided into more than 30 discrete silos has been reorganized into 13 issue teams flexible enough to work on projects that cut across multiple disciplines. In many ways, the new GAO looks more like a private-sector consulting firm than an old-line government agency.

“We are a wholly owned subsidiary of the United States Congress,” said Sallyanne Harper, GAO’s chief financial officer and chief administrative officer. “We’ve gone from being a stovepiped, hierarchical, process-oriented, insular organization to being a much flatter, exterior-focused, partnerial, matrix organization.”

In his free time, Walker barnstorms the country like a latter-day Paul Revere, sounding the alarm of pending financial crisis. The government’s spending is accelerating at a clip that will outpace the growth of revenue, he tells audiences. The country is going broke, he said, and as baby boomers retire and health care costs escalate, the national debt will reach epic proportions. The economy cannot expand fast enough to keep up, which leaves spending cuts or tax increases — or both — as the only answers. While the country avoids taking action, he said, the options are dwindling.

-John Pulley, GovernmentLeader.com

READ MORE...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Today's GAO Publication

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

Department of Veterans Affairs' Lack of Timely and Accurate Information on Unexpended Balances Limits Effective Management and Congressional Oversight.
GAO-07-410R, May 16.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-410R

Progress cited on 'marathon' Defense business systems upgrade

The Pentagon is making progress on an effort to modernize its massive and complex business systems, but work remains to hammer out details, according to two new Government Accountability Office reports.

One report (GAO-07-538), published Friday, stated that the Defense Department has established the management structures needed to effectively control its business system investments. But officials have yet to fully develop related policies and procedures, the report said.

The second report (GAO-07-733), released Monday, praised Defense for taking steps to comply with fiscal 2005 National Defense Authorization Act provisions. But officials left investments in some Defense agencies out of a plan outlining milestones for the business program, among other deficiencies, the report stated.

The business systems in question help to manage about $1.4 trillion in assets, a $581 billion annual budget and 2.9 million personnel. GAO designated the modernization as a high-risk area in 1995. From 2001 to 2005, the department failed to follow a 2001 recommendation that it adopt a corporate approach to investment decisions. Since then, the Pentagon has made progress, according to GAO.

-David Pulliam, GovExec.com

READ MORE...

Inspectors general gain prominence with new Congress

Perhaps. Ever since 1978, when Congress passed legislation establishing inspector general positions at dozens of executive branch departments, the job of the nonpartisan watchdog has often been a thankless one, and sometimes controversial. Still, over the years, the number of IG positions has increased steadily: 62 inspectors general now serve at federal departments and agencies.

For decades, IGs have helped reduce waste, ferret out fraud, uncover mismanagement, and save money. But in an administration that gives oversight low priority, Fine and other aggressive IGs have played an especially significant role -- and have garnered attention for it.

One of the key benefits is saving the government money, which was a large part of the rationale behind the 1978 legislation. Under the law, the president appoints and the Senate confirms 29 inspectors general who report to both their agency heads and to Congress. Agency heads appoint the other 33 IGs, who usually report either to them or to agency boards. In 2006, Congress appropriated $1.9 billion for all federal IG operations, up from $1.5 billion in 2002, according to the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency.

According to the council, the IG recommendations in 2006 for management improvements throughout the federal bureaucracy could save the government as much as $9.9 billion. The council also calculated that the government saved an additional $6.8 billion by bringing civil and criminal cases, as well as through voluntary repayments in administrative cases.


-Peter Stone, GovExec.com

READ MORE...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Today's GAO Publications

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

Reports

1. DOD Business Systems Modernization: Progress Continues to Be Made in Establishing Corporate Management Controls, but Further Steps Are Needed.
GAO-07-733, May 14.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-733
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d07733high.pdf

2. Business Systems Modernization: DOD Needs to Fully Define Policies and Procedures for Institutionally Managing Investments.
GAO-07-538, May 11.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-538
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d07538high.pdf

Correspondence

1. Management Report: Improvements Needed in IRS's Internal Controls.
GAO-07-689R, May 11.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-689R

Unprecedented Eleven Federal Agencies to Receive AGA's Prestigious CEAR Award

AGA is pleased to recognize the outstanding Fiscal Year 2006 performance and accountability reporting efforts of the following federal agencies, which are the recipients of the Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting (CEAR):
  • U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (1)
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (1)
  • U.S. Department of the Interior (7)
  • U.S. Department of Labor (7)
  • U.S. General Services Administration (3)
  • U.S. Government Accountability Office (6)
  • U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (6)
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (5)
  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (1)
  • U.S. Small Business Administration (1)
  • U.S. Social Security Administration (9)

*The number in parenthesis after each agency indicates the number of years, including this year, that the agency has received the award.



READ MORE...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Commentary: Cleaning up HUD’s books

Back in 1994, the Housing and Urban Development Department was the face of the Government Accountability Office’s high-risk watch list. Today, HUD has eliminated all material weakness and high-risk designations, and has achieved a green score — indicating successful — on the president’s management agenda initiative on improved financial performance.

HUD’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer played a key leadership and support role in this transformation, which Comptroller General David Walker, head of GAO, called a historic achievement. So, how did we step out of our “back office” accounting services role to play a strategic role in changing the face of the department? There were six keys to our success:

1. Know the business of your agency and its major program goals, risks and known weaknesses in the program control and delivery structure.

2. Actively serve as the liaison between your business and administrative components and their inspector general and GAO auditors.

3. Take a leadership role in addressing cross-agency issues or issues in areas that lack capacity.

4. Work with all affected stakeholders to assess the root causes of major problems, and to coordinate the development of comprehensive corrective action plans to address those causes.

5. Focus on opportunities for increased use of automation to achieve efficiencies and improve service.

6. Meet and report on the status of corrective action plans continuously, and elevate problems and delays for resolution before they jeopardize goals.

Following these general principles has enabled the HUD CFO and its major program clients to eliminate seven material weakness issues and two high-risk program designations since 2001. As a result, HUD has: improved the delivery of $27 billion in annual rental assistance to provide 4.8 million households with decent, affordable housing; and reduced the risks of the Federal Housing Administration’s $400 billion Single Family Housing Mortgage Insurance Program portfolio to enable that institution to continue as a viable source for enabling low-income families to achieve the American dream of homeownership. These program improvements took a total HUD team effort, and the CFO is proud to have contributed.

READ MORE...

-James Martin, Published in FederalTimes.com

James Martin is deputy chief financial officer at the Housing and Urban Development Department. He is the 2007 recipient of the Donald L. Scantlebury Memorial Award for distinguished leadership in financial management improvements in the public sector.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Labor's Mok says 'aloha'

The Labor Department’s chief financial officer, Samuel Mok, announced he is leaving to return to the private sector.

Mok, who has been Labor’s finance head for more than five years, said in a letter to the CFO Council it was time to do something different. His last day is May 15, he said.

The Senate confirmed Mok in January 2002, and he became the department’s longest-serving CFO. In his position, Mok led Labor’s move to green on the financial performance portion of the President’s Management Agenda.

He also worked closely with Labor’s chief information officer, Patrick Pizzella, to upgrade the Financial Management Line of Business initiative the department’s financial management system.

Mok also led the charge to reduce Labor’s improper payments by $259 million by the end of fiscal 2007, and implement the E-Travel system under the e-government initiative. By implementing E-Travel, Labor cut the cost of processing travel vouchers from $62.59 to $24.75.

-Jason Miller, FCW.com

READ MORE...

FYI - Mok is the incoming National President-elect of the Association of Government Accountants.

FCC Seeks Information from Vendors for CFSR

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is conducting market research in order to deter-mine the capabilities of vendors to meet the requirements of the FCC's financial system modernization initiative, which is known as the Core Financial System Replacement (CFSR) Project. The FCC is interested in identifying viable sources and acquisition strategies for commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) financial management software, system integration services, and application hosting services.

The FCC plans to acquire all services and software through a single acquisition process that will result in the award of one contract. The FCC plans to acquire the required software and services from an OMB designated federal government shared service provider (SSP) or by placing an order with a commercial vendor. All software and services will be obtained though a single public-private competition that will result in the selection of one SSP or one prime commercial vendor. Selection of the service provider will be con-ducted in accordance with the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) memorandum, Competition Framework for Financial Management Lines of Business Migrations, dated May 22, 2006, the Financial Systems Integration Office (FSIO) FMLoB Migration Planning Guidance [Version 1], dated September 13, 2006, and applicable provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).

Additional documentation can be found here.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Today's GAO Report and Correspondence

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released the following report, correspondence and testimonies:

Report

Homeland Security: DHS Enterprise Architecture Continues to Evolve but Improvements Needed.
GAO-07-564, May 9. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-564
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d07564high.pdf

Correspondence

General Services Administration Could Better Manage Unexpended Construction Balances and Make Its Budget More Transparent.
GAO-07-409R, May 9.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-409R

Monday, May 07, 2007

Improper payments decline

OMB goes after agencies that have lagged in fulfilling their reporting requirements

Only eight programs run by federal agencies have been reporting their risk of improper payments in the three years since the Bush administration began collecting that information. Thirteen other major agency programs that the Office of Management and Budget determined are most at risk of issuing incorrect payments have not been reporting, but that is about to change, OMB officials said.

The Health and Human Services Department’s Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program will begin reporting in fiscal 2008. The Agriculture Department’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs and the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund’s Schools and Libraries program also will participate, beginning in fiscal 2008.

OMB officials said the eight programs that have been reporting have reduced their improper payments at the same time those programs have grown.

When OMB released the President’s Management Agenda score cards last week, only four of 15 department and agencies — the Housing and Urban Development and Labor departments, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation — received green scores for eliminating improper payments. However, OMB gave only two red scores for improper payments — to HHS and the Treasury Department.

The improper payments rate was 2.9 percent in 2006, down from 3.2 percent in 2005 and 3.9 percent the previous year. The overall amount of improper payments declined from $42.9 billion in 2004 to $35.9 billion last year.

-Mary Mosquera, FCW.com

READ MORE...

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Sam Mok (DOL)

Samuel Mok - Chief Financial Officer, Department of Labor

It's been five and a half years since Mr. Mok took the helm as the department's Chief Financial Officer, and now he says it is time to move on. Looking back, he says it has become clear that getting to green on the President's Management Agenda cannot be the end. It must remain only the means to the end. Mok says there is a danger that too many hard-working feds are getting caught up in meeting requirements and losing track of the big picture. He also says CFOs shouldn't limit their scope when it comes to looking for best practices, that there may be some good ideas overseas. And finally, Mok wonders if the need for so many CxOs is taking a toll on agencies and if the solution may actually be another CxO.

This program aired Thursday May 10,2007 at 10:30 AM on FederalNewsRadio.com

An audio link is provided here.

The Grades Are In

The President's Management Agenda scorecard is in. Linda Combs with the Office of Management and Budget talked about the Federal Financial Management portion of the P.M.A with Amy Morris on Friday's Daily Debrief.

Click Here to Listen with Windows Media Player

Friday, May 04, 2007

CFO plans to fix Homeland Security’s financial management by 2009

The Homeland Security Department has a plan for repairing its dysfunctional financial management by 2009.

In a new document, the department said it will hire more staff, adopt common processes and operating standards, clarify roles and responsibilities of financial staffs, and direct the Coast Guard to use a better financial management system that is now in use by the Transportation Security Administration.

The department ranks as one of the worst-managed agencies in the federal government in terms of its accounting and financial practices. It has been repeatedly criticized for being unable to pass audits and properly track and manage funds, property, equipment and accounting.

The plan prepared in March by the office of chief financial officer David Norquist, called “The Internal Controls Over Financial Reporting Playbook,’’ identifies nine problems at Homeland Security and lays out corrective actions for each. The report does not estimate how much the solutions will cost. As part of its plan, the department will develop draft financial statements for the third and fourth quarters of this fiscal year as a “dry test run” of its standardized financial reporting process. The test runs are intended to help Homeland Security adopt internal controls for the year-end financial reporting process, which will begin in September.

The report says the Coast Guard’s financial reporting system is severely flawed and its processes for recording accounting estimates and drafting financial statements are labor intensive and complex. It calls for the Coast Guard to start using TSA’s system.

Homeland Security is still considering whether to combine some of its eight core financial systems or use systems from other agencies, a department spokesman said.

The department had previously tried to consolidate its financial management systems under a project called eMerge2. That effort failed in 2005 after costing $18 million. Norquist halted efforts to combine systems so the Homeland Security could study whether the benefits were worthwhile.

-Stephen Losey, FederalTimes.com

READ MORE...

Three agencies recognized for financial management gains

Three agencies have proven their ability to use financial information in daily decision-making, earning recent promotions to "green" grades indicating success in that area of the President's Management Agenda.

The Housing and Urban Development Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and Office of Personnel Management all moved up from yellow, for mixed results, to green on the latest traffic-light-style report card released earlier this week.

With the latest change, 12 agencies have the top rating in financial management, while the other 14 graded -- including the behemoth Defense Department -- are stuck at red for poor performance.

To earn a yellow rating, agencies must meet standards that include obtaining a clean audit of their financial statement and not having any recurring material weaknesses, or significant problems with the accounting process. For many agencies, getting to the first clean audit is a huge hurdle. To move from yellow to green, agencies must show that they are using their newly available financial data to make informed management decisions.

Office of Management and Budget Controller Linda Combs said HUD, USAID and OPM had all met that standard.

-Jenny Mandel, GovExec.com

READ MORE...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Scorecard shows agency improvements in financial management

Three agencies gained ground in financial management while four fell in e-government on the management scorecard released May 1 by the Office of Management and Budget.

The quarterly traffic-light style reports track 26 agencies’ progress on the five main management initiatives — financial performance, electronic government, competitive sourcing, human capital, and budget and performance integration — that make up the president’s management agenda. OMB officials issue the scores after visiting agencies and reviewing documentation from them. Green shows success. Yellow means mixed performance. Red shows serious flaws.

To get green on financial performance, agencies must comply with requirements such as receiving a clean audit opinion and show that they are expanding use of financial data to manage programs.

The Office of Personnel Management, the Agency for International Development and the Housing and Urban Development Department improved their financial scores to green in the quarter ending March 31. That raised the number of agencies with the top financial score to 12.

OMB Controller Linda Combs said the gains reflect governmentwide progress on financial management. “It’s a great success,” Combs said.

AID recently began using a new accounting system that allows managers to monitor financial data of programs on a daily basis, Combs said. The agency has also increased managers’ accountability for meeting budget goals on projects.

OPM improved its score by introducing a plan to improve its cost accounting, while HUD has upgraded its ability to track the benefit of its spending on public housing, Combs said.

“They really have demonstrated that they have this financial data that caused their program managers to make good decisions,” she said.

-Daniel Friedman, FederalTimes.com

READ MORE...

Cognos and Grant Thornton LLP Team to Deliver New Budgeting Performance Solution for U.S. Federal Civilian Agencies

Federal Budget Planning and Performance framework delivers a standardized and repeatable budget process; enables informed and confident program funding decisions

WASHINGTON, D.C.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Cognos (Nasdaq: COGN; TSX: CSN), the world leader in business intelligence and performance management solutions, and Grant Thornton LLP, U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International, today announced the launch of a new joint solution designed to help U.S. Federal Civilian agencies optimize their budget development, planning and performance processes.

The new Federal Budget Planning and Performance framework offers federal agencies a scalable e-budgeting capability that promotes improved budgeting efficiencies and greater accountability. Budgets are developed using standard structures, guidance and processes, simplifying consolidation and facilitating multi-stakeholder input and analysis. By delivering a transparent, integrated top-down/bottom-up budgeting process across the agency, managers are able to better understand how their programs’ resources support bureau and agency goals. All budget data is also centrally maintained, ensuring managers are tapping into the same information in order to drive accurate, consistent program budget decision-making.

Combining Cognos performance management software with Grant Thornton LLP’s domain expertise and best practices approach, the framework offers a complete spectrum of functionality that enables federal agencies to maintain flexible budget management and control, including:

  • The ability to update multiple budget versions and scenarios ‘on-the-fly’ to reflect program changes
  • The flexibility to address changes in budget guidance from year to year
  • Integrated budget document production capabilities, allowing the agency to easily generate Congressional budget books and OMB exhibits
  • An automated workflow, allowing managers to track the latest status of their budget submission
  • Enhanced audit trails, to drive strong accountability throughout the process

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Agencies' grades fall on e-gov section of OMB score card

Several federal agencies saw a drop last quarter in their grades on the e-government portion of the Bush administration's traffic-light-style management score card.

Four agencies lost ground in e-government on the latest score card, with one -- the Smithsonian Institution -- moving down two notches from a green light for "success" to a red, which translates to "unsatisfactory."

The grades, released Tuesday, cover the five major categories of the President's Management Agenda and several specialized initiatives such as property management. They reflect agencies' status as of March 31, the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2007.

The other three agencies that did worse in e-government for the second quarter were the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Small Business Administration. All three received red lights.

Two agencies -- the Health and Human Services and Homeland Security departments -- moved up in e-government from red to yellow, indicating "mixed results," making it the most volatile of the five main categories graded. Grades in the e-gov category have fluctuated for more than a year.

In a statement on the score card results, OMB attributed the e-government downgrades to problems with agencies' use of "enterprise architecture" blueprints to boost efficiency and move to the next generation of the Internet, called Internet Protocol Version 6. Agencies that came up short in this area have plans to improve their performance this quarter, according to OMB.

The administration's statement emphasized that overall, grades have improved substantially. "Federal agencies have significantly greater ability to be effective today than they did in 2001, when they began working on the PMA," said Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at OMB.

Three agencies -- the Housing and Urban Development Department, Office of Personnel Management, and U.S. Agency for International Development -- moved up a rung to green lights in financial management. And two -- the Environmental Protection Agency and Veterans Affairs Department -- improved to green and yellow respectively, in integrating information on program performance with budget decisions.

- Amelia Gruber, GovExec.com

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

LOBs continue to take hold, OMB officials say

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- In the three years since the Office of Management and Budget began work on the line-of-business initiatives, agencies went from “no, never going to happen” to “this can work,” according to officials involved in the programs.

One of the keys has been convincing agencies to work as one government enterprise, said Tim Young, OMB’s associate administrator for e-government and information technology.

The Human Resources and Financial Management LOBs are the furthest along in meeting OMB’s goal of fee for service.

Danny Werfel, OMB’s deputy comptroller, said the financial initiative will release a request for proposals in June to certify commercial shared-service providers. Other officials said the HR LOB will precede the financial RFP with its own this month.

Werfel also said the Financial Management LOB would release its next set of accounting standards for payables for public comment this month. The accounts receivable and billing would come after that, Werfel said.

The Financial Management LOB office wants to test the common governmentwide accounting code with a handful of agencies, he added.

“We want a proof of concept,” Werfel said. “We want agencies to put together an implementation schedule and it will be helpful for them to see what challenges they may face in a pilot.”

GSA received more than 600 comments and will release the final document in the fall, he added.

-Jason Miller, FCW.com

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