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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Commentary: Beyond data processing

Analysis contributes to better management

Before 1999, most agencies that are required to comply with the Chief Financial Officers Act received less than unqualified opinions on their annual financial statement audits. Furthermore, most took more than three months to produce those “less-than-pristine” financial statements.

Fast forward to 2006, when 19 of 24 CFO Act agencies received clean opinions on their statements and all produced their statements within 45 days after the end of the fiscal year.

Though these accomplishments are significant and should boost the American taxpayers’ confidence in our ability to manage their money, the trillion-dollar question is, what now? Worthy follow-up initiatives range from decreasing the cost of our financial systems and operations, to increasing the clarity of our annual Performance and Accountability Reports, to improving the accuracy and timeliness of our intragovernmental transactions (i.e. the Intra-Governmental Payment and Collection system). An intriguing quest for us should be the movement of our organizations away from mere data processing and toward data analysis.

Now, federal financial practitioners are moving away from being merely shepherds of the financial data assembly line. They are ensuring the cleanliness of their data by building proper controls and edits into the automated core systems that process their data. They can now turn their attention to the more important task of analyzing the data that results from the processing life cycle.

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-Danny Harris, DCFO, Education Department

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