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Thursday, February 28, 2008

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Tom Cooley (NSF)

National Science Foundation

Tom Cooley - Chief Financial Officer

The President's FY 2009 proposed budget would give NSF a 14-percent increase, to $6.85 billion. Cooley says more than a sigh of relief, the proposal is a needed shot in the arm. First, he says that the number of grant applications continues to rise and that many that many that deserve funding are coming away with nothing. Second, he says the proposal helps cover needed funding to help with salaries and expenses. Even so, Cooley warns that staffing levels still are not high enough, which can slow down the grants process and the pace of scientific innovation across the country.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - David Walker (GAO)

Government Accountability Office

David Walker - Comptroller General

Walker paints a stark picture of the nation's fiscal health, warning that if the government was a private sector company the 2007 Financial Report of the United States would have "our stock dropping and there would be talk about whether the company's management and directors needed a major shake-up." He says what is needed is a return to strict budget controls, the development of key national indicators and more of an effort to translate complex financial statistics into plain, old English. He also weighs in on how the fiscal crisis ranks with terrorism as far as threats go and on what all this means for government CFOs.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Traditional Government Financial Reporting Leaves Taxpayers Dissatisfied and Distrustful

WASHINGTON, Feb 20, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The federal government is failing to meet the financial reporting needs of taxpayers, falling short of expectations and creating a problem with trust, according to survey findings released today by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA).

The survey, Public Attitudes to Government Accountability and Transparency 2008, measured attitudes and opinions towards government financial management and accountability to taxpayers. The survey established an expectations gap between what taxpayers expect and what they get, finding that the public at large overwhelmingly believes that government has the obligation to report and explain how it generates and spends its money, but that that it is failing to meet expectations in any area included in the survey.

The survey further found that taxpayers consider governments at the federal, state and local levels to be significantly under-delivering in terms of practicing open, honest spending. Across all levels of government those surveyed held "being open and honest in spending practices" vitally important, but felt that government performance was poor in this area. Those surveyed also considered government performance to be poor in terms of being "responsible to the public for its spending." This is compounded by perceived poor performance in providing understandable and timely financial management information.

The Survey Report, including a full methodology and associated commentary, is available at www.agacgfm.org/harrispoll2008.aspx .

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

AGA Sixth Annual National Leadership Conference

February 21-22, 2008 - Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

Offering 14 valuable CPE hours, timely topics and an impressive lineup of speakers, NLC 2008 promises to be bigger and better than ever. The NLC features leaders from all levels of government, the private sector and academia and offers outstanding sessions and ample opportunities to network. Learn practical skills to improve your agency, hear from the top opinion leaders in the accountability business, and exchange problem-solving ideas with colleagues from around the country. Interact with inspirational government leaders at several networking events.

Visit the program website.

AGA 2008 CFO Survey

AGA is once again sponsoring an online survey of government financial professionals to learn their opinion on key issues for the future.

This is your chance to help shape future financial policies and procedures in your government. AGA will publish the results in a special report and present it at the PDC in Atlanta, set for July 27 - 30, 2008.

Your name will never be associated with these results. AGA Corporate Partner Grant Thornton LLP has kindly volunteered the use of its website to gather the answers. We have specifically asked Grant Thornton not to provide AGA with individual responses, but only aggregated results.

If you belong to a local AGA chapter, be sure to check off your chapter's name in the drop-down menu. Thanks in advance for your help.

Take the survey.

Today's GAO Publication

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

HUD and Treasury Programs: More Information on Leverage Measures' Accuracy and Linkage to Program Goals Is Needed in Assessing Performance.
GAO-08-136, January 18.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08136high.pdf

GAO's Performance Plan for Fiscal Year 2009: Mission, Performance Plans, Resources, and Strategies.
GAO-08-507SP, February 19.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Comptroller General Walker to Leave GAO to Head New Public Interest Foundation

WASHINGTON, D.C, February 15, 2008 - David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) today announced his intention to resign his position effective March 12, 2008 in order to accept the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of the newly established Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Walker has been Comptroller General of the United States since November 1998. During his tenure, the GAO has undergone a major transformation during which the agency's role has expanded while its visibility, viability and performance have improved significantly. In addition to leading this effort, Walker has worked to modernize the accountability profession both domestically and internationally. He has also been an outspoken advocate of the need for federal policymakers to address the fiscal and other key sustainability challenges and government transformation needs facing the United States.

The Peterson Foundation will be dedicated to engaging in various actions designed to educate and activate Americans, especially younger Americans, the business community and the media, while also seeking and supporting sensible policy solutions to a range of sustainability and transformation challenges. Peterson has committed to contribute at least $1 billion to the Foundation and related efforts over the next several years.

Walker noted that his decision was motivated by his desire to maximize his ability to make a real and lasting difference to address the fiscal, entitlement, health care, energy, education and other major sustainability challenges facing the United States.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Comptroller General Walker Commends Treasury-OMB Citizens' Guide

WASHINGTON (February 14, 2008) - The Department of the Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget today issued the first-ever "Citizens' Guide" highlighting certain important short and long-term financial information in the 2007 Financial Report of the United States Government. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, which audits the U.S. government's consolidated financial statements included in the Financial Report, has for some time urged the creation of a user-friendly summary report, one that policymakers and the American people are likely to read and understand.

"With its more clear and concise language, this Guide represents an important step forward in improving public understanding of the federal government's true financial condition and fiscal challenges-both today and over the longer-term," said Comptroller General David M. Walker.

"I want to commend the Treasury, OMB, and GAO staff who worked to make this happen. In particular, I would like to thank Under Secretary of the Treasury Bob Steele for his leadership in helping to ensure the publication of the Guide. This is an important step in making key government information more accessible to the public and enabling the public to better hold the government accountable. We at GAO look forward to working with Treasury and OMB to further refine this document in future years."

The Guide shows that over the past three years the government's short-term finances have improved: revenues rose, deficits declined, and government costs remained relatively constant. At the same time, the Guide clearly shows that the federal government faces serious and growing financial challenges in the years ahead.

"Unless the government makes fundamental changes in its budget, entitlement, discretionary spending and tax policies, and soon, the coming surge of spending on Social Security and Medicare will bring a fiscal tsunami of spending and debt that threatens to swamp our ship of state, damaging the U.S. economy." Walker said. "Policymakers must look to the future and face squarely the need for fundamental changes to a range of government programs, policies and activities. This is the best way to return our country to a more prudent and sustainable fiscal track."

The Citizen's Guide can be found at

DHS preparing for new administration

The Homeland Security Department will face a challenging year as it prepares for a new administration and works to improve an often-criticized procurement office.

“During a transition period, there’s a period of several weeks, or perhaps months, where a department is practically incapable of making a decision,” Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., warned Wednesday. “We can’t afford that in Homeland Security.”

Rogers, the ranking member, spoke at a House Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing, the first of 16 promised on the department’s management.

DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner agreed with Rogers, noting that the 5-year-old department is still “fragile.”

Comptroller General David Walker told the subcommittee he had been briefed on the department’s human capital transformation framework and was impressed with it.

Several lawmakers suggested that the department is struggling to hire qualified personnel.

“We know employee morale at the department is the lowest in the federal government,” said Rep. David Price, D-N.C., the subcommittee chairman. “We know that the department has poor procurement practices and poor financial management. I could go on.”

The hearing also touched on financial management problems at the Coast Guard. The service had hoped to certify its financial statements by 2009; the target date has since been pushed back to 2011. Skinner and Walker called for the Coast Guard to restructure its financial management office. The chief financial officer is military, not civilian, so the CFO’s office never develops stable leadership.

“I’m being introduced to my third CFO in five years,” Walker said.

-Gregg Carlstrom, FederalTimes.com

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Thomas Bellamy (PC)

U.S. Peace Corps

Thomas Bellamy - Deputy Chief Financial Officer

An unqualified audit opinion with no material weaknesses for FY 2007 certainly is reason to celebrate at the Peace Corps. Bellamy says what makes the achievement even more gratifying is that it came sooner than expected. Still, he says it was not easy. Getting the unqualified opinion required the financial managers to work ever more closely with posts across the world to ensure they had the necessary documentation as well as the right amount of flexibility so that funds did not go unused. Bellamy says the process also benefited from strong leadership at all levels, a focus on fiscal responsibility through strong customer service and a solid relationship with the Peace Corps Inspector General.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today's GAO Publication

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

Department of Homeland Security: Progress Made in Implementation of Management and Mission Functions, but More Work Remains, by David M. Walker, comptroller general of the United States, before the Subcommittee on Homeland Security, House Committee on Appropriations.
GAO-08-457T, February 13.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08457thigh.pdf

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today's GAO Publication

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

Financial Audit: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Funds' 2007 and 2006 Financial Statements.
GAO-08-416, February 11.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08416high.pdf

Commentary: Peace Corps overcomes unique challenges

The Peace Corps is an exceptional federal agency, both in its unique mission and organizational structure. Since its creation in 1961 by President Kennedy, the agency has sent more than 190,000 Americans to serve other nations. In October, the agency reached a 37-year high in the number of volunteers. More good news followed in November as external auditors rendered an unqualified opinion — a clean audit — on the agency’s financial statements for fiscal 2007.

In 2002, Congress passed the Accountability of Tax Dollars Act placing a new audit requirement on several agencies. As a result, the Peace Corps’ financial statements and practices have been subject to annual audits since 2003 by an independent external auditor. The audits are similar to the highly detailed reviews and internal control compliance imposed on private-sector organizations under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In 2003, Peace Corps finances were so complex that the agency was unable to even produce financial statements let alone be audited.

Leadership and support from the top, including the personal support of Peace Corps Director Ronald Tschetter, were critical to getting the agency engaged in business changes required under the new statutory mandates. Tschetter, who comes from the financial services industry, has consistently espoused the agency’s fiscal responsibility as a top management priority.

Our unqualified opinion, with no material weaknesses noted, comes after major resource management changes. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer was reorganized functionally, with standard positions, to more closely reflect private-sector practices and ease personnel transition under the five-year rule. A global financial management system, fully integrating financial procedures from purchase requisition to payment, was developed, implemented and certified, connecting internal staff throughout the world, and automating transactions with business partners.

Budget, financial and accounting procedures were modified, streamlined and re-engineered. Updated procedures and policies were documented to ensure standardization of the hundreds of thousands of annual transactions throughout the organization. Governance boards were initiated to include a senior assessment team to review and monitor business risks and internal controls.

Financial staff working collaboratively to review updated procedures with the external and inspector general auditors was also a key to success. Great credit is due to Peace Corps’ finance and administrative staff worldwide who completely redefined their business practices. Through their hard work and long hours, they embraced our internal changes and greatly contributed to this financial success.

- George Schutter, chief financial officer of the Peace Corps, FederalTimes.com


Friday, February 08, 2008

Today's GAO Publication

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

Defense Business Transformation: Sustaining Progress Requires Continuity of Leadership and an Integrated Approach, by David M. Walker, comptroller general of the United States, before the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, Senate Committee on Armed Services.
GAO-08-462T, February 7.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08462thigh.pdf

Thursday, February 07, 2008

PIOs to help agencies meet performance goals

Performance improvement officers will play a key part in steering agencies toward program performance goals in the coming years, according to administration budget officials.

Officials touted the role of the newly created PIO in improving agency performance in the Bush administration’s “Analytical Perspectives” on its fiscal 2009 budget request. In November, President Bush issued Executive Order 13450 mandating that agencies appoint PIOs. Their task is to coordinate performance plans and reports, make sure that program goals are aggressive, realistic and accurately measured, and meet regularly with managers to assess performance.

The executive order also called for the establishment of a Performance Improvement Council, composed of PIOs and headed by the deputy director for management of the Office of Management and Budget. The council is charged with setting performance standards and evaluation criteria and facilitating the exchange of information among agencies.

Outlining other next steps for the President’s Performance Improvement Initiative, formerly the Budget and Performance Integration Initiative, officials said the administration also plans to put the hard work done through the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) to good use in the next year.

In addition, the administration wants to ramp up accountability to the public for program performance by the maximizing the impact of Expectmore.gov, a Web tool that provides PART-based data on how programs are faring and what agencies are doing to improve them.

-Richard Walker, GovernmentLeader.com

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Agency budget highlights

FederalTimes.com parses out many of the highlights of President Bush's FY2009 Budget Request by agency.


Monday, February 04, 2008

OMB Federal Financial Management Report 2008

The Office of Federal Financial Management within the Office of Management and Budget has developed a "Framework for Improving Financial Performance" to provide direction and clarity on how the President’s improvement goals for financial management will be met. This "Framework" is the subject of this Federal Financial Management Report 2008 ("the Report") and also fulfills the Office of Federal Financial Management’s requirement, under section 301(a) of the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 (CFO Act) (Pub. L. No. 101-576) (codified at 31 U.S.C. 3512(a)), for providing Congress and the financial management community with a Government-wide "Five-Year" financial management plan and status report.

Download the Report

USDA IT budget boosts financial management modernization funds

President Bush requested $2.4 billion for information technology for the Agriculture Department in fiscal 2009, slightly higher than the $2.3 billion for this year, in his budget proposal unveiled today. Overall IT development and modernization is slightly lower for 2009 at $472.9 million from this year. But maintaining IT operations rises to $1.9 billion in 2009 from this year.

Financial management gets a significant boost from $51.3 million to $79 million, including the department’s financial modernization initiative and the Human Resources Line of Business.

-Mary Mosquera, FCW.com

Friday, February 01, 2008

Today's GAO Publication

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

Improper Payments: Status of Agencies' Efforts to Address Improper Payment and Recovery Auditing Requirements, by McCoy Williams, managing director, financial management and assurance, before the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
GAO-08-438T, January 31.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08438thigh.pdf

Bill would press agencies to reduce improper payments

A bill introduced today in the Senate would more strictly enforce a law to identify and collect overpayments to beneficiaries of federal programs such as Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance, and introduce new penalties for agencies that do not comply.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security, would amend the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 by levying financial penalties on agencies that do not fully comply with the law.

The act requires agencies to report annually to the Office of Management and Budget the amount of payments issued in error, such as mistakenly or fraudulently paying more than a beneficiary is entitled to or paying individuals who are no longer in a program or are not eligible. The law focuses on at-risk agencies -- those that have issued improper payments totaling 2.5 percent of a program's outlays and $10 million or more in improper payments. OMB audits such agencies.

However, Carper's bill would expand the definition to include an agency that fulfils either of the two conditions. Under the old definition, a $50 billion program with less than $1.25 billion in overpayments would not be considered at risk and therefore not audited, said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., ranking minority member of the subcommittee.

Carper also would impose penalties for noncompliance. If an inspector general finds that the agency is not reporting its improper payments, the head of the agency has the authority to transfer available funds from any part of the agency to the program to pay for oversight of improper payments. If the IG rules the agency has not complied in a second consecutive year, the head of the agency is required to transfer the funds. If the agency is not in compliance for a third consecutive year, any program not in compliance must transfer 5 percent of its appropriations to the Treasury.

-Gautham Nagesh, GovExec.com

Agencies' management grades continue to rise

Federal agencies have made significant progress in the past year implementing the President's Management Agenda, with the greatest improvements coming in financial performance and e-government, Bush administration officials said Thursday.

Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, was brimming with confidence as he unveiled the results of the PMA score card for the final quarter of 2007 and compared the grades with the poor performance record the administration reported seven years ago.

In 2001, only 20 percent of large federal agencies had scores of green or yellow, indicating that they were performing at least moderately acceptably; the rest were rated red for unsatisfactory. Now, 87 percent have reached at least yellow status, a 9 percent uptick from last year.

In total, agencies had 10 status upgrades in the past year and 28 marks of improvement over the previous quarter. The bulk of that progress can be tracked to agencies implementing an IT breach notification policy that many failed to develop in the fall of 2007.

Three agencies, meanwhile, earned all green ratings on each of the five initiatives: human capital, competitive sourcing, financial performance, e-government and performance improvement.

-Robert Brodsky, GovExec.com