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Friday, May 30, 2008

DHS restarts financial system competition

The Homeland Security Department has restarted the procurement process for its planned financial management system consolidation to comply with a decision by the U.S. Federal Claims Court and recommendations from department’s inspector general.

A request for information, issued by DHS on May 29, asks for information on possible solutions from shared service providers along with other qualified commercial and government providers, It reqwuests information on how to transition DHS components from existing financial management systems to an integrated solution.

DHS had come under fire for its decision to limit potential solutions for its systems consolidation that will fuse the department’s financial systems to either Oracle or SAP platforms. The procurement was in the request for proposal phase when Savantage Financial Services, Inc. protested DHS’ decision to limit the potential final platform to one of those two companies.

The new RFI does not preclude SAP or Oracle from competition, rather expands the competition.

-Ben Bain, FCW.com


Today's GAO Publications

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

Information Security: FDIC Sustains Progress but Needs to Improve Configuration Management of Key Financial Systems.
GAO-08-564, May 30.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08564high.pdf

Federal User Fees: A Design Guide.
GAO-08-386SP, May 29.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08386sphigh.pdf

Thursday, May 29, 2008

DHS financial systems project concerns IG

The Homeland Security Department should re-examine options for its financial systems consolidation project and correct outstanding software coding issues before fusing DHS components’ financial systems, according to a new report from the department’s inspector general.

DHS plans to migrate its component agencies’ financial information technology systems into two platforms — one from Oracle and one from SAP. According to the IG's report, DHS officials said they chose those platforms because they are familiar with them.

However, the IG said that in making that decision, officials did not consider solutions other agencies are using or that are available in a shared-services environment, and they should do so before moving forward with TASC.

DHS officials said they had received a verbal waiver from the Office of Management and Budget, which endorsed DHS’ decision to consolidate the systems without further competition. However, the IG said policy requires that those waiver requests be published in the Federal Register.

After a draft report was issued earlier this year, a federal claims court ruled that DHS’ decision to settle on Oracle and SAP systems was an improper sole-source procurement. It ordered DHS to hold an open competition before moving forward on the project. According to the IG report, RMTO is re-evaluating its consolidation strategy as a result of that ruling.

The IG’s review of the project also found that DHS needs to improve performance by chronicling and analyzing scripts, or software code, that have been added to the Oracle-based financial management systems of the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard. The IG said those additions demonstrated that controls on the systems are not properly designed and financial data could be compromised.

The IG recommended that DHS:
  • Conduct a full evaluation of financial service providers available through government agencies to see if they can meet DHS' needs more efficiently.
  • Identify all scripts that the Coast Guard and TSA are using and determine their effects on the financial transactions of the agencies and DHS.
  • Correct the scripts before migrating to the new financial system.

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Jennifer Main (SBA)

Small Business Administration

Jennifer Main - CFO The Small Business Administration lost its clean audit opinion in 2006 because of a $10 billion mistake. It turns out some of its data fields could not handle the extra zeros.

SBA chief financial officer Jennifer Main led the effort to fix the problem and that helped bring back SBA's clean audit. But Main says the number crunching is not the future of CFO's.

Main also is SBA's performance improvement leader. Her two roles combined helps SBA ensure its resources are meeting its mission goals.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New FSIO Publications

FSIO Released the following exposure drafts in May 2008.

Receivables Management Exposure Draft

The Financial Systems Integration Office (FSIO) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are pleased to announce the release of the exposure draft for the Receivables Management standard business process. Please submit your comments and questions in writing by July 1, 2008 to fsio@gsa.gov, using the comment template.

Receivables Management Cover Letter (Word)
Receivables Management Exposure Draft (Word)
Receivables Management Comment Template (XLS)

Proposed New Agency Identifier Codes

The Treasury Department Financial Management Service (FMS) in collaboration with the budget division in OMB, has developed a unified set of Agency Identifier codes that complies with the CGAC standards published in 2007.

Our short term goal is to finalize the new Agency Identifier codes for all agencies. The long term goal is the implementation Governmentwide of these codes. The long term implementation plan is under development and will be disclosed in the future.

Agencies are invited and encouraged to send comments on the new Agency Identifier codes by July 1, 2008.

CFO memo and codes

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Today's GAO Publications

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

Legal Services Corporation: Improvements Needed in Governance, Accountability, and Grants Management and Oversight.

GAO-08-833T, May 22 http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-833T

"Auditing and Advising in a Time of Transition," by Gene L. Dodaro, acting comptroller general of the United States, before the 17th Biennial Forum of Government Auditors, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

GAO-08-842CG, May 21, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Relmond Van Daniker (AGA)

Association of Government Accountants

Relmond Van Daniker - Executive Director, AGA

One of the keys to keeping government accountable to the taxpayer are the efforts of accountants and other federal financial managers. This week, the Association of Government Accountants hands out its Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting during a gala awards banquet at the National Press Club. AGA Executive Director Relmond Van Daniker talks about the 17 federal agencies that won the award, how federal financial managers need to improve relations with their state counterparts, and what he would say about financial accountability to the next President of the United States.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

CFO academy to begin this fall

The National Defense University’s Information Resources Management College will offer management and leadership courses this fall through a new Chief Financial Officer Academy. The academy, which will draw students from the federal financial community, has been endorsed by the Federal CFO Council, said Robert Childs, senior director of NDU’s IRM College.

The courses will lead to a certificate in CFO leadership.

The certificate program was the idea of Linda Combs, a former Office of Management and Budget controller, who retired from government last year, said Elizabeth McDaniel, dean of faculty and academic programs at the college.

The college is hiring a couple of faculty members on detail from federal agencies and is hiring an additional faculty member, McDaniel said.

The academy will offer eight courses, including courses in financial management, portfolio management and government business transformation, which students can complete in four years.

McDaniel said the college also will soon announce that it plans to offer its first master of science degree in Government Strategic Leader, with a specialization in CIO management, information assurance and possibly government financial management.

The academy, located on the NDU campus at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, will offer courses beginning in September.

-Florence Olsen, FCW.com

HUD Seeks Assistant Chief Financial Officer for Accounting

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is the nation’s housing agency committed to increasing homeownership, particularly among minorities; creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income Americans; and providing housing assistance for the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities, and people living with AIDS. The Department also promotes economic and community development and enforces the nation’s fair housing laws.

This position is located in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO). The CFO reports directly to the Deputy Secretary, and advises the Secretary of the Department on all aspects of financial management, accounting and budgetary matters; ensures that the Department establishes and meets financial management goals and objectives; that the Department is in compliance with financial management legislation and directives; analyzes budgetary implications of policy and legislative proposals and provides technical oversight with respect to all budget activities throughout the Department.

Vacancy Announcement Closes: June 10, 2008


FederalNewsRadio - CFO Insights - Barry Hudson (PTO)

The Many Faces of a Federal CFO

Barry Hudson - Chief Financial Officer

Barry Hudson joins Christopher Young to discuss the many faces of a Federal CFO and how they are transforming their organizations from the traditional stewardship role to more of a strategist and catalyst in their respective Agencies.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Today's GAO Publication

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

Governmentwide Accounts Payable.
GAO-08-711R, May 20

Friday, May 16, 2008

Financial Management: The Road Ahead - eSeminar

Washington Technology will present Adam Goldberg, financial analysis and systems branch chief for the Office of Federal Financial Management, at 3 p.m. Thursday, May 22 in an eSeminar reviewing the progress made to date to modernize the government's financial management infrastructure.

Agencies should improve financial management workforce planning, report finds

Technological and demographic changes are driving a major shift in the federal financial management workforce, and agencies must do a better job preparing for future needs, according to a study conducted by the Association of Government Accountants and Management Concepts, a Washington-based professional services firm.

The report, "21st Century Federal Financial Managers: A New Mix of Skills and Educational Levels?" said technology has reduced reliance on manual processes and remaining positions require a better-educated workforce.

Specifically, the report cites increasing demand for people able to provide analysis that supports executive decision-making. The need stems from new reporting requirements from the Office of Management and Budget and pressure from lawmakers to provide program outcomes and measures. "All three major federal financial management positions -- accountant, budget analyst, and management and financial analyst --require analytical and decision-support competencies," the report noted.

While agencies are conducting workforce planning, most are failing to identify competency gaps and develop strategies to make sure they have enough people with the right skills -- and they won't be able to count on recent college graduates filling the gap. The study found that schools generally are not teaching basic federal budgeting, accounting and program concepts, and college graduates often lack understanding of federal appropriations law and the government's accounting and budget process.

-Katherine McIntire Peters, GovExec.com

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Today's GAO Publications

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

Smithsonian Institution: Board of Regents Has Implemented Many Governance Reforms, but Ensuring Accountability and Oversight Will Require Ongoing Action.
GAO-08-632, May 15.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08632high.pdf

Financial Audit: Congressional Award Foundation's Fiscal Years 2007 and 2006 Financial Statements.
GAO-08-715, May 15.

DOD Business Systems Modernization: Progress in Establishing Corporate Management Controls Needs to Be Replicated Within Military Departments.
GAO-08-705, May 15.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08705high.pdf

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Environmental Protection Agency Vacancy

Director, Financial Policy and Planning Staff, Office of Financial Management

OPEN PERIOD: May 6, 2008 to May 26, 2008

This position is located in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of Financial Management (OFM). As the Director, Financial Policy and Planning Staff, the incumbent directs the formulation and issuance of policies, procedures, and accounting structures governing the fiscal aspects of the Agency's activities, needed to implement Federal law, to carry out regulations and directives issued by GSA, GAO, OMB, the Department of Treasury or to achieve other fiscal objectives determined by Agency management. The incumbent also serves as the principal advisor to the Director, OFM, and other Agency officials on financial management policy and represents OCFO on various internal EPA workgroups and external inter-agency committees and task forces.

This announcement can be found using the following link:

Performance management likely will get a makeover in the next administration

Improving government performance is not exactly the kind of topic that packs 20,000-seat stadiums and stirs voters into a frenzy. So it's not surprising that the leading candidates for the White House generally discuss performance management only in terms of broader policy goals, such as responding more efficiently to disasters or mandating that all large federal contracts are competitively bid.

While specifics may be lacking on the campaign trail, the challenges and nuances of performance management will be unavoidable by the time the 44th president takes office -- and they could go a long way in determining the next administration's success, suggested professionals in the field.

Among the first priorities for the new government will be what to do with the Bush administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool, which uses the answers to a simple questionnaire to rate the effectiveness of all federal programs.

While critics suggest PART is a politically biased tool designed to promote the administration's ideological policies, most agree that the system itself has provided a great deal of useful data and appears to have improved the performance of hundreds of programs previously unable to demonstrate results.

And while the next administration may change the questionnaire or scrap the program's name, PART's increased focus on critical evaluations and program results will be difficult to dismiss completely, said Jon Desenberg, senior policy director for the Performance Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

Desenberg directs the Transitions in Governance Project, a coalition of major federal organizations that is developing management recommendations for the next administration. The group, which has contacted the campaigns of all three remaining presidential hopefuls, also plans to issue a white paper on performance management recommendations this summer.

Those suggestions likely will include eliminating the subjectivity of program examiners, developing common performance outcomes across federal agencies, and expanding the boundaries of government to include state and local officials, as well as the private sector.

The next president, he said, also must move the proverbial performance management ball so the goal goes beyond measuring ability to measuring results.

Despite the improved transparency, agency heads rarely apply this performance data in their larger decision-making process, Desenberg said.

Porter Shomo, director of Cognos Federal, an IBM company that provides the government with performance management solutions, said government has a "rear view mirror" approach to program data in which the focus is on how things were done in the past, rather than on how to accomplish them in the future.

Changing that approach, he said, will involve navigating one of the most controversial aspects of performance management: tying program performance to the annual budget appropriations process.

-Robert Brodsky, GovExec.com

Friday, May 09, 2008

OMB promotes fiscal cooperation

The Office of Management and Budget is encouraging the budget and financial management communities to cooperate as both move to consolidate and standardize under lines of business initiatives.

Budgeting and financial management have a relationship, said Andrew Schoenbach, chief of OMB’s Budget Systems Branch and policy lead of the Budget Formulation and Execution Line of Business consolidation initiative.

Federal budgeting decisions are made by a dynamic process driven by policy, then financial management ensures that individuals do what they say they will, he said at a conference today sponsored by the Association of Government Accountants’ Washington, D.C., chapter and the Greater Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Under the Budget Formulation and Execution LOB, a working group has identified intersections between budgeting and financial management processes in an exposure draft of a Touch-Points document, he said. The group currently is mapping budget execution processes and data flow among agencies, the Treasury Department, OMB and Congress. The goal is to reach a governmentwide consensus process and data model to support the automated data exchange between budget execution and financial management systems.

The Touch-Points document is available at the MAX Federal Community, a wiki that is a key component in developing the Budget Formulation and Execution LOB. MAX has grown to 6,300 federal users. Originally it was for information and document sharing about budget formulation, but it has expanded to other subject communities, such as financial management, homeland security, human capital and performance.

The budget LOB makes 10 capabilities available as common services, including agency budget tools, managing integration, analysis, data collection and tracking, collaboration, and document production. The Budget Formulation and Execution Manager is a shared budget formulation service among six agencies. The manager originally was a Treasury product, but it was modified to be more generic so it could be more widely used. A performance-measure manager module was added recently to establish and track performance metrics, Schoenbach said.

-Mary Mosquera, FCW.com

Today's GAO Publication

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

Federal Real Property: Corps of Engineers Needs to Improve the Reliability of Its Real Property Disposal Data.
GAO-08-349, May 9
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08349high.pdf

Thursday, May 08, 2008

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Wayne Leiss (OTS)

Department of the Treasury

Wayne Leiss - CFO/CIO

Increasingly, the same person who serves as the Chief Financial Officer at an agency also serves as Chief Information Officer at that same agency. This is true at the Office of Thrift Supervision at the Treasury Department, where Wayne Leiss wears both hats. He says that being the CFO means better accountability with the IT department. His department is also working on its transition to the centralized federal payroll system. Leiss also talks about the transition to a new generation of telephones that operate on the same network infrastructure as his agency's computers.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Today's GAO Publication

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

Employment and Training Program Grants: Evaluating Impact and Enhancing Monitoring Would Improve Accountability.
GAO-08-486, May 7.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d08486high.pdf

Agencies improve PMA scorecards

Agencies are improving their compliance with the President's Management Agenda, according to the latest quarterly scorecard.

The Office of Management and Budget's scorecard for the second quarter of fiscal 2008 shows that almost half of the agency status scores were green, the highest possible, on their current status. More than 75 percent of the progress scores were green.

The Labor department, Social Security Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency maintained green scores for both status and progress on all five governmentwide initiatives.

The fine initiatives are human capital management, competitive sourcing, financial performance, e-government and performance improvement.

-Michael Hardy, FCW.com

CFOs may boost agency transparency

Chief financial officers might be required to produce data that supports more transparency in how agencies spend taxpayers’ money in financial reports in the future, according to a senior officials of the Office of Management and Budget.

The government is moving to accountability and transparency, as shown by reports from the Government Accountability Office and legislation related to federal credit cards, premium travel, improper payments and delinquent contractors, said Danny Werfel, OMB's acting controller.

In January, OMB launched USAspending.gov, a searchable site of how much in federal funds that contractors, grantees or congressional districts may have received. OMB hasn't completed the database, which will contain details of 10 years of transactions with the government. In 2009, OMB will have to provide details of sub-awards, he said.

The role of the CFO needs to be redefined to provide tools to assist program managers fulfill their missions, said McCoy Williams, managing director of GAO’s financial management and assurance issues.

CFOs say that they are overwhelmed by compliance as more financial management requirements are added without ever eliminating existing ones, Werfel said. CFOs also have responsibilities for data without the authority because program managers do not report to them. Financial operations of agencies are often complex and decentralized. And resources are shrinking, he said.

To help CFOs produce more detailed, accurate and usable information quickly, agencies need to standardize and consolidate their operations and integrate their approach to financial management under the Financial Management Line of Business initiative, Werfel said.

-Mary Mosquera, FCW.com

Thursday, May 01, 2008

FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Harold Walker (USPS)

United States Postal Service

Harold Glen Walker - Chief Financial Officer

It's an agency with its roots in the American Revolution. It's also unlike most federal government agencies in that it gets little of its money from the taxpayer -- and yet everyone is touched in one way or another by the U.S. Postal Service. For Chief Financial Officer H. Glen Walker, USPS represents his first job in the public sector, but he finds more similarities than differences in comparing his current job with his last position with Whirlpool Corporation. He also says skyrocketing fuel prices are a concern to an agency with the biggest fleet of trucks in the federal government -- and welcomes having competitors like Fed Ex and UPS -- as partners!

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FederalNewsRadio - Ask the CFO - Danny Werfel (OMB)

Office of Management and Budget

Danny Werfel - Deputy Controller at the Office of Federal Financial Management

Throughout the federal government, agency officials and their staffs have begun the work of preparing for the transition to a new president and a new administration. One of the chief architects of that transition is Danny Werfel, Deputy Controller at the Office of Federal Financial Management with the Office of Management and Budget. He gives FederalNewsRadio insight as to how he's getting the job done.

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GSA details acquisition system requirements

The General Services Administration is seeking comments on a draft document that details the functional and technical requirements and data standards for federal acquisition and contract writing systems. The document is the first step in a long-term plan to integrate acquisition and financial management functions, GSA said.

GSA will revise the Federal Acquisition System Requirements document based on comments from industry and agencies and as processes and data standards are aligned within the acquisition environment and with the Financial Management Line of Business governmentwide consolidation initiative, Thurston said.

GSA’s Financial Systems Integration Office, which manages FM LOB, has published a series of financial management system requirements documents that specify the functional and technical requirements that all financial management systems must meet to comply with federal standards.

The Chief Acquisition Officers Council and Chief Financial Officers Council requested the acquisition requirements document to start the process of integrating acquisition and financial management functions. The Acquisition Requirements Team, comprised of representatives from both organizations, drafted the requirements.

The document provides a framework for connecting program planning, contractor registration, financials, and a set of management processes with agencies' acquisition systems in order to deliver fully integrated acquisition suppor, GSA said, adding that they incorporate required system interfaces such as the Federal Procurement Data System and Central Contractor Registration.

-Mary Mosquera, FCW.com