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Monday, November 17, 2008

Federal CFOs could be key players in Obama administration

Chief financial officers could play a significant role in shaping agency missions during the next administration. But first, they'll need to learn the ins and outs of federal financial management, which is very different than in the private sector, where most incoming CFOs are likely to have been schooled.

"President-elect Obama has talked about wanting to bring a scalpel to programs and to really look at places in the federal government where we can take money from certain things that are no longer effective and apply it to other things," said Patricia Healy, who served nine years as deputy chief financial officer at the Agriculture Department before retiring from federal service in January 2008.

To help bring incoming CFOs up to speed, Healy led a group of current and former federal executives working as advisers to the Council for Excellence in Government, a nonprofit organization in Washington that works to improve public sector management, to produce the "Federal CFO Roadmap." The five-page document outlines the responsibilities of finance personnel and the key laws that govern reporting and accountability requirements.

Healy advised incoming CFOs to read the laws behind their responsibilities and develop strong partnerships with career personnel who can help them navigate the requirements.

"This is the time for the CFOs to really become involved with their agency's missions," she said. "There's not going to be new money. We're going to have to make do with what we have and we're going to have to use it in the best way."

-Katherine McIntyre Peters, GovExec.com

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