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Friday, July 31, 2009

Recent GAO Publications

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

Recovery Act: States' Use of Highway Infrastructure Funds and Compliance with the Act's Requirements, By Katherine A. Siggerud, managing director, physical infrastructure issues, before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
GAO-09-926T, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-926T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09926thigh.pdf

Information Technology: HUD Needs to Strengthen Its Capacity to Manage and Modernize Its Environment.
GAO-09-675, July 31.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-675
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09675high.pdf

Improper Payments: Significant Improvements Needed in DOD's Efforts to Address Improper Payment and Recovery Auditing Requirements.
GAO-09-442, July 29.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-442
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09442high.pdf

Public Transportation: FTA's Triennial Review Program Has Improved, But Assessments of Grantees' Performance Could Be Enhanced.
GAO-09-603, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-603
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09603high.pdf

Reverse Mortgages: Policy Changes Have Had Mostly Positive Effects on Lenders and Borrowers, but These Changes and Market Developments Have Increased HUD's Risk.
GAO-09-836, July 30.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-836
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09836high.pdf

Technology: Federal Agencies Need to Strengthen Investment Board Oversight of Poorly Planned and Performing Projects.
GAO-09-566, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-566
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09566high.pdf

Highway Trust Fund Expenditures on Purposes Other than Construction and Maintenance of Highways and Bridges during Fiscal Years 2004-2008.
GAO-09-729R, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-729R

U.S. Postal Service: Broad Restructuring Needed to Address Deteriorating Finances, by Phillip Herr, director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
GAO-09-790T, July 30.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-790T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09790thigh.pdf

More Management Nominations

President Obama on Thursday filled out some of his remaining administration management positions, nominating Daniel Werfel as controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Werfel has served as deputy controller since March 2006 and as acting controller during the administration transition. As controller, Werfel will manage the day-to-day operations of the Chief Financial Officers' Council, run the government's financial management improvement plan and coordinate OMB policy on areas such as financial reporting, audits, internal controls, fraud and error reduction, and grants management.

"His leadership in implementing the Recovery Act is just one example of his stellar work over many years - work that led the administration to recognize what those who have worked with him have known for years: Danny's an extraordinarily able public servant," OMB Director Peter Orszag said in a blog post Thursday evening.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

GAO ADDS POSTAL SERVICE’S FINANCIAL CONDITION TO “HIGH-RISK” LIST

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 28, 2009) – Reporting that broad restructuring
is urgently needed, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)
today added the financial condition of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to
its High-Risk List of federal areas in need of transformation.

“There are serious and significant structural financial challenges
currently facing the Postal Service. New technology is profoundly
affecting services in both the private and public sectors, including
traditional mail delivery. Compounded by the current recession, the
volume of mail being sent is dropping substantially, leading to a
sizeable decline in revenue. At the same time, the Postal Service faces
significant infrastructure and personnel costs,” said Gene L. Dodaro,
Acting Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO.

“The Postal Service urgently needs to work with Congress and other
key stakeholders to develop and implement a restructuring plan to help
put it on a more sustainable financial path. By adding the U.S. Postal
Service’s financial condition to the High-Risk List, we hope to bring
attention to the agency’s financial viability and its ability to
provide sustainable, affordable, high-quality mail service,” Dodaro
added.

Mail volume fell by 9.5 billion pieces in fiscal year 2008 to a total
of 203 billion pieces and is projected to fall by 28 billion pieces in
fiscal year 2009 to a total of 175 billion pieces. USPS expects mail
volume and revenue to continue declining next year, and flat or
continued volume decline over the next 5 years. USPS projects a net loss
of $7 billion this fiscal year, with outstanding debt increasing to over
$10 billion, and a cash shortfall of about $1 billion. USPS also expects
that its projected losses will continue in fiscal year 2010.

USPS has relied on growth in mail volume to help sustain its
operations, a strategy that has enabled it to remain self-supporting.
During the past decade, however, businesses and consumers have
increasingly turned from traditional mail delivery to electronic
communication alternatives. Mail volume has bounced back after past
recessions, but USPS’s forecast suggests that may not be the case this
time as more and more postal customers embrace electronic options.

To remove its financial condition from the High-Risk List the Postal
Service needs to undertake a number of major structural changes, Dodaro
said. In the short term, a key challenge is to cut expenses quickly
enough to offset mail volume and revenue declines to avoid running out
of cash to pay its expenses. In the long term, USPS should consider
consolidating operations, closing unneeded facilities, and reducing its
workforce to reflect new trends in mail use. It has been slow to cut
overhead costs to offset volume declines and continues to maintain an
infrastructure of about 38,000 facilities nationwide. The Postal Service
should also explore opportunities to increase revenue. Congressional
support for these actions will be crucial, Dodaro added.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bill to reduce improper payments reintroduced (7/24/09) -- www.GovernmentExecutive.com

"A Delaware senator has reintroduced a bill that could help identify and recover billions of dollars in improper payments made by the government.

On Thursday, Democratic Sen. Tom Carper once again put forward the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act. The bill would require greater oversight of improper payments and penalize agencies that consistently fail to fix accounting mistakes."

As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security, Carper has held more than a half-dozen hearings on reducing improper payments.

The senator introduced a nearly identical bill last year, but the Congressional Budget Office found that some highly technical language in the legislation, since corrected, caused the price tag to rise considerably, according to a Democratic committee staffer.

Carper's bill stems from a report issued in April by the Government Accountability Office that found an estimated $72 billion in federal improper payments in fiscal year 2008 -- or roughly 4 percent of the $1.8 trillion of documented outlays for those related programs. The watchdog discovered that the figure should actually be higher, but some programs were not adequately tracked.

Specifically, Carper's bill, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; John McCain, R-Ariz., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would amend the 2002 Improper Payments Information Act by lowering the threshold for which agencies must report improper payments.

The act currently requires agencies to report annually to Congress when they issue at least $10 million in improper payments and when that figure accounts for 2.5 percent of that program's annual outlays. But that provision allows many extremely large programs with tens of millions in improper payments to avoid scrutiny, a committee staffer said.

Carper's bill would require any program with $100 million in improper payments -- no matter the percentage of the program's outlays -- to report those payments to Congress. By 2013, the act would be revised to lower the percentage threshold to 1.5 percent.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Recent GAO Publications

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

Troubled Asset Relief Program: Treasury Actions Needed to Make the Home Affordable Modification Program More Transparent and Accountable.
GAO-09-837, July 23.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-837
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09837high.pdf

Troubled Asset Relief Program: Status of Efforts to Address Transparency and Accountability Issues, by Thomas J. McCool, director, Center for Economics, Applied Research and Methods, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Financial Services.
GAO-09-920T, July 22.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-920T

Project Bioshield: HHS Can Improve Agency Internal Controls for Its New Contracting Authorities.
GAO-09-820, July 21.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-820
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09820high.pdf

Improper Payments: Responses to Posthearing Questions Related to Eliminating Waste and Fraud in Medicare and Medicaid.
GAO-09-838R, July 20.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-838R

Grants Management: Grants.gov Has Systemic Weaknesses That Require Attention.
GAO-09-589, July 15.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-589
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09589high.pdf

Coast Guard Retiree Health Care: Coast Guard Contributions to and Payments from the DOD Medicare-Eligible Retiree Health Care Fund (MERHCF).
GAO-09-857R, July 15.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-857R

Federal Real Property: An Update on High Risk Issues, by Mark L. Goldstein, director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
GAO-09-801T, July 15.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-801T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09801thigh.pdf

Appropriations Decisions:

B-317821, Denali Commission--Anti-Lobbying Restrictions,
June 30, 2009
http://www.gao.gov/decisions/appro/317821.htm

Academy urges major management reform at Energy

While the Obama administration is counting on the Energy Department to play a key role in addressing a host of national priorities, including energy independence and economic recovery, a new study by the National Academy of Public Administration raises serious questions about the department's ability to manage existing responsibilities.

In a highly critical report released on Tuesday, the expert panel conducting the study found that the department's mission-support functions, including human resources, contracting and financial management, need urgent attention from Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The panel was especially critical of staff in the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer, citing poor leadership, inadequate customer support and a lack of strategic vision.

The panel also found significant problems in contracting and financial management, but said the department had made important strides in addressing them over the course of the study, which began in early 2008.

In terms of financial management, the panel noted that the Office of the Chief Financial Officer had developed a more strategic approach to guiding operations than either the human resources or contracting offices. But the department is unique among federal agencies in that it allots appropriated funds to field office managers and field financial officers rather than the assistant secretaries that Congress, the Energy secretary and the public hold accountable for achieving program results.

The panel recommended that Energy change its budget process by distributing appropriated funds to program assistant secretaries and holding those executives responsible for allocating resources to the field.

NAPA conducted the study at the request of the House and Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittees, whose members were concerned about Energy's ability to adequately perform key management functions.

-Katherine McIntire Peters, GovExec.com
READ MORE...

Monday, July 20, 2009

NIH Office of Financial Management Seeks new Director

The Office of Financial Management at the National Institutes of Health seeks a Deputy Director. Must possess GAO experience and a track record of leading large financial operations.OFM provides vital support to the NIH research community administratively and scientifically. The Deputy provides oversight to policy development and other leading issues.
MP (merit promotion) candidate information.
DE (delegated examining) candidate information.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Groups Warn Against Reinventing Wheel on Management Reform

The Obama administration should modify, but not scrap, existing performance measurement systems, according to a report released on July 6 by good government and watchdog groups. While the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act and the Bush administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool have increased the focus on performance and accountability, the report said, the tools are limited in their effectiveness because of a lack of high-level leadership, insufficient involvement from Congress and other stakeholders, and uncoordinated mandates. "This suggests that PART should be revised and updated to address problems evident in both its design and its implementation," stated the report, released by Accenture's Institute for Public Service Value, the Georgetown Public Policy Institute and OMB Watch, a Washington-based watchdog group.

-Robert Brodsky, Government Executive. Read more.

OMB Offers Training for Recipients Reporting on Recovery Funds

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board announce that webinars will be held the week of July 20 to provide information on implementing the guidance set forth in OMB Memorandum M-09-21, Implementing Guidance for the Reports on Use of Funds Pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, released on June 22. Each webinar will focus on a major section of the guidance as well as on the technology solution. The intended audience for these webinars includes federal agency personnel, prime recipients and sub-recipients. Only 1,000 participants will be able to join each free webinar. Read the schedule and register. Podcasts of the webinars will also be posted later on Recovery.gov.

Source: AGA

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Recent GAO Publications

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

Fiscal Year 2008 U.S. Government Financial Statements: Federal Government Faces New and Continuing Financial Management and Fiscal Challenges, by Gene L. Dodaro, acting comptroller general, before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
GAO-09-805T, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-805T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09805thigh.pdf

Security Grant Program: DHS Allocates Grants Based on Risk, but Its Risk Methodology, Management Controls, and Grant Oversight Can Be Strengthened.
GAO-09-491, June 8.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-491
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09491high.pdf

Recovery Act: States' and Localities' Current and Planned Uses of Funds While Facing Fiscal Stresses.
GAO-09-829, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-829
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09829high.pdf

Recovery Act: States' and Localities' Current and Planned Uses of Funds While Facing Fiscal Stresses (Appendixes).
GAO-09-830SP, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-830SP

Recovery Act: States' and Localities' Current and Planned Uses of Funds While Facing Fiscal Stresses, by Gene L. Dodaro, acting comptroller general, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
GAO-09-831T, July 8.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-831T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09831thigh.pdf

Coast Guard: Observations on the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget and Related Performance and Management Challenges, by Steven L. Caldwell, director, homeland security and justice issues, before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
GAO-09-810T, July 7.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-810T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09810thigh.pdf

Recovery Act: The Department of Transportation Followed Key Federal Requirements in Developing Selection Criteria for Its Supplemental Discretionary Grants Program.
GAO-09-785R, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-785R

Defense Travel System: Implementation Challenges Remain.
GAO-09-577, June 30.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-577
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09577high.pdf

Internal Revenue Service: Status of GAO Financial Audit and Related Financial Management Report Recommendations.
GAO-09-514, June 25.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-514
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09514high.pdf

Management Report: Improvements Are Needed to Enhance IRS's Internal Controls and Operating Effectiveness.
GAO-09-513R, June 24.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-09-513R

"Ensuring Accountability in a Time of Financial and Fiscal Stress," by Gene L. Dodaro, acting comptroller general, before the Association of Government Accountants' professional development conference, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
GAO-09-847CG, June 23, 2009.
http://www.gao.gov/cghome/d09847cg.pdf

Appropriations Decisions:

B-318046, Library of Congress--Obligation of Guaranteed Minimums for
Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity Contracts under the
FEDLINK Program, July 7, 2009
http://www.gao.gov/decisions/appro/318046.htm

B-317249, Natural Resources Conservation Service--Obligating Orders
with GSA's AutoChoice Summer Program, July 1, 2009
http://www.gao.gov/decisions/appro/317249.htm

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

DorobekInsider: New DOT CFO nominee

The Obama administration has nominated Christopher P. Bertram to be the Transportation Department’s chief financial officer, otherwise known by the wonderful title of Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs.

From the White House write-up:

Christopher P. Bertram, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and Chief Financial Officer, Department of TransportationChristopher P. Bertram is currently a professional staff member with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. In that position, he has been responsible for legislation related to aviation, auto and highway safety, transportation security, railroads, and fuel efficiency standards for automobiles. Prior to joining the Commerce Committee, Bertram served as the Federal Aviation Administration’s Assistant Administrator for Financial Services and Chief Financial Officer. Bertram earned a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity University.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The CFO Act: 20 years on

The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Act was written 20 years ago. The Congressional author of the Act was Joe DioGuardi, a practicing accountant and former Congressman. He says the act has not been implemented as intended and Congress is still not accounting honestly for its spending or for the deficit. DioGuardi has written a book on the issue which he gives away. He spoke recently with Jane Norris at the Association of Government Accountant's meeting in New Orleans.

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