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Monday, November 30, 2009

Recent DHS IG Reports

The following Inspector General Management Reports for U.S. Department of Homeland Security were recently published:

OIG-10-11 - Independent Auditor's Report on DHS' FY 2009 Financial Statements and Internal Control over Financial Reporting (PDF, 57 pages - 794 KB)

OIG-10-16 - Major Management Challenges Facing the Department of Homeland Security (PDF, 36 pages - 802 KB)

OIG-09-105 - CBP Needs to Improve the Monitoring of the Cash Collection Process (PDF, 21 pages - 1.24 MB)

OIG-09-104 - Audit of Application Controls for FEMA's Individual Assistance Payment Application (PDF, 23 pages - 867 KB)

Homeland Security Acquisition Manual (HSAM) (PDF, 399 pages - 6.33 MB) implements and supplements the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the Homeland Security Acquisition Regulation. Effective through HSAM Notice 09-03.

Recent GAO Publications

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released the following reports and correspondence:

Information Technology: Actions Needed to Fully Establish Program Management Capability for VA's Financial and Logistics Initiative.
GAO-10-40, October 26.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1040high.pdf

Recovery Act: Contract Oversight Activities of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and Observations on Contract Spending in Selected States.
GAO-10-216R, November 30.

U.S. Government Accountability Office: Performance and Accountability Report, Fiscal Year 2009.
GAO-10-234SP, November 13, 2009

Budget Issues: Electronic Processing of Non-IRS Collections Has Increased but Better Understanding of Cost Structure Is Needed.
GAO-10-11, November 20.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1011high.pdf

Indian Health Service: Updated Policies and Procedures and Increased Oversight Needed for Billings and Collections from Private Insurers.
GAO-10-42R, October 22.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Deficiencies in Contract Management Internal Control Are Pervasive.
GAO-10-60, October 23.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1060high.pdf

Federally Created Entities: An Overview of Key Attributes.
GAO-10-97, October 29.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1097high.pdf

Monday, November 23, 2009

Government errors could mean big problems for contractors

Government errors could mean big problems for contractors

Contractors could face suspension, debarment or financial penalties if they fail to return and report an improper payment made by the government…even if the improper payment is the government’s fault.

That’s what an executive order meant to curb the government’s rate of erroneous payments will say, Peter Orszag, Office of Management and Budget director, told reporters during a Nov. 17 briefing on the value of improper payments made by the government in 2009.

In addition to penalizing contractors that fail to return improper payments, the pending executive order will curb improper payments by demanding agencies:
  • Establish a Web site to disclose and track the total amount of improper payments on a program. The Web site will include error rates by agency and program, and an email address for the public to report suspected waste, fraud and abuse.
  • Report on errors more than once a year (the current practice).
    Designate a Senate-confirmed official to be accountable for meeting improper payment reduction targets. If the agency misses targets two years in a row, the agency’s head, chief financial officer and inspector general must give OMB a plan describing why the agency failed to meet its goals and what it will do to meet targets going forward.
  • Employ new management techniques, such as forensic auditing, to detect and prevent improper payments.
  • Share data with other agencies about entities or individuals that received improper payments because they weren’t eligible for the benefits. This will prevent that entity or person from receiving improper payments from other programs.
  • Establish plans to reduce program errors that do not interfere with payments to legitimate beneficiaries.
  • Create incentives for states, agencies, and recipients to report payment errors.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recent GAO Publications

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released the following reports, correspondences and testimonies:

Recovery Act: Recipient Reported Jobs Data Provide Insight into Use of Recovery Act Funding, but Data Quality and Reporting Issues Need Attention.
GAO-10-223, November 19.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10223high.pdf

Grant Monitoring: Department of Education Could Improve Its Processes with Greater Focus on Assessing Risks, Acquiring Financial Skills, and Sharing Information.
GAO-10-57, November 19.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1057high.pdf

Financial Audit: Securities and Exchange Commission's Financial Statements for Fiscal Years 2009 and 2008.
GAO-10-250, November 16.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10250high.pdf

Financial Audit: Federal Housing Finance Agency's Fiscal Year 2009 Financial Statements.
GAO-10-218, November 16.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10218high.pdf

Financial Audit: IRS's Fiscal Years 2009 and 2008 Financial Statements.
GAO-10-176, November 10.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10176high.pdf

Financial Audit: Bureau of the Public Debt's Fiscal Years 2009 and 2008 Schedules of Federal Debt.
GAO-10-88, November 10.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1088high.pdf

U.S. Government Accountability Office: Performance and Accountability Report, Fiscal Year 2009.
GAO-10-234SP, November 13.

Department of Veterans Affairs: Improvements Needed in Corrective Action Plans to Remediate Financial Reporting Material Weaknesses.
GAO-10-65, November 16.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1065high.pdf

Millennium Challenge Corporation: MCC Has Addressed a Number of Implementation Challenges, but Needs to Improve Financial Controls and Infrastructure Planning.
GAO-10-52, November 6.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1052high.pdf

U.S. Postal Service: Financial Challenges Continue, with Relatively Limited Results from Recent Revenue-Generation Efforts, 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-10-191T, November 5.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10191thigh.pdf

Troubled Asset Relief Program: Continued Stewardship Needed as Treasury Develops Strategies for Managing and Divesting Financial Interests in Chrysler and GM.
GAO-10-151, November 2.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10151high.pdf

Integrity Committee's Process to Address Allegations of Wrongdoing by Inspectors General.
GAO-10-63R, October 15.

Financial Management Systems: DHS Faces Challenges to Successfully Consolidate Its Existing Disparate Systems, by Kay L. Daly, director, financial management and assurance, and Nabajyoti Barkakati, Chief Technologist, Applied Research and Methods, Center for Technology and Engineering, before the Subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight, House Committee on Homeland Security.
GAO-10-210T, October 29.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10210thigh.pdf

"Maximizing DOD's Untapped Potential to Improve Business Performance," by Gene L. Dodaro, acting comptroller general of the United States, before the DOD Performance Breakthrough Convention, in Lansdowne, Virginia.
GAO-10-184CG, October 14, 2009.

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Internal Control Would Improve Accountability for Certain Centrally Provided (Greenbook) Programs.
GAO-10-82, October 20.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1082high.pdf

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Charges to Agencies and Offices for Centrally Provided (Greenbook) Programs for Fiscal Years 1999 through 2009 (GAO-10-83SP), an E-supplement to GAO-10-82.
GAO-10-83SP, October 20.

The Federal Government's Long-Term Fiscal Outlook: Fall 2009 Update.
GAO-10-137SP, October 15.http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-10-137SP

Defense Management: Widespread DCAA Audit Problems Leave Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Vulnerable to Fraud, Waste, Abuse, and Mismanagement, by Gregory D. Kutz, managing director, forensic audits and special investigations, before the Defense Acquisition Reform Panel, House Committee on Armed Services.
GAO-10-163T, October 15.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10163thigh.pdf

VA Health Care: Ineffective Medical Center Controls Resulted in Inappropriate Billing and Collection Practices, by Kay L. Daly, director, financial management and assurance, before the Subcommittee on Health, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
GAO-10-152T, October 15.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10152thigh.pdf

"Troubled Asset Relief Program: GAO's Oversight Role," by Gene L. Dodaro, acting comptroller general of the United States, before the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's accounting and auditing conference, in Arlington, Virginia.
GAO-10-150CG, October 1, 2009

Information Security: Concerted Effort Needed to Improve Federal Performance Measures.
GAO-09-617, September 14.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09617high.pdf

Contract Management: Extent of Federal Spending under Cost-Reimbursement Contracts Unclear and Key Controls Not Always Used.
GAO-09-921, September 30.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09921high.pdf

Fire Grants: FEMA Has Met Most Requirements for Awarding Fire Grants, but Additional Actions Would Improve Its Grant Process.
GAO-10-64, October 30.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1064high.pdf

Improper Payments: Progress Made but Challenges Remain in Estimating and Reducing Improper Payments, by Kay L. Daly, 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-09-628T, April 22, 2009.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d09628thigh.pdf

Information Technology: Agencies Need to Improve the Implementation and Use of Earned Value Techniques to Help Manage Major System Acquisitions.
GAO-10-2, October 8.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d102high.pdf

Recovery Act: Funds Continue to Provide Fiscal Relief to States and Localities, While Accountability and Reporting Challenges Need to Be Fully Addressed.
GAO-09-1016, September 23, 2009.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d091016high.pdf

Appropriations Decisions:

B-318426, District of Columbia Courts--Authority to Pay Settlements
and Judgments, November 2, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reducing Improper Payments

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 at 10:25 am
Peter R. Orszag, Director, OMB

Each year, taxpayers lose billions of dollars in wasteful improper payments by the federal government to individuals, organizations, and contractors. "Improper payments" is an umbrella term that covers a number of financial transactions — overpayments to individuals or firms is one example; benefit payments to ineligible program participants is another. In 2008, improper payments totaled $72 billion; in 2009, they totaled $98 billion — an increase driven by improved detection and the significant increase in federal outlays associated with the economic downturn. These errors and mistakes are unacceptable. Taxpayers deserve to know that their dollars are being spent wisely and effectively.

In response, the President, over the next week, will sign an executive order to rein in these improper payments so that the right people receive the right payment for the right reason. The response revolves around three categories of action: boosting transparency, holding agencies accountable, and creating strong incentives for compliance. In addition to the Executive Order, Congress is making efforts to reduce fraud, waste, and abuse through improper payments. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress, including Senators Carper and McCaskill and Congressman Patrick Murphy, on this important issue.


Monday, November 16, 2009

DHS financial management systems in disarray, IG says

The Homeland Security Department still has fragmented financial management systems that can't share data effectively, according to the department's inspector general and the Government Accountability Office.

DHS is working on a departmentwide process, called Transformation and Systems Consolidation (TASC), that would integrate its financial systems, currently spread across 22 agencies. But Kay Daly, director of financial management and assurance issues at GAO, said the department hasn't even identified which business processes need to be integrated into TASC.

The DHS IG, meanwhile, says many of the department's existing financial systems suffer from security flaws and an inability to communicate. "Systems are fragmented, do not share data, and over the years they have developed security flaws," said James Taylor, the department's deputy inspector general, at an Oct. 29 hearing of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on management, investigations and oversight.

Problems also plague financial systems at many agencies within DHS. The Coast Guard, for example, doesn't have policies in place for patching and upgrading its systems, or for disaster recovery; the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn't maintain audit logs, which could help it track down the source of an intrusion.

Peggy Sherry, the department's acting chief financial officer, said DHS has established a working group — composed of managers from headquarters and individual DHS agencies — to work on consolidating financial systems. Sherry said her office also is consulting other departments to find out how they manage financial systems.

The department is planning to buy a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software package to integrate its financial systems.

Sherry said DHS expects to sign a contract between January and March. It will likely be a cost-plus contract. Several lawmakers at the hearing urged the department to consider a fixed-price contract, but Sherry said that would make it more difficult to buy the necessary software.

Lawmakers seemed impatient with the department's longstanding inability to integrate its financial systems and its other management processes. GAO and the IG issued a number of reports on financial management at DHS over the last few years; and many of their recommendations still have yet to be implemented.

At the Coast Guard, for example, 21 of the 22 conclusions in the most recent IG report were repeated from a previous report. GAO says none of its recommendations for the department have been fully implemented.

-Gregg Carlstrom, FederalTimes.com

Financial Management Systems: DHS Faces Challenges to Successfully Consolidate Its Existing Disparate Systems.
GAO-10-210T, October 29
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10210thigh.pdf

Thursday, November 05, 2009

AGA Research Study Sees Benefits For Federal Governments Using Managerial Cost Accounting

Research examined managerial cost accounting practices within federal government agencies

Alexandria, VA (November 5, 2009) - A recently released research study conducted by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA), examined the status of managerial cost accounting (MCA) implementations within federal government agencies. The case studies depict entities at various stages of implementation, from one that has been in existence for more than thirty years, and other mature systems (more than ten years in existence) to some that have only just started (two years or less). The research publication, Managerial Cost Accounting in the Federal Government: Providing Useful Information for Decision Making, was released in October 2009.

Download the report (PDF)

Monday, November 02, 2009

FASAB Issues ED, New Standard on Property, Plant, Equipment

The Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB)has announced that the board is seeking input on the Exposure Draft (ED), Subsequent Events: Codification of Accounting and Financial Reporting Standards Contained in the AICPA Statements on Auditing Standards. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' (AICPA) Statements on Auditing Standards (SAS) AU section 560, Subsequent Events, includes accounting and financial reporting guidance that is not discussed in the authoritative literature that establishes accounting principles. The objective of this proposed Statement is to incorporate that guidance into the authoritative literature of the FASAB. The exposure draft requests comments by Dec. 28, 2009. The exposure draft and specific questions raised are available at the FASAB website.

In other FASAB news, FASAB issued Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Standards (SFFAS) 35, Estimating the Historical Cost of General Property, Plant, and Equipment --Amending Statements of Federal Financial Accounting Standards 6 and 23. SFFAS 35 amends SFFAS 6 and 23 to clarify that reasonable estimates of original transaction data historical cost may be used to value general property, plant, and equipment. More information can be found at http://www.fasab.gov