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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Today's GAO Publications

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

Financial Management: Improvements Needed in National Flood Insurance Program's Financial Controls and Oversight.
GAO-10-66, December 22.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1066high.pdf

Summary of GAO's Performance and Financial Information Fiscal Year 2009.
GAO-10-235SP, January 21.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CGI awarded 10-year BPA with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development

CGI awarded 10-year, US$395 million BPA with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development

FAIRFAX, VA, Jan. 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ - The U.S. Department of State has awarded CGI Federal Inc. (CGI), a wholly-owned U.S. operating subsidiary of CGI Group Inc. (NYSE: GIB ; TSX: GIB.A), a competitive, single award, 10-year Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) with a ceiling of up to US$395 million under CGI's GSA-IT Schedule Contract in support of the agencies' Joint Financial Management System (JFMS).

JFMS is a global platform based on CGI's Momentum(R) software used by both the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to efficiently and cost-effectively manage domestic and overseas financial management activities. Under this BPA, CGI will provide systems integration, consulting services, and operational support for more than 5,000 JFMS users in more than 300 posts and missions around the world.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: TeraThink Corporation is a member of the CGI JFMS team.


GAO urges changes in budgeting for national security

The Government Accountability Office has recommended that the U.S. government establish a central national security budget and then set aside money by responsibilities, breaking with the current arrangement of letting departments and agencies decide how best to arrange their budgets.

That setup has created "a patchwork of activities that waste scarce funds and limit the overall effectiveness of federal efforts," said Gene L. Dodaro, the GAO's director and acting U.S. comptroller general.

"Different organizational structures, planning processes and funding sources to plan for and conduct their national security activities . . . can hinder interagency collaboration," Dodaro said, with the result being "budget requests and congressional appropriations that tend to reflect individual agency concerns." His comments came in a speech about national-security budgeting at National Defense University this month.

Dodaro cited a couple of examples for his position. Since 2005, he said, separate efforts to improve governance within Iraq's ministries -- by the State and Defense departments and the U.S. Agency for International Development -- have "contributed to U.S. efforts not meeting the goal for key Iraqi ministries" to take more responsibility for reconstruction projects.

He also said the Pentagon's regional commands -- such as Central Command, which includes the Middle East and Central Asia -- "are aligned differently" and cover different areas than do the State Department's regional bureaus. That makes coordination "more challenging and [creates] the potential for gaps and overlaps in policy implementation," Dodaro said.

His call for developing and implementing "overarching strategies to achieve national security objectives" reflects the findings of a December 2008 report by the Project on National Security Reform. The report recommended "issuing an integrated national security strategy and creating a unified national security budget"; several leading members of the Obama administration were involved in that project, including Adm. Dennis C. Blair, now director of national intelligence, and James B. Steinberg, now deputy secretary of state.

More recently, the Center for American Progress -- a think tank led by John Podesta, President Obama's transition chief -- came out with a similar recommendation. Last November, in a report titled "Integrating Security," it called for "a unified national security budget that enables policymakers to more readily make the trade-offs necessary between defense, economic development and diplomacy."

That report went further than did Dodaro, saying a unified national security budget could be put together by the National Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget, and would "identify . . . security priorities within budgetary constraints." It would also include "a prioritized list of critical missions; and identify the major federal programs, infrastructure and budget plan designed to implement the strategy," the center suggested.

Dodaro also focused last week on other weaknesses in the Pentagon's dealing with taxpayer dollars. He started with the oft-repeated fact in such reports that, the Defense Department "is one of the few federal entities that cannot accurately account for its spending or assets," even though it represents a major part of the federal budget.

For 20 years, he said, the GAO had urged changes in the department's financial management, with little success. But he said: "Problems with asset accountability further complicate critical functions such as supporting current plans to withdraw troops and equipment from Iraq."

The Marine Corps this year, he added, will audit its 2010 statement of budgetary resources as a test case for the rest of the Defense Department.

- Walter Pincus, WashingtonPost.com


Report finds agencies are better aligning IT and business systems

Federal officials are increasingly keeping their agencies' missions in mind as they design computer networks, according to a new report from a market research firm.

Based on a survey of 400 public and private sector officials, Forrester Research Inc. concluded more organizations in both sectors are taking pains to ensure their IT systems and business processes are closely aligned. But Gene Leganza, co-author of the report and vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, said the federal government is slightly ahead in adopting this approach.

Thanks in part to Office of Management and Budget oversight, federal information technology and management officials have grown accustomed to working together when developing business plans, he said.

Leganza said the shift away from simple compliance with the requirements for the federal enterprise architecture toward a more mission-focused approach began late in the administration of George W. Bush

The Bush administration's quarterly management score card created much of the impetus for adoption of the federal enterprise architecture, Leganza said. The potential for cost savings and increased efficiency also were compelling reasons to embrace it, he noted.

The Obama administration has abandoned the Bush-era score cards, but federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra has repeatedly stressed the importance of implementing the federal enterprise architecture to ensure agencies can communicate with each other.

Leganza said continued progress would help the Obama administration's push toward cloud computing, in which on-demand hardware and software services are provided by vendors or other agencies. The approach also has the potential to accelerate IT procurements, he added, but only if the people developing the IT infrastructure have access to state-of-the-art tools to ensure connectivity and security

- Gautham Nagesh, Nextgov.com

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sekar leaves DOD to become ICE CFO

From an email found recently...

From: Hale, Robert F Hon OSD COMPT
Sent: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 5:19 PM
To: Everyone
Subject: Radha Sekar leaving USD(C)

I regret to announce that Radha Sekar will be leaving USD(C). Effective February 1 she will be taking over as the Chief Financial Officer for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. With more than 20,000 employees and over 400 offices in the United States and around the world, ICE is the largest investigative agency within the Department of Homeland

We will definitely miss Radha's important contributions to our efforts including audit readiness and systems work. While we are sorry to see her leave, Radha will be stepping up to a job with broad responsibilities. I want to thank her for her efforts here, and I know that I join all of you in wishing her all the best at ICE.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Today's GAO Publication

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

Social Security: Options to Protect Benefits for Vulnerable Groups When Addressing Program Solvency.
GAO-10-101R, December 7.

Monday, January 11, 2010

DHS adds oversight to grants, contracts - FederalTimes.com

Top Homeland Security Department officials say their biggest near-term management priority is providing better oversight of the department's $2 billion in annual grants and nearly $15 billion in annual contracts.

The department has issued some $20 billion in grants — mostly through the Federal Emergency Management Agency — since it was created seven years ago. But DHS doesn't know whether the grants have improved security or disaster preparedness; audits by the Government Accountability Office criticized some grant programs for duplicating one another and focusing on the wrong goals.

Large contracting programs — such as the Coast Guard's Deepwater program, and the department's high-tech border security system called SBINet — often break their budgets and fall short of expectations.

Department officials say they're taking steps to fix those problems.
Elaine Duke, the department's undersecretary for management, said she's setting up a new oversight office to manage DHS grant programs. The department plans to staff the office with 20 people, and is more than halfway to that goal. Staffers will review inspector general reports on grant programs to look for problematic trends, and they'll work with managers to improve the quality of data collected about grant programs.

But grant and contract management is only one of many problems plaguing the department, according to the latest annual report from the inspector general. Information technology systems still have endemic security flaws; the department still hasn't consolidated separate IT systems from its dozens of component agencies; and financial management systems still don't interact with one another.

Experts, DHS officials and even auditors say that, despite the criticism, the department ismaking progress in areas including IT security, procurement and grants management.

In the long term, experts say, DHS will face much larger challenges in fixing its financial management systems. They received the lowest marks in the recent IG's report; Inspector General Richard Skinner said the department has made only minimal progress toward consolidating those systems. And it lacks sufficient accounting and financial management personnel to audit its financial statements.

Maurer, the GAO analyst, said many of those problems are from legacy systems at the nearly two dozen agencies that combined to form DHS. He also said the department didn't think through its needs early on — and many of the early IT systems it bought are now coming back to cause problems.


Friday, January 08, 2010

U.S. Department of Labor Goes Live with New Financial Management Solution

RESTON, Va., Jan. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Global Computer Enterprises (GCE) today announced that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has gone live with GCE's cloud computing based financial management Shared Service Provider (SSP) solution. The event marks the first implementation of a cabinet-level department onto a commercial SSP solution based on Oracle Financials Release 12.

With this new solution, the agency's first financial management solution overhaul in over 20 years, DOL achieves its goal of modernizing its core financial management functions within the framework of a FSIO-compliant financial management Shared Service Provider (SSP). DOL expects to drive major operational efficiencies, on-going compliance with OMB and Treasury guidelines, and greater insight and reporting of spending.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

OMB Sets Up Best Practices Website on Reducing Improper Payments

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has established Partner4Solutions.gov to gather solutions and best practices to improve service delivery, payment accuracy, administrative efficiency, and reduce access barriers in federally funded assistance programs. States and local governments are already addressing these issues head-on and have identified many innovative approaches. Partner4Solutions.gov is an opportunity for taxpayers, program participants, and federal, state and local program administrators to provide their input and begin a dialogue to better understand some of the on-the-ground best practices in this area. This website is also a central element in meeting the transparency and collaboration principles of Executive Order 13520, "Reducing Improper Payments and Eliminating Waste in Federal Programs." Please join this effort as a partner by contributing your ideas and solutions at Partner4Solutions.gov.

More Expansion Plans for XBRL Reporting

XBRL technology may expand its reach in financial reporting even more in 2010, thanks to several efforts in Congress and the states to use XBRL as a means to reduce complexity in financial statements.

Recent GAO Publications

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

Financial Audit: Office of Financial Stability (Troubled Asset Relief Program) Fiscal Year 2009 Financial Statements.
GAO-10-301, December 9.
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-10-301Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10301high.pdf

Recovery Act: States' Use of Highway and Transit Funds and Efforts to Meet the Act's Requirements, by Katherine A. Siggerud, managing director, physical infrastructure issues, before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
GAO-10-312T, December 10.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10312thigh.pdf

Smithsonian Institution: Implementation of Governance Reforms Is Progressing, but Work Remains.
GAO-10-190R, December 10.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10190rhigh.pdf

Recovery Act: Status of States' and Localities' Use of Funds and Efforts to Ensure Accountability.
GAO-10-231, December 10.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10231high.pdf

Recovery Act: Status of States' and Localities' Use of Funds and Efforts to Ensure Accountability (Appendixes).
GAO-10-232SP, December 10.

Troubled Asset Relief Program: The U.S. Government Role as Shareholder in AIG, Citigroup, Chrysler, and General Motors and Preliminary Views on its Investment Management Activities, by Orice Williams Brown, director, financial markets and community investment, and A. Nicole Clowers, acting director, physical infrastructure, before the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
GAO-10-325T, December 16.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10325thigh.pdf

Veterans Health Administration: Inadequate Controls over Miscellaneous Obligations Increase Risk over Procurement Transactions, by Kay L. Daly, director, financial management and assurance, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, House Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
GAO-10-307T, December 16.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10307thigh.pdf

Status of GAO Recommendations to the Department of Defense (Fiscal Years 2001-2008).
GAO-10-211R, December 16.http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-10-211R

Formula Grants: Funding for the Largest Federal Assistance Programs Is Based on Census-Related Data and Other Factors.
GAO-10-263, December 15.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10263high.pdf

Impoundment Control Act: Use and Impact of Rescission Procedures, by Susan A. Poling, managing associate general counsel, office of general counsel, before the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
GAO-10-320T, December 16.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10320thigh.pdf

UN Office for Project Services: Management Reforms Proceeding but Effectiveness Not Assessed, and USAID's Oversight of Grants Has Weaknesses.
GAO-10-168, November 19.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10168high.pdf

Recovery Act: Planned Efforts and Challenges in Evaluating Compliance with Maintenance of Effort and Similar Provisions.
GAO-10-247, November 30
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d10247high.pdf

Appropriations Decisions:

B-318499, Department of the Navy--Lunch for Volunteer Focus Group,
November 19, 2009

B-318425, Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation
Board--Interagency Agreement with the General Services
Administration, December 8, 2009