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Monday, September 27, 2010

Bob Hale to explain the impact on the Financial Management community of Secretary Gates’ 8 Initiatives (Audio Conference)

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HUD Re-awards HIFMIP Contract

After more than three years of proposal reviews, initial award, protests, re-submissions from vendors, re-evaluations, and re-protests, HUD's Contracting Office released an Award Notice on September 24, 2010 for the HUD INTEGRATED FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT IMPROVEMENT PROJECT (HIFMIP). Contract #C-OPC-23053 was awarded to IBM Global Business Services on September 23, 2010 for a maximum total value of $213,430,963.

Industry watchers see this award as a promising sign that OMB will allow additional departments and agencies to proceed with much needed financial management modernization programs.

HUD Re-Awards HIFMIP Contract to IBM

After more than three years of proposal evaluations, protests, re-submissions from vendors, and re-protests, HUD's Contracting Office released an Award Notice on September 24, 2010 for the HUD INTEGRATED FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT IMPROVEMENT PROJECT (HIFMIP). Contract #C-OPC-23053 was awarded to IBM Global Business Services on September 23, 2010 for a maximum total value of $213,430,963.

Industry watchers see this as a promising sign that OMB will allow additional departments and agencies to proceed with much needed financial management modernization programs despite the recent halt in activity due to OMB reviews.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Senators seek to remove special inspector general for Afghanistan

Four senators have asked President Obama to remove Arnold Fields as the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, saying a recent government review had found major deficiencies in audits carried out by Fields's office.


Twice in the past 18 months "we have repeatedly raised concerns regarding performance of the SIGAR," wrote Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chairman of the homeland security subcommittee on contracting oversight. She was joined in the letter by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). SIGAR is the abbreviation for Fields's office.


SIGAR spokeswoman Susan Phelan said that Fields was en route to Afghanistan and that she had no direct comment on the senators' letter. Phelan said Fields had welcomed recommendations made by the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, an independent government organization that carried out the review, and had vowed to implement them by Sept. 30.


In February of this year, the Council of Inspectors General began its review, which Fields initiated, according to SIGAR's Web site. That review "found multiple major deficiencies in SIGAR audits including failure to meet minimum standards for quality control," the senators wrote.


McCaskill and others have in the past recommended that the office of the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, a parallel organization run by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., a figure popular on Capitol Hill, be merged with SIGAR so that there is only one inspector general for work in both countries.

-Walter Pincus, WashingtonPost.com
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to work under a CR

As each day passes, it's becoming more likely that many agencies will soon need begin running federal programs with temporary funding. The current budget year ends on September 30th. And Congress still hasn't finished work on permanent spending bills for 2011.

Experts say they'll probably have to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep government running. That means no new programs for your agency, at least until those permanent spending bills become law.

While CRs "seem to be becoming a way of life for federal managers," John Palguta is the vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service told Federal News Radio, "it is frustrating because you would love to know 'how much money do I have to spend so let me go about getting the job done,' and under a continuing resolution, you don't know."

- Suzanne Kubota , Senior Internet Editor, FederalNewsRadio.com



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Oracle Unveils Oracle Contract Lifecycle Management for Public Sector

Co-Development Agreement With CACI Delivers Automated Procurement Contract Processes for Public Sector Organizations
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Sep 21, 2010 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- ORACLE OPENWORLD --
News Facts

-- To help public sector organizations author, execute and manage both routine and complex procurement contracts, Oracle today announced the availability of Oracle Contract Lifecycle Management for Public Sector, developed in co-operation with CACI.

-- By providing complete end-to-end acquisition and contract writing capabilities, Oracle Contract Lifecycle Management for Public Sector enables organizations to audit all categories of government spending by increasing transparency and providing clear accountability.

-- Oracle Contract Lifecycle Management for Public Sector builds on the advanced procurement capabilities within the Oracle E-Business Suite 12.1 and is fully integrated with Oracle Federal Financials. Oracle Contract Lifecycle Management for Public Sector delivers clear visibility into procurement contracts helping to achieve compliance with federal mandates such as the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS).

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SOURCE: Oracle Corporation


http://www2.marketwire.com/mw/emailprcntct?id=34F063A3BFC2B420http://www2.marketwire.com/mw/emailprcntct?id=BB5E1E7BFFD08CB5

Youtube Video Available: http://www2.marketwire.com/mw/frame_mw?attachid=1366949

Monday, September 20, 2010

GSA may have caused agencies to violate bona fide rule

The General Services Administration might have caused agencies to inadvertently break the rule restricting the use of one fiscal year's funds for services rendered in another.

In a report dated Sept. 13, the GSA inspector general says the agency's HSPD-12 managed service office set up an interagency agreement for other federal entities to purchase private sector support in implementing the homeland security presidential directive, which requires standardized identity cards for government workers.

The GSA office has treated HSPD-12 support as a "nonseverable" service, meaning that GSA said the value of the service depends on a discrete outcome, such as is the case with a research project. With a nonseverable service, the benefit of the service isn't realized until the project reaches completion.
However, the Government Accountability Office ruled (.pdf) last December that the HSPD-12 services in question are in fact "severable." That is, they are recurring in nature, which means that the value of the service doesn't depend on a single outcome as with a research report, but is realized periodically through the life of the service contract. Other examples of severable services include janitorial work and help desk support--the value of the service contract is incrementally realized every time a bathroom floor gets mopped.

The difference between "nonseverable" and "severable" matters because of something called the bona fide rule of federal spending, which is meant to uphold the part of the Constitution that prevents federal agencies from spending money without congressional approval. The bona fide rule states that a federal agency can spend money tied to a particular fiscal year only for needs which it has during that current fiscal year. That is, agencies must have a sincere (a bona fide) reason for spending current fiscal year money, the sincerity (the bona fideness) measured by its current, not future, needs.

For future needs, Congress demands the right to evaluate their legitimacy via an annual appropriations bill. The bona fide rule should make it impossible for a federal agency to use funds appropriated this fiscal year for something it won't need until the next fiscal year.

However, agencies are allowed to fully fund nonseverable service contracts with current fiscal year appropriations, even if their outcome will occur in future fiscal years. They are also allowed to fund severable service contracts with current fiscal year funds for a period of up to 12 months, even if that 12 month period crossed the federal fiscal year, which starts every Oct. 1. (We are in the final weeks of fiscal 2010.)

However, the 12 month rule for severable services also means that a contract for them cannot be open-ended with respect to the period of performance--exactly as the GSA interagency agreement was constructed, the GAO found. GSA officials told the GAO they consider HSPD-12 services to be nonseverable because each card has a life cycle consisting of a bundle of tasks, none of which would have value standing alone. However, the GAO ruled otherwise, stating that the services purchased via the GSA interagency agreement consist of two discrete undertakings--production of HSPD-12 identity cards, and maintenance of the cards. The latter is a severable service, the GAO said.

-David Perera, FierceGovernmentIT.com
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

OMB's new approach to agency financial modernization lacks strategy, says GAO

The Office of Management and Budget's new approach to federal financial system modernization is riddled with uncertainty, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

Specifically, although OMB has directed agencies to adopt to-be-developed common automated solutions for certain common transactions and warned them against financial system projects that take longer than 24 months to implement, it nonetheless lacks a strategy and a concept of operations to guide implementation efforts, the GAO states. The congressional watchdog issued its report on OMB's new financial system modernization thinking on Sept. 8.

For example, when it comes to agency adoption of common processing solutions--such as for intergovernmental transactions--without an established concept of operations, it's unclear how those common solutions will integrate with existing core financial systems, the GAO notes. The report cites Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering guidance which states that a concept of operations is normally one of the first documents produced during a disciplined development effort.

OMB official told GAO auditors they're developing a concept of operations, but did not provide a timeframe for its completion. OMB officials also said they're updating OMB Circular A-127 to include new standards for agencies when developing and updating federal financial management system requirements. However, GAO auditors add that it's not clear whether OMB will keep those standards up to date, and if it won't, then which organization will.

As for OMB's directive that agencies not implement financial system efforts that take longer than 24 months to complete, the GAO report says OMB lacks guidance to ensure that such efforts provide needed functionality rather than merely comply with a scheduled deadline.

-David Perera, FierceGovernmentIT.com

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For more:
- download the report, GAO-10-808 (.pdf)
- download OMB memo M-10-26 (.pdf), which outlines OMB's new approach to federal financial systems

Friday, September 17, 2010

OMB redefines federal financial health

Now armed with a newly signed Improper Payments Law, Office of Management and Budget controller Danny Werfel said it's time to re-think improper payments as "a key indicator of the health of federal financial management in the government today."


He told the gathering of federal, state, and local financial managers even though he understands the importance of audits as a tool of financial management in government, he is now also mindful of the shifting public perception of government spending. At the Association of Government Accountants, on the second day of their Internal Control and Fraud Conference Thursday, he suggested the issue of improper payments means more to citizens than the holy grail of the clean audit opinion.

Werfel used his AGA talk to offer some of the most current thinking on the topic of fraud and improper payments to come from OMB since Congress passed, and the President signed, a new Improper Payments bill into law within the last several months.


For one thing, he said his office is mulling over guidance on the issue of single audits, and was asked when it might be forthcoming.

Werfel also talked about the genesis of the new Improper Payments Law, and how it combined the best of the old Improper Payments Act of 2002, and the Recovery Audit Act. He said the new law reflects some lessons learned, the first being the need for partnerships between the federal, states and local auditing communities.


Werfel said it's important that financial officials understand the need to make adjustments when rules for good financial accountability and fraud avoidance become an unfair hurdle to citizens.


Finally, Werfel told his AGA audience that he's very excited about the possibilities surrounding a recently-unveiled fraud detection tool developed by the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board, which tracks the economic stimulus program.

Responding to a question, Werfel said that as the Recovery Board fraud tool is further developed and refined, OMB will work with the state and local auditing community about the possibility of sharing it.


-Max Cacas, FederalNewsRadio.com
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OMB claims two cancellations, two re-scopings in financial management IT reviews

Office of Management and Budget-led reviews of agency financial management systems have resulted in the cancellation of two such efforts and a significant paring of two others, said Controller Danny Werfel during a Sept. 15 call with reporters.


Specifically, the Small Business Administration has canceled its planned Loan Management and Accounting System and the Veterans Affairs Department scratched the financial management portion of its Financial and Logistics Integrated Enterprise project. Those agencies would have spent $113 million and $423 million on the demised projects, respectively, according to federal officials.

Also, the Environmental Protection Agency has cut $180 million worth of future planned spending on its Financial System Modernization Project while the Department of Housing and Urban Development has taken a red pencil to $44 million of planned spending for its HUD Integrated Financial Management Improvement Project.

OMB told agencies in June to freeze spending on financial management systems worth more than $20 million until OMB has reviewed them; the reviews on all 20 affected systems should be complete by mid October, Werfel said.

Which projects are scuppered or re-scoped isn't necessarily function of how badly managed they may be, Werfel added.


Competing priorities or changing technology needs with a federal agency might mean that money meant for a financial management system could be better reallocated elsewhere, Werfel said.


At the very least, that's what happened with the SBA project, Werfel said. As for whether the functionality and anticipated funding removed from the EPA and HUD projects is restored, that depends on agency and agency contractor performance in the meantime, he added.

For more:

- listen to audio of the Sept. 15 press call with Danny Werfel; also briefly on the call was Jeffery Zients, deputy director for management and OMB.

- read a Sept. 15 blog post by Zients on the reviews

-David Perera, FierceGovernmentIT.com
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Federal agencies cutting, revising $337 million worth of IT contracts

The Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday plans to announce the cancellation or restructuring of three multiyear information technology contracts totaling $337 million, according to senior administration officials.


The changes are part of the Obama administration's budgetary and management reforms designed to cut billions of dollars in wasteful and no-bid government programs and contracts.

According to the OMB, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to save $180 million and the Department of Housing and Urban Development will pocket about $44 million by restructuring two long-term IT contracts. The Small Business Administration should save $113 million by canceling a contract.

The Department of Veterans Affairs in July canceled a similar multiyear IT project slated to cost as much as $300 million. Other agencies may cancel or rewrite similar deals in the coming months, the OMB said.

The cuts announced Tuesday are "a classic outcome of what we expected when we looked more closely at these projects," said OMB Controller Danny Werfel. Though they amount to a small fraction of the $80 billion in annual federal IT costs, they are part of a series of reforms announced since the spring that administration officials hope demonstrate the White House's resolve to curtail government spending as deficit concerns dominate midterm election campaigns.

The cuts - and their impact on several Washington-area contracting firms - come as the Senate plans to pass a multibillion-dollar package of loans and tax relief for small businesses. They also add to growing fears that the Washington region could face significant layoffs as the government slashes billions in contracting deals.

In an interview Tuesday, OMB Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients said: "Our job is to focus on making sure every taxpayer dollar is well spent. There are plenty of opportunities for us to spend dollars on IT projects that have very high returns for taxpayers. We're going to make sure that the dollars are spent on high-return projects."

By Ed O'Keefe and Marjorie Censer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 14, 2010; 10:35 PM

ed.okeefe@washingtonpost.comcenserm@washpost.com Staff writer Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.

Find More:

Obama administration's IT Dashboard, a public Web site that compiles data on federal agencies' IT programs.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

VA mismanaged FLITE contractor, according to IG

The Veterans Affairs Department mismanaged a contractor relationship which caused the department's Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprises (FLITE) program's Strategic Asset Management Pilot Project to struggle, according to a September 7 report from the VA's inspector general.


"FLITE program managers did not adequately monitor the contractor's performance and ensure that the Office of Information and Technology assigned legacy system programmers to the project in a timely manner," wrote Belinda Finn, deputy inspector general at the VA OIG. "They also did not develop written procedures that clearly defined roles and responsibilities related to interface development for contractor and VA personnel."

The report also found that VA would have had more success if it had engaged in side-by-side collaboration with General Dynamics Information Technology. Instead, VA missed key conference calls with the contractor and used written comments to provide feedback, which led FLITE to be poorly monitored, and roles and responsibilities of project managers to be confused.

In one result of mismanagement, the IG report found as of April 5, 2010, VA had accepted only two of 12 formal deliverables submitted by the contractor. According to the initial project schedule, FLITE program managers should have accepted eight of the formal deliverables three months prior to that date. In addition, General Dynamics' submission of the SAM Training Plan was due by January 11, 2010. It was first delivered on December 31, 2009, and it was not complete and accurate until March 22 of the following year, according to the report.

Finn recommended that:

• The assistant secretary for IT designate VA staff to formally review deliverables and submit comments according to a time line;

• The assistant secretary for IT develop and implement procedures to ensure improved collaboration; and

• The assistant secretary for IT encourage in-person attendance by key VA personnel at meetings, conferences and work sessions.

A July 13 announcement called for the cancellation of a financial management system overhaul, in favor of a series of smaller financial modernization projects, due to doubts over program execution, as well as re-prioritization of limited resources. IT management at the VA has been closely watched since the June 2009 establishment of the Program Management Accountability System, a program which aims to break the cycle of high-profile IT failures in the VA's recent past.

For more: read the IG report (.pdf)

-Molly Bernhart Walker, FierceGovernmentIT.com

Friday, September 10, 2010

GAO Seeks CAO / COO

Opportunity:


The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)/Chief Financial Officer (CFO) reports directly to the Comptroller General (CG) and is principally responsible for directing administrative services that support GAO mission teams in audits and investigations.

With 8 direct reports, 400 full-time employees, and direct budget responsibility for approximately $100M, the CAO/CFO’s portfolio includes the Office of the Controller, Human Capital Office, Information Systems and Technology Services, Knowledge Services, the Professional Development Program, and Field Operations.

Compensation: To $174,000 plus performance bonus
 
Deadline: To be considered, applications must be received no later than midnight, October 18, 2010.


Citizenship: U.S. Citizenship required. You will be required to obtain a security clearance.

Contact:

Joseph DeGioia

JDG Associates, Ltd.
1700 Research Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20850
(301) 340-2210
degioia@jdgsearch.com

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Auditors: CBP unable to detect excessive custom refunds in fiscal 2009

Customs and Border Patrol was unable to prevent itself from issuing excessive custom duty refunds during the last fiscal year due to inherent limitations and lack of controls in certain information technology systems.


Auditing firm KPMG found the material weakness--which also includes in an inability to prevent and correct excessive refunds--during a review of CBP internal controls over financial reporting during fiscal 2009. The Homeland Security Department inspector general released the audit to the public Sept. 1 in redacted form.

U.S. firms are entitled to a customs duty refund, known as "drawback claim," under some circumstances, such as when they export products made with imported merchandise. The customs duty paid when that imported merchandise entered the United States can be the subject of a drawback claim. The penalty for submitting a false drawback claim ranges from a written notice to a fine constituting the amount of the entire false claim, plus restitution.

The amount of redaction done to the KPMG audit makes it impossible to state which information technology system is responsible for the material weakness.

However, the key systems subject to review by KPMG auditors for the report include the Automated Commercial System and the Automated Commercial Environment.

The latter, a web-based portal, is replacing the former, a mainframe-based system. A 2009 review of ACE by the DHS chief information officer found the program has encountered challenges since its initiation in 2001. Among them has been a shifting baseline and significant delays; the review states that as planned, ACE cannot be completed within budget.

The KPMG audit also reviewed the Seized Assets and Cases Tracking System (SEACATS) and CBP's financial management system, which is SAP R/3.

In CBP's official response to the audit, Charles Armstrong, CBP CIO, said he agrees with KPMG's findings.


-David Perera, FierceGovernmentIT.com
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