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Monday, January 31, 2011

White House names Zients to lead reorg effort

The White House tapped two veteran staffers to lead the government reorganization project.

Office of Management and Budget deputy director for management and chief performance officer Jeffrey Zients and Lisa Brown, currently assistant to the President and staff secretary, will take on what could be the biggest restructuring effort in half a century.

Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, wrote in a administration's blog Sunday that Zients and Brown, previously served as co-chairwoman of the Agency Review Working Group for the Obama-Biden Transition Project, will initially focus on "trade and exports to see how we can better reform these functions to give American companies a leg up in the global economy."

President Obama called for a reorganization of the government is last week's State of the Union. It would be the first major reorganization of government in more than 50 years.

The administration is looking to Zients and Brown to usher the reorganization through Congress and the federal employee unions. Lawmakers took away the ability of the President to reorganize government without congressional approval in the 1980s.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Friday, January 28, 2011

GAO plumps for more DCMO role definition

Financial management improvement at the Defense Department--a long standing goal--requires the involvement of senior Pentagon officials with authority enough to address issues that cut across military services, says the Government Accountability Office in a new report.

The report, dated Jan. 26, says that the department has indeed taken steps to involve the deputy chief management officer and military chief management officers (who are all also service under secretaries) by placing them on the governance board of the Financial Improvement Audit Readiness Directorate. But, the Pentagon has yet to define their specific roles and when they are expected to become involved in problem resolution, the report adds.

The report also suggests that for a goal of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' efficiency drive, namely an initiative to reduce bureaucracy and instill a culture of cost-consciousness and restraint, to become institutionalized over the long term, the DCMO and the DoD CMO (the under secretary) will need specific roles.

-David Perera, FierceGovernmentIT.com

Today's GAO Publication

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

Defense Business Transformation: DOD Needs to Take Additional Actions to Further Define Key Management Roles, Develop Measurable Goals, and Align Planning Efforts.

GAO-11-181R, January 26.


Monday, January 24, 2011

The Nation by the Numbers - The 2010 Financial Report of the U.S. Government

The slides from the AGA DC January Luncheon presented by Mark Reger, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Accounting Policy Department of the Treasury entitled The Nation by the Numbers - The 2010 Financial Report of the U.S. Government, can be viewed on the AGA DC website here:

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Path Is Sought for States to Escape Their Debt Burdens

Policy makers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

Unlike cities, the states are barred from seeking protection in federal bankruptcy court. Any effort to change that status would have to clear high constitutional hurdles because the states are considered sovereign.

But proponents say some states are so burdened that the only feasible way out may be bankruptcy, giving Illinois, for example, the opportunity to do what General Motors did with the federal government’s aid.

Beyond their short-term budget gaps, some states have deep structural problems, like insolvent pension funds, that are diverting money from essential public services like education and health care. Some members of Congress fear that it is just a matter of time before a state seeks a bailout, say bankruptcy lawyers who have been consulted by Congressional aides.

-Mary Williams Walsh, NYTimes.com

Miami-Dade must repay $3.6M in Housing and Urban Development funds

Miami-Dade County must repay $3.6 million in federal Community Development Block Grant money because the county can't show auditors the money was properly used.

In the latest sign of weak financial controls in Miami-Dade government, the county must pay back $3.6 million in federal grant funds received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development after a federal audit found that county officials couldn't show the money was properly used.

The county's latest problems with HUD -- which administrators unveiled at a County Commission meeting Thursday -- come just two years after the federal agency returned control of the troubled Miami-Dade Housing Agency to county hands after 15 months under HUD supervision.

The disclosure angered several commissioners -- particularly in view of unrelated financial woes at the Miami-Dade Transit Agency, which has seen all federal grant reimbursements stop after an audit found shoddy financial management and weak internal controls.

-Martha Brannigan, MiamiHerald.com

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Q&A: Rep. Platts on his new oversight subcommittee assignment

Among the new House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee chairs announced Jan. 18 by its chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.), a familiar name for those who track congressional oversight on federal financial management and systems.

Platts, who will head up the subcommittee on government organization, efficiency and financial management, chaired essentially the same subcommittee for five years until 2007, when Republicans then lost their majority standing.

FierceGovernmentIT briefly caught up with Platts to ask him about his plans for the current legislative session.

Read the interview transcript at the link below.

- David Perera, FierceGovernmentIT.com

Friday, January 14, 2011

Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Announces Retirement

Washington, DC – Richard L. Skinner, announced his retirement today as the first Senate confirmed Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Skinner devoted his forty-two year federal career to fulfilling the mission of the Inspectors General community. He began his career in 1969 with the Department of Agriculture, and held a variety of OIG management positions with the Departments of Justice, Commerce, State, and the Arms Controls and Disarmament Agency. He also served as the Acting Inspector General, Deputy Inspector General, and Assistant Inspector General for Audits at FEMA where he was awarded the President’s Meritorious Executive Rank Award for sustained superior accomplishment in management of programs of the United States Government. Prior to his July 28, 2005 confirmation, he held the position of Deputy Inspector General since March 1, 2003, the date that the Department of Homeland Security was created.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

New governmentwide financial systems on tap

By the summer, agency chief financial officers will begin figuring out how to move to new governmentwide systems to process intergovernmental transactions and vendor invoices.

Danny Werfel, the Office of Management and Budget's controller, said the Treasury Department is in the middle of testing and analyzing existing systems to see which could be expanded.

Werfel said by May or June Treasury and OMB should come to a final decision about which systems to use and begin to figure out how agencies should migrate to these common systems.

OMB and Treasury has been working on these common systems since last winter.

It's also how the Obama administration has modified the Financial Management Line of Business initiative started under the Bush administration. The FM LOB tried to standardize business processes and terminology, and get agencies to shut down their systems and move to shared service providers. OMB announced in March it was closing the Financial Systems Integration Office (FSIO), which led much of the business process standardization work. Instead of FSIO, OMB set up the Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation (OFIT) within Treasury to lead these intergovernmental transactions and vendor invoicing pilots.

Werfel said the governmentwide systems are among the CFO community's top priorities in 2011.

One of the top goals is to further reduce improper payments. Werfel said agencies made significant progress in 2010, reducing the governmentwide improper payment rate to 5.49 percent, from 5.65 percent in 2009.

Werfel said this means that agencies prevented an additional $3.8 billion in improper payments from being made in 2010.

Along with improper payments, Werfel and other agency CFOs detailed priorities and plans at a recent CFO Council meeting. The 47-page PowerPoint presentation goes through everything from improper payments to technology innovation to open government and transparency to decision support and workforce challenges.

Werfel said federal financial management is getting better each year despite the Defense Department's inability to get audited.

The Government Accountability Office issued its annual report last month finding for a 14th straight year that auditors could not issue an opinion.

Still, Werfel said the total number of clean opinions is up to 20, including NASA, which moved from a disclaimed opinion to a qualified opinion.

OMB also is working closely with DoD on its financial books.

Werfel said the Pentagon is focused on different key areas to help it become auditable. He said DoD is starting with activities that are most closely related to their operational and mission success, which includes things like how money flows through the agency, managing execution and cash flows.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Thursday, January 06, 2011

CCR is Going Away

This article was found in the December issue of the GMLOB Federal Grants World:

In the next 12 months, the General Services Administration (GSA) is going to move the capability currently offered by the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) and other systems to a new system called the System for Award Management (SAM).

This effort, previously dubbed Architecture and Operations Contract Support (AOCS), will bring together eight federal procurement systems as well as the Catalog for Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA), integrating the currently siloed capabilities and hosting environments into one unified whole. The benefits will include a streamlined user experience, improved data quality, and cost savings to the tune of $30 million per year.

CCR is among the first systems to be moved into SAM, along with the Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA) and Excluded Parties List System (EPLS). Other systems, to be moved to SAM in later phases extending through 2014, include Federal Business Opportunities (FBO), CFDA, Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System (eSRS), Wage Determinations OnLine (WDOL), Federal Procurement Data System – Next Generation (FPDS-NG), and Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS).

Users can expect to begin hearing about webinars and SAM training opportunities in late 2011. Until then, CCR will remain as it is today — offering its existing capabilities from its current web location.

-Kathleen Oliver GSA/IAE Program Manager

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Audit finds FEMA slow to recover improper payments

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has not attempted to collect roughly $643 million in improper payments to 160,000 individuals who claimed they were victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, according to a new report released on Monday by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general.\

Auditors blamed the delays on FEMA leadership, which has yet to sign off on a new process, mandated by judge's order in a 2007 class action lawsuit, for recovering the misspent funds.

In the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA disbursed more than $7 billion in individual assistance payments to survivors. But the agency now estimates approximately $643 million of those payments were issued improperly due to inadequate internal controls, human error, mistake or fraud.

Federal agencies made roughly $125 billion in improper payments in fiscal 2010, mostly through Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment insurance programs. While the value of improper payments governmentwide increased from $110 billion in fiscal 2009 to $125 billion in fiscal 2010, the governmentwide improper payment rate actually declined from 5.65 percent to 5.49 percent, Office of Management and Budget Controller Danny Werfel said in November 2010.

In July, President Obama signed the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, which enhanced payment recapture audits and intensified the scrutiny on agencies failing to reduce errors. The administration wants to recoup at least $2 billion in erroneous payments between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2012. Werfel said agencies are "right on target" to meet the goal.

As an incentive, agencies are allowed to keep 25 percent of recovered funds for a federal financial management program, 25 percent for the program's original purpose and 5 percent for the inspector general's office. The remainder is returned to the general treasury to lower the national debt.

-Robert Brodsky, GovExec.com

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Labor looks to contractor for more help with financial management

The Labor Department plans to award a noncompetitive contract for additional help with its new financial management system to Global Computer Enterprises, a firm already supporting the modern, cloud-like setup that it installed under a $50 million deal last year.

Labor contracting officers intend to enter a fixed-price pact for assistance with Reston, Va.-based GCE, according to a Dec. 30, 2010, notice on the government procurement website FedBizOpps.gov. Industry sources familiar with GCE's original contract suspect Labor might need the vendor's assistance to fix financial management flaws, unrelated to technology, that the department's inspector general flagged in November.

The IG audit identified many material weaknesses in Labor's financial statements as of Sept. 30 2009. Due to its transition to the new system, the department was unable to provide enough information for the IG to evaluate Labor's financial state in 2010, the report added.

More "services are required to meet the ongoing business needs of the government's user base and do not represent a new system or initiative," department officials said in a statement.

Other firms interested in providing the requisite assistance have until Jan. 7 to respond with information about their qualifications, according to the notice. The announcement did not include any other details about the potential deal.

-Aliya Sternstein, NextGov.com