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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

W. Todd Grams: Changing outmoded VA management practices

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has long functioned as if it were three distinct business entities—health care, benefits and cemeteries—and never fully integrated its financial management, acquisition, human resources, capital investment and technology functions across the organization.

With a mandate for change from the VA’s top leadership, W. Todd Grams led two major transformational initiatives designed to create a coherent and unified department, streamline access points for VA beneficiaries, reduce costs per beneficiary, and ultimately deliver better care to more veterans.

During fiscal 2010, Grams, the VA’s executive in charge of management and chief financial officer, established a new integrated management governance structure for the VA’s business key functions. This involved the updating 140 policies, streamlining hiring processes for acquisition personnel, implementing a self-service employee benefit portal and training 2,375 employees in financial management.

Grams and his leadership team also successfully led the effort for the first time to combine all of the department’s investment planning efforts involving construction, leasing and non-recurring maintenance—a portfolio accounting for nearly $100 billion. For decades, planning and investment decisions for VA capital infrastructure took place in stovepipes, at times resulting in duplicative efforts and poor use of taxpayer dollars.

Additionally, Grams led his team through an in-depth analysis of VA’s financial management priorities. This review stopped a $500 million financial systems overhaul in its initial stages and redirected funding from this high-risk venture into new programs that will generate greater benefit at significantly lower cost. The changes have dramatically improved controls over a $14 billion purchasing program.

- The Partnership for Public Service, Published: September 16

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