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Thursday, October 27, 2011

GFEBS financial management system worldwide

Washington, D.C. — The most advanced financial management system in Army history, the General Fund Enterprise Business System, or GFEBS, is now operational worldwide.

The GFEBS now has nearly 40,000 users across all service components, and is the most widely implemented of the Army’s Enterprise Resource Planning systems. It’s expected when fully deployed, sometime in Fiscal Year 2012, GFEBS will engage close to 60,000 users at some 200 locations worldwide and will affect almost every Army organization and function.

The GFEBS records financial transactions with supporting documentation, tracks transactions to the detailed level, and will produce an auditable trial balance. The Army Audit Agency’s most recent evaluation found that GFEBS complies with 1,054 of 1,113 requirements from the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act. On-going development of GFEBS will complete the remaining 5 percent for full compliance in FY 2012.

GFEBS received a full deployment decision June 24 from Department of Defense Deputy Chief Management Officer Elizabeth McGrath, the program’s milestone decision authority. The decision affirmed the deployment readiness of the GFEBS solution and authorized Armywide system implementation.

The GFEBS deployment is scheduled to conclude in 2012, providing a core system for managing a significant portion of the Army’s general fund and ushering in a new era in Army financial management.

-Frank Distasio, Army News Service

Recovery Board testing accountability tools in the cloud

WILLIAMSBURG, Va.-- The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board had so much success moving Recovery.gov to the cloud, it is looking there again to give agencies a new set of accountability tools.

Shawn Kingsberry, the board's chief information officer and assistant director for technology, said about four agencies are testing a new suite of data-analysis software to ensure Recovery Act funds are not being subject to waste, fraud or abuse.

The Recovery Board is working with several agencies to test out these accountability tools in the cloud. The tools include data-analysis software that can detect data anomalies on contracts, grants and loans issued with stimulus funding.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Senate committee passes bills on improper payments, whistleblower protections

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed three bills today to combat wasteful spending in government, strengthen federal whistleblower protections and improve interagency communications with a rotational program.

The Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Improvement Act of 2011 expands on legislation passed last year to eliminate improper payments.

The new bill would: 
  • Require more consistent reporting of improper payments and eliminate voluntary disclosures by contractors.
  • Create a "Do Not Pay List" of contractors who have been convicted of fraud or for a similar reason.
  • Improving data on deceased beneficiaries.
  • Set up a pilot program that uses private companies to help agencies identify improper payments.

-Jolie Lee, FederalNewsRadio.com

Friday, October 14, 2011

Panetta wants full budget audit by 2014

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wants the Pentagon to complete a full audit of its budget by 2014, moving the deadline up by three years.

While this puts the pressure on the Pentagon to get its books in order, it is only one of four steps to completing a full financial audit.

Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Panetta said the accelerated timeline would help Pentagon financial managers identify waste and track spending.

The Pentagon's latest status report on its Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Plan — the effort to make DoD auditable by 2017 — said the vast majority of the department remains unauditable, although some small agencies are ready, and the Marine Corps by far the smallest and least complex of the military services, is likely to become the first major branch to join them.

-Kate Brannen, FederalTimes.com

EPA plagued with poor budgetary and workforce organization, GAO reports

The Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to produce accurate budget reports and deploy its workforce in an efficient manner, the Government Accountability Office reported this week.

In studies conducted from 2009 to 2011, EPA "has struggled for years to identify its human resource needs and to deploy its staff throughout the agency in a manner that would do the most good," stated the GAO report released Wednesday. The government watchdog also found the department consistently failed to provide detailed budget justifications to Congress and did not make proper use of "unliquidated balances," or funds that were appropriated to EPA but not spent.

-Andrew Lapin, GovExec.com

Thursday, October 13, 2011

OMB outlines expanded roles for federal CIOs

The White House budget director, Jack Lew, directed agency leaders to ensure their chief information officers are responsible for "true portfolio management for all IT [information technology]" and not "just policymaking."

In a new memo, Lew outlined four areas where CIOs should have a lead role:
  • Governance of agencies' IT portfolios.
  • Commodity IT purchases, such as data centers, desktops, email and business systems.
  • Management of large IT projects and programs.
  • Information security programs.

-Nicole Blake Johnson, FederalTimes.com

Friday, October 07, 2011

Effort to require online governmentwide spending reports advances on the Hill

Congressional supporters of a plan to pull all federal spending reports onto one uniform, searchable database believe they've put together a package of cost savings to offset the legislation's more than $500 million price tag, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Thursday.

Issa would not reveal what's included in the offset package, saying he wanted to get the details hammered down first.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, which Issa sponsored in the House, essentially would take processes developed by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which tracks and reports on spending on the $787 billion stimulus bill, and apply them to all government spending.

Supporters say the database will save billions of dollars by making it more difficult for contractors and others to defraud the government, by lowering information technology costs and by reducing errors in transferring spending data between different systems.

The Transparency Caucus also is pushing legislation to expand whistleblower protections to members of the federal intelligence community and to prohibit agency inspector generals' offices being left vacant or filled by an acting IG, Issa and Transparency Caucus co-chairman Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., said.

-Joseph Marks, NextGov.com

Thursday, October 06, 2011

DOD Readies Financial Managers to Meet Goals

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2011 – Recognizing the importance of people in its financial management improvements, the Defense Department is exploring new ways to recruit, retain and train its financial management workforce, a senior defense official told Congress today.

Maintaining a capable financial management workforce is a priority in Pentagon Comptroller Robert F. Hale’s financial management strategy, Sandra A. Gregory told the House Armed Services Committee’s Defense Financial Management and Auditability Reform Panel.

About 60,000 civilian and military financial managers within DOD are key players in efforts to improve financial information, analytics and decision support within the department and to achieve audit readiness, Gregory told the panel.

Among initiatives being advanced is a new DOD financial management certification program. This plan, Gregory explained, will provide “enterprisewide roadmaps on what training is most important at various points throughout federal careers.”

By next summer, DOD officials plan to code financial management positions to three different certification levels, she said. From that point, the department will develop competency assessment tools to assess the current workforce’s proficiency, identify gaps and develop plans to close those gaps.

-Donna Miles, American Forces Press Services

Sen. Carper to Panetta: Clean up military’s financial management

A Senate subcommittee chairman is urging Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to cut costs by reforming the way the military buys spare parts and correcting flawed battlefield contracting practices.

As Congress looks for ways to trim federal spending and pare the deficit, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) told Panetta in a letter obtained by The Hill that “every aspect of the federal budget — from entitlements to education to defense – has to be on the table.”

The Homeland Security Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security subcommittee chairman said that officials and lawmakers “should first look in every nook and cranny of the federal government to make sure that we’re getting the most bang for our buck.”

In short, Carper told Panetta that “we need to get better results for less money in almost everything we do.”

The Pentagon needs to clean up its financial management as the nation grapples with its fiscal woes, he told Panetta, a former Office of Management and Budget chief.

-John T. Bennett, TheHill.com

This Month's GAO Reports

This month's GAO Reports:

DOD Financial Management: Improved Controls, Processes, and Systems Are Needed for Accurate and Reliable Financial Information,
GAO-11-933T, September 23 (27 pages) http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-933T
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11933thigh.pdf

DOD Financial Management: Improvement Needed in DOD Components' Implementation of Audit Readiness Effort,
GAO-11-851, September 13 (54 pages)
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11851high.pdf

DOD Financial Management: Marine Corps Statement of Budgetary Resources Audit Results and Lessons Learned,
GAO-11-830, September 15 (75 pages)
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11830high.pdf

DOD Financial Management: Ongoing Challenges in Implementing the Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Plan,
GAO-11-932T, September 15 (25 pages)
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11932thigh.pdf

DOD Financial Management: Weaknesses in Controls over the Use of Public Funds and Related Improper Payments,
GAO-11-950T, September 22 (33 pages)
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11950Thigh.pdf

Inspectors General: Reporting on Independence, Effectiveness, and Expertise,
GAO-11-770, September 21 (32 pages)
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11770high.pdf

Management Report: Opportunities for Improvements in the Congressional Award Foundation's Internal Controls and Accounting Procedures,
GAO-11-825R, September 9 (17 pages) 

Troubled Asset Relief Program: Status of GAO Recommendations to Treasury,
GAO-11-906R, September 16 (20 pages) 

Afghanistan Governance: Performance-Data Gaps Hinder Overall Assessment of U.S. Efforts to Build Financial Management Capacity, 
GAO-11-907, September 20 (53 pages)
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11907high.pdf

Streamlining Government: Key Practices from Select Efficiency Initiatives Should Be Shared Governmentwide, 
GAO-11-908, September 30 (77 pages)
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d11908high.pdf

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Panel urges Congress to scrap annual budget process

Congress should switch from an annual budget process to a two-year cycle to provide greater stability for federal agencies and conduct better oversight of government programs, lawmakers and witnesses said during a hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Democrats and Republicans both expressed support for approving biennial agency budgets, or even multi-year appropriations, to fix what has become a routine, last-minute process of passing continuing resolutions to keep the government operating.

The current process is "no way to run a budget or a federal government," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said he used to favor an annual budget process, but the reality is that it's no longer possible to pass 13 spending bills each year in the current environment. "Can you imagine running one of these agencies operating on a continuing resolution for one month, three months, six months?" he asked, rhetorically, in his opening statement. In fiscal 2011, Congress passed 8 stopgap funding measures. Congress last passed all the appropriations bills on time in 1994.

Biennial budgeting would require Congress to enact a two-year budget during its first session, and then focus on oversight of federal programs, authorizing legislation and necessary measures to respond to emergencies or unforeseen events during the second session.

-Kellie Lunney, GovExec.com