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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

GAO: Overlapping government programs cost billions

The federal government is doing a poor job of coordinating its responsibilities in dozens of areas, including food safety, breast cancer research, assistance to small business owners and home buyers and background investigations for federal job applicants — a disorganization that could be costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars annually, according to a new report (GAO-12-342SP).

The 428-page study by the Government Accountability Office details several significant cases of duplication, overlap or lack of coordination between agencies and programs.

Since last year’s report, the GAO said the Obama administration has addressed 110 of the 145 actions it proposed could be taken by the White House and federal agencies. Congress has addressed 12 of the 31 steps it proposed lawmakers could take, GAO said.

-Ed O'Keefe, WashingtonPost.com

Monday, February 27, 2012

GAO: Work needed to correct errors in TARP financial statements

The Government Accountability Office says it's found some sloppy accounting in the way Treasury is handling the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. The GAO calls the mistakes in financial reporting "significant" but not "material."

In the report, GAO said the Office of Financial Stability, the Treasury agency which implements TARP, improved its review and approval process for preparing its financial statements, but work still needs to be done to identify errors in draft documents.

The control weaknesses on the part of OFS did not signal a real loss of money, rather they exposed a risk of potential misstatements of the amounts reported in the financial statements.
-Michael O'Connell, FederalNewsRadio.com

Friday, February 24, 2012

CBO scores bill to require online posting of program spending

A bill requiring agencies for the first time to post spending at the program level on a central website would cost some $115 million over the next four years, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday. The average cost of implementing computer upgrades and administrative changes for the 24 major departments and agencies would be $1 million.

The Government Results Transparency Act (H.R. 3262) was introduced by Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., and cleared the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in November 2011. The bill would amend the Government Performance and Results Act to address “the glaring weaknesses in current federal program performance information posted on Performance.gov by establishing consistent data standards and identifiers across the federal government,” Guinta said in an op-ed written last fall for the Manchester Union-Leader.

Modeled on the broader Digital Accountability and Transparency Act backed by committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the Guinta bill would require agencies to publish their performance data on a website run by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board in a standardized format that makes data downloadable and easier to analyze.

-Charles S. Clark, GovExec.com

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Werfel shares State of the Union for Financial Management

The public rarely sees the inner workings of government agencies. If they did, they'd know, financial management is key to effective mission delivery. One of the most senior practitioners of the art and science of federal finance is Danny Werfel, the controller at the Office of Management and Budget.

Werfel spoke with Federal News Radio's Emily Kopp on The Federal Drive with Tom Temin from the Association of Government Accountants National Leadership conference in Washington. He shared some points from the State of the Union for Financial Management he will be presenting tomorrow at the conference.

-Michael O'Connell, FederalNewsRadio.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Treasury Consolidation Would Merge Debt Division.

The White House on Monday said it wanted to consolidate the Bureau of Public Debt and the Financial Management Service within the Fiscal Service, another Treasury division. They say it will “streamline and modernize operations.”

“The consolidation also strengthens Treasury’s leadership of Federal financial management issues, reduces costs, and enhances efficiencies by further modernizing Federal financial management processes,” the White House said. It’s unclear how much money it will actually save.

-Damian Palleta, WSJ.com

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Today's GAO Publication

Management Report: Improvements Are Needed in Internal Control Over Financial Reporting for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
GAO-12-415R, February 13.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

NRC taking financial system to cloud

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking their financial management system to a private cloud.

NRC awarded CGI Federal a $21.3 million contract to transition the Financial Accounting and Integrated Management Information System/Core Financial System from a federally-hosted environment to the company's Momentum Community Cloud infrastructure. NRC has been using CGI's Momentum system through the Interior Department's National Business Center.

The move to cloud is part of NRC's IT overhaul. Darren Ash, the agency chief information officer, said during an interview last June that improving the agency's technology capabilities was a major priority.

Financial management systems and other back-office systems are among the next areas the Office of Management and Budget wants agencies to consider moving to cloud providers. Former Federal CIO Vivek Kundra said in June agencies had more than 500 financial management and 500 human resources systems and moving them to the cloud could save hundreds of millions.

Additionally, current federal CIO Steven VanRoekel is pushing shared services and has a draft strategy out for public comment.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

NRC taking financial system to cloud

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking their financial management system to a private cloud.

NRC awarded CGI Federal a $21.3 million contract to transition the Financial Accounting and Integrated Management Information System/Core Financial System from a federally-hosted environment to the company's Momentum Community Cloud infrastructure. NRC has been using CGI's Momentum system through the Interior Department's National Business Center.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

How will agency tech, financial management initiatives fare in 2013 budget?

The massive federal budget request will be unveiled Monday, and some agencies may see some shrinkage in their IT budgets this coming year.

Anne Reed, the chairman of the board of ASI Government, joined In Depth with Francis Rose to discuss the 2013 budget request and its impact on technology and financial management.

Reed addressed whether much stock should be put in the official budget since Congress has a spotty track record of even considering, let alone passing, budgets much before the end of the fiscal year.

She also shared advice for agency managers, who may find themselves in the middle of a multi-year project that has its funding cut as well as potential areas for contractors.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

OMB hangs hopes on new tools to cut $50B in improper payments

Agencies cut the amount of improper payments by another $5 billion in 2011. But to reach the administration's three-year goal to reduce the amount of improper payments by $50 billion by the end of the year, they will need a lot of help.

"Obviously it's a big year ahead to try to make the President's goal," said Danny Werfel, the controller of the Office of Management and Budget after a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management hearing on improper payments Tuesday. "The good news is that just about every major program is trending downward."

OMB reported in November the improper payment error rate dropped to 4.7 percent in 2011 from 5.3 percent in 2010.

Over the last two years, the OMB-led effort reduced the amount of improper payments by $20 billion — meaning the government is $30 billion short of Obama's goal.

OMB, the Treasury Department and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency (RAT) Board have several new software and analytical tools in the final stages of testing and will be rolled out to more users this year.

The RAT Board is running a pilot with a small number of agencies who are using the federalaccountability.gov portal. Mike Wood, the board's executive director, said the fraud prevention tool will be expanded to non-Recovery Act spending using funding allocated in the 2012 appropriations bill.

Treasury and OMB are borrowing heavily from the RAT Board's experience and the technologies in its Recovery Operations Center.

Werfel said Treasury is testing tools in its new GoVerify.gov center.

GoVerify.gov is a one-stop portal that provides a variety of data sets making it easy for agencies to search before making contract awards or grants. It will not include every database at first, but Werfel said over time more will be added.

Agencies are under pressure to identify and fix those root causes. The 2010 improper payments bill calls for OMB and Congress to penalize agencies for not improving their improper payments error rate.

Werfel said the first reports to agency inspectors general are due in March.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Today's GAO Publications

Information Technology: SBA Needs to Strengthen Oversight of Its Loan Management and Accounting System Modernization.
GAO-12-295, January 25.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587936.pdf

Information Technology: SBA Needs to Strengthen Oversight of Its Loan Management and Accounting System Modernization by David Powner, director, information technology, before the House Committee on Small Business.
GAO-12-395T, February 8.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

HHS financial management practices ‘unacceptable,' lawmakers say

Two lawmakers have asked the Health and Human Services Department to explain financial management problems flagged in a recent audit, including violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which bars agencies from obligating funds without a congressional authorization or appropriation.

It is "unacceptable that HHS fails to maintain accurate financial records and fails to adhere to federal law designed to protect taxpayer dollars from mismanagement and waste," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., wrote in a Monday letter to the department's secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.

The letter cites findings in a November audit of the department's fiscal 2011 financial statements by Ernst & Young. Last July, HHS identified and declared "multiple instances of violations" of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the audit said, adding that a follow-up review found several other potential infractions.

Coburn and Boustany are also seeking an explanation of an approximately $500 million discrepancy between the department's general ledger and the Treasury Department's records, as well as almost $900 million reported on the financial statements of HHS operating divisions that could not be reconciled with supporting documentation. They asked Sebelius to respond by March 15.

-Sean Reilly, FederalTimes.com

Friday, February 03, 2012

OMB personnel changes are on the way

Changes are coming to the top ranks of the Office of Management and Budget just as the agency prepares to release President Obama’s proposed fiscal 2013 federal budget on Feb. 13.

With OMB Director Jacob J. Lew moving across the street to serve as White House chief of staff and Jeffrey D. Zients sliding into the acting director role, other staffers will be asked to pick up elements of Zients’s previously broad portfolio as deputy director for management.

Danny Werfel, who serves as OMB controller and head of the Office of Federal Financial Management, will also coordinate the administration’s work on financial management, government contracting, information technology, personnel policy and performance management, according to OMB spokeswoman Moira Mack.

-Ed O'Keefe, WashingtonPost.com

Thursday, February 02, 2012

House Budget Committee Advances Common-Sense Budget Process Reforms

House Budget Committee Advances Common-Sense Budget Process Reforms

Chairman Ryan applauds effort to bring greater transparency and accountability to the budget process

January 24, 2012
WASHINGTON – The House Budget Committee advanced three legislative reforms today to address the broken budget process. The reforms focused on bringing greater accountability and transparency, and stronger protections for hardworking Americans’ tax dollars. While the House Budget Committee works to advance solutions, today marks 1,000 days without any budget from the U.S. Senate.

H.R. 3582 – The Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2012

This bill would require that for major legislation that CBO prepare an analysis of the effect that the legislation would have on the U.S. economy. This macroeconomic impact analysis would be supplemental information in addition to the official congressional cost estimate of the legislation.

H.R. 3578 – The Baseline Reform Act of 2012

Under current law the baseline assumes ever higher spending as discretionary accounts are annually increased by inflation and for a number of other factors. This legislation levels the playing field and removes this pro-spending bias.

H.R. 3581 – The Budget and Accounting Transparency Act of 2012

This bill increases transparency in federal budgeting by reforming the way certain costs are calculated and requiring that certain costs incurred by the Federal government are included in the budget.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

CBO Releases "The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 to 2022"

The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 to 2022

Find the CBO Page Here...
Download the PDF...
Go to the CBO Blog...

Board approves next phase of defense accounting system

The Defense Department received a boost in meeting its goal to have clean financial books by 2017. The Defense Acquisition Board approved the next phase of development for the Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System or DEAMS.

The Board's approval means the Air Force, the U.S. Transportation Command and the Defense Finance and Accounting Services can develop an acquisition strategy and begin deploying the system across the Air Force in 2012.

Congress mandated DoD have balanced books by 2017. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta set a goal of 2014 for a partial audit around its Statement of Budgetary Resources, an accounting of money in and money out that could withstand the scrutiny of professional auditors.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com