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Thursday, July 26, 2012

GFEBS completes final Wave for Full Deployment - changes way Army does business

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, July 24, 2012) -- During a time of increased scrutiny of government spending, the General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS) steps forward to transform the way Army manages its finance and real property accounting.

On July 1, GFEBS completed the final Wave for Full Deployment and supporting over 50,000 customers world-wide to facilitate the management of nearly $140 billion in the General Fund, and an additional $80 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds.

Previously, the U.S. Army's finances were tracked by multiple systems that were increasingly inefficient, costly and outdated, some more than 30 years old. In an effort to gain visibility over finances and inventories, many Army commands established their own methods and internal systems. These antiquated and fragmented systems impacted military leaders' ability to make informed decisions because there was no clear picture of full resources. This ultimately affected the Soldier.

GFEBS transformed this approach. The GFEBS solution will subsume 107 legacy systems into an enterprise-wide system integrating financial, real property, cost management and performance data. Leaders have visibility through GFEBS to data that has never been available through a single access point, taking into account the true costs of operations, functions, and organizations when making budgeting decisions in support of war fighting capabilities. GFEBS allows leadership to make smarter, faster decisions, ranging from provisioning troops in the midst of battle to budget planning.

GFEBS is the Army's response to the 1990 Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act, which mandates federal agencies to centralize their finance systems to better account for their spending, and the 1996 Federal Financial Management Improvement Act (FFMIA), requiring federal financial management systems to provide accurate, reliable and timely financial management information to the government's managers.

In the last three years, GFEBS grew from one million transactions and $1.2 billion in obligations in fiscal year 2009 to 20 million transactions and $30.8 billion in obligations in fiscal year 2011. GFEBS currently processes approximately one million transactions a day and $140 billion of the general fund annually.

Today's GAO Publication

Grants Management: Improving the Timeliness of Grant Closeouts by Federal Agencies and Other Grants Management Challenges, by Stanley J. Czerwinski, director, strategic issues, before the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
GAO-12-704T, July 25.

Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592996.pdf

Thursday, July 19, 2012

AGA Research Report: Government-wide Financial Reporting

AGA Research Report Addresses Root Causes of a Material-Weakness Cited in the Audit of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Process for Compiling the Consolidated Financial Statements of the U.S. Government

Research team offers short-term and long-term recommendations to help the U.S. government achieve a "clean" audit opinion 
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Jul 18, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Over the past 15 years, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury), in cooperation with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has issued the annual Financial Report of the U.S. Government (FR), presenting the financial position and condition of the nation. For each of those years, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a disclaimer of audit opinion on the Consolidated Financial Statements (CFS) of the federal government, which is included in the FR.

The Association of Government Accountants (AGA) undertook an independent research study to develop recommendations and a plan of action to address a GAO-cited material weakness that contributes to GAO's disclaimer of opinion on the federal government CFS. Specifically, this long-standing, unresolved issue pertains to the identified weaknesses in the current reconciliation and compilation processes Treasury employs to consolidate some 150 federal agencies' financial data into the CFS.

View the Report (PDF)

The report is the product of AGA's Corporate Partner Advisory Group (CPAG) research project sponsored by Ernst & Young, Grant Thornton, Kearney & Company, KPMG and PwC.

Werfel: New laws could set back transparency efforts

Lawmakers should not pass new legislation that could upend the administration’s progress on making government spending more transparent, said Danny Werfel, controller at the Office of Management and Budget. Werfel told a Senate committee that lawmakers need to seriously think about the impact of new statutes on ongoing efforts to improve government accounting and tracking its money.

The administration has been implementing new laws, such as the Improper Payment Elimination and Recovery Act and another law that updates the Government Performance and Results Act, called the GPRA Modernization Act.

As Congress considers new transparency measures, Werfel offered a key question for senators to ask themselves when considering proposed legislation: Would the new law reinforce current objectives, or would it move the government in different directions?

Nevertheless, transparency legislation is moving through Congress. In April, the House passed by voice vote its Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, or the DATA Act (H.R. 2146). The bill would create the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Commission, which is to succeed the board that oversaw spending reports for the 2009 economic stimulus law. In addition, agencies would be required to submit their spending data to a new platform with consistent electronic identifiers and markup language.

-Mathew Weigelt, FCW.com

Today's GAO Publication

Government Transparency: Efforts to Improve Information on Federal Spending, by Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
GAO-12-913T, July 18.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592634.pdf

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

IG: DoD may miss audit deadlines because of delays in system upgrades

The Defense Department could miss deadlines for improving its financial audits because of delays in six modernization projects affecting financial management, logistics and other areas, the agency’s inspector general said in a report released Monday.

Those projects — known as enterprise resource planning systems — have collectively experienced $8 billion in cost overruns and schedule delays of a year-and-a-half or more in development and implementation, the report said (PDF).

Besides cutting into hoped-for cost savings, the delays increase the odds that the Pentagon will not meet a statutory September 2017 target for passing a full financial audit. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s 2014 goal of successfully completing a budget audit — one of four steps involved in meeting the full audit-readiness goal — is also at growing risk, the report said.

-Sean Reilly, FederalTimes.com

Monday, July 16, 2012

DHS management failures threaten terrorism prevention, experts warn

Management problems at the Homeland Security Department threaten to undermine efforts to prevent terrorism in the U.S., lawmakers and experts with close knowledge of the department's operations said Thursday.

The department has played a key role in stopping all large-scale attacks since 9/11, but it still faces significant integration challenges, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) at a Thursday hearing by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

She said DHS' continued presence — since its creation — on the Government Accountability Office's High Risk List as evidence.

DHS opened its doors in 2003, consolidating responsibilities from 22 other departments and agencies. The goal of Congress in creating DHS was to eliminate stovepipes that made it difficult for agencies to share information and resources aimed at preventing terrorism.

But nine years later, DHS has failed to adequately support key mission areas, said former department Inspector General Richard Skinner.

Skinner said DHS is lagging especially in the areas of financial management, acquisition management, IT management and grants management-most of which GAO has included on its high risk list.

-Rubin Gomez, FederalNewsRadio.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

GAT Board to finish testing spending oversight tools this summer

Agencies are conducting a series of pilot programs to improve the oversight and processing of grants, contracts, loans and other spending data.

The test programs are part of how the Government Accountability and Transparency (GAT) Board is implementing three broad-based recommendations.

President Barack Obama created the GAT Board in June 2011 in an executive order. Just last week, the President announced Richard Ginman, the director of Defense Department procurement policy, will be the chairman of the board. In that role, he replaced Earl Devaney, who retired on Dec. 31.

"[T] he GATB has been working closely with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which established a new benchmark for how we should collect, display and oversee federal spending data under the Recovery Act through Recovery.gov and its innovative Recovery Operations Center," wrote Danny Werfel, the Office of Management and Budget's controller, in a blog post Monday. "Together with the Recovery Board, federal agencies, OMB and others, the GATB is a critical driver of continued progress in our forthcoming efforts to make federal spending data more complete, more transparent, and more reliable."

The board made three recommendations to Obama in December, and since then have been implementing each one of them on a pilot basis.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Data Act proposal: Companies suggest ways government data could be more transparent and better analyzed

Data mining by private companies could save the government billions if a proposed government transparency act is made law, according to presentations at a forum in Washington on Tuesday.

The vendors, including Microsoft, Teradata of Dayton, Ohio, SAP, the German software giant and MarkLogic of McLean, showed the types of data that they said could be mined from accurate and comprehensive records if the Senate passes the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act.

The act, proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and passed by the House in April and now pending in the Senate would establish an independent board that would track all federal spending. The board would maintain a Web site similar to usaspending.gov, which the Sunlight Foundation says shows $1.3 trillion in spending discrepancies.

Issa and Senate co-sponsor Mark Warner (D-Va.) say the bill could prevent the waste and abuse of federal money.

-Timothy R Smith, WashingtonPost.com

Friday, July 06, 2012

OMB tells CFOs to run SAVE Award ideas by broader audience

The White House is using a restaurant-style rating system for the 2012 SAVE Award contest, and it wants agency chief financial officers to be the food critics.

The administration is asking federal employees to rank money-saving ideas with one, two or three stars — with three being the top-rated, most likely to save the government money.

"In addition to reviewing and rating each SAVE Award submission, CFOs should pay particular attention to those submissions that their agency ranks most favorably," wrote Danny Werfel, the controller of the Office of Management and Budget, in a June 27 memo to CFOs. "The MAX Community site will include a check-box to indicate that the 'Idea is Recommended' by the agency. Agencies should provide this designation to the best candidates for consideration of the SAVE Award. This designation should be limited to between five and 10 ideas per agency, depending on the size of the agency and the number of submissions. Before an agency indicates that a particular idea is recommended by checking this box, the CFO must confirm with internal agency programmatic, operations, communications and other stakeholders, as well as agency leadership, that all parties are comfortable with moving forward with the idea should it ultimately be selected as a finalist for the SAVE Award."

The administration will kick off the 2012 SAVE Award contest in a few weeks and provide agencies with a list of ideas in the next two months, Werfel said.

"To avoid repeating ideas, to the degree practical, agencies are encouraged to review recommended SAVE award submissions from prior years to determine whether analysis has already been done about the validity and merits of a particular idea," Werfel wrote. "These ratings and recommendations will serve as the starting point for a deliberative process to determine which submissions may be considered as finalists for the SAVE Award. Following submission of agency ratings of SAVE Award candidates, OMB staff will review the submissions and engage further with agencies as appropriate."

The 2012 guidance is different than the 2011 memo. Werfel is asking CFOs to work more closely with the program areas before finalizing their list of money saving ideas.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com