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Thursday, October 25, 2012

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.  Agencies submit award or proposed award data to the board. The board then uses these tools to find potential issues with the vendor and passes that information back to the awarding agency. The agency can then decide what steps to take next.

Kingsberry said agencies can and should take a pause to make sure the funds are not falling victim to waste, fraud or abuse.

The Recovery Board's experience with putting software in the cloud has been successful. It first moved its site to the public cloud in April 2010.

Kingsberry said the board saved $750,000 by using Amazon Web Services and moved that money into mission needs to detect waste, fraud and abuse.

With the audit tools, the board will follow a similar path — starting small in the board's own data center to create the baseline and then moving it to the cloud, Kingsberry said.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Friday, October 19, 2012

OMB to give CIOs IT hunting license through broadening of authorities

The Office of Management and Budget is preparing to mandate changes to how agencies designate both the title and the role of their chief information officer.

Steven VanRoekel, the federal CIO, said the initiative is about giving CIOs the ability to reach into the dark corners of the agency where IT spending hides.

He said CIOs need "to have the authority, the seat at the table in the Investment Review Board and then reach down and look at that. We are looking at starting to institutionalize that. This office put out a memo about a year ago — the first one that was issued by me on this topic — and we've been really working hard to drive that behavior."

The hidden IT is just one example of why OMB believes CIOs need more oversight and authority. VanRoekel said there are too many instances where the CIO doesn't know his or her agency is spending on IT until it's basically too late.

This would be OMB's second major modification to give CIOs more authority over their bureaus. In August 2011, OMB issued a memo putting CIOs in charge of all commodity IT spending across their agency.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

CFOs remain tepid on financial shared services

Federal chief financial officers say finding efficiencies in their agency is among their top priorities. But moving to a financial management shared service provider or even to individual shared applications doesn't rank high on their to-do lists.
 In an exclusive Federal News Radio survey of CFOs and deputy CFOs conducted in August, 55 percent of the respondents rated spending money more wisely as their top priority. But at the same time, 36 percent rated moving to the Internet Payment Portal or other financial management shared services as their fourth highest priority, while only 9 percents ranked it as high as third overall.
Adam Goldberg, executive architect in the Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation (OFIT), said CFOs are showing a greater interest in shared services, but they haven't fully committed to the concept.

Federal News Radio conducted the anonymous survey to find out how CFOs and deputy CFOs are dealing with and preparing for sequestration, budget cuts and other challenges. We sent the survey to 58 federal budget officers and received a 24 percent response rate. Out of those who responded, 46 percent were with a cabinet-level agency and 39 percent were with a large agency. All respondents said they are a career official and not a political appointee. This is the second survey of CFOs in 2012. The first survey also showed CFOs weren't ready to move to shared service providers either.  But now nine months later and with the release of the Office of Management and Budget's shared services strategy, agency budget executives remain uncertain about using these common systems. Goldberg said CFOs are starting to come around to the idea especially as budgets shrink and their workforce retires.

OFIT is leading an effort to develop several shared services, including electronic invoicing, centralized receivables collections and intergovernmental transactions.  Goldberg said there is greater interest to use these one-offs as opposed to moving an entire financial management system to a shared service provider.  OFIT is getting ready to start a two-year pilot with the centralized receivables collections application. The program will help agencies collect outstanding debts, which could be for a travel expense, a fine or a penalty. Treasury hired a contractor to act as a debt collector, who would take over the billing, the notices and the follow ups that need to take place.

Goldberg said agencies could save $300 million-to-$350 million annually when it is fully scaled across the government.

In addition the debt collection initiative, OFIT's e-invoicing program could save the government millions. Goldberg said at full capacity, agencies could save between $400 million-and-$450 million a year.

-Jason Miller, Federal NewsRadio.com

Federal Drive Interviews -- Oct. 10, 2012

Denise Wupartner, Clifton Larson Allen

A group of financial experts is working to make federal spending more understandable and transparent to the public. The Office of Federal Financial Management and the Chief Financial Officers Council has moved the idea of a Statement of Spending to the front burner.