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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

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