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Friday, November 30, 2012

Senate votes to require DHS clean audit by 2013

The Homeland Security Department would be required to conduct and pass a full financial audit under a bill unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — all three high-ranking members of a Senate subcommittee on federal financial management — introduced the  Department of Homeland Security Audit Requirement Target (DART) Act late last year. The DART Act requires the agency, long characterized by the Government Accountability Office as being at high-risk for waste and abuse, to reach a clean audit opinion by 2013.

"Clean, auditable financial statements can provide the roadmap we need to identify potential savings, avoid waste and fraud, and move towards a culture of thrift," Carper, the subcommittee's chairman, said in a statement. "This bill requires some very important, but straightforward steps that will ensure the Department of Homeland Security can pass a financial audit."

The agency announced earlier this month it is audit-ready and "has made an attempt to pass a full-scope audit," according to Carper, but has yet to actually do so.

The bill also requires the agency's chief financial officer to submit to Congress a plan to modernize the agency's financial systems, which will be evaluated by the comptroller general.

A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Todd Platts (R-Penn.) last summer but remains stuck in committee.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, the House passed a somewhat related measure, the DHS Accountability Act, which sets up an advisory commission to making recommend improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of DHS management.

-Jack Moore, FederalNewsRadio.com

Monday, November 26, 2012

How the Air Force blew $1 billion on a dud system

The Air Force’s controller, Jamie Morin, admitted publicly in April that the service spent seven years and $1 billion on a logistics management system that had “negligible” capability.

But that’s not what drove Air Force leaders to finally cancel the Expeditionary Combat Support System project this month.

And it wasn’t because technical glitches forced the Air Force to repeatedly scale back expectations for the new system — from replacing 240 legacy systems, as originally planned, to just 12.

In the end, officials canceled ECSS because continuing it would have cost another $1 billion to gain a quarter of the capability it was originally supposed to have, with fielding delayed until 2020.

Johnson attributed the project’s extensive problems to an array of factors.

The project became plagued with technical glitches and delays.

The system had once been touted as revolutionizing the management of parts and equipment. The ECSS’ success was a critical component in the Defense Department’s strategy for meeting a congressional deadline for having audit-worthy books by 2017.

The ECSS was among almost a dozen “enterprise resource planning” systems undertaken by the Defense Department and the military services to modernize management of logistics, finances and other business operations. The systems are supposed to replace numerous smaller-scale legacy systems that are decades old in some cases.

But while the ECSS is the only one that has been canceled so far, a half-dozen other enterprise systems are years behind schedule and a combined $8 billion over their original budgets, the Defense Department’s inspector general said in a July report. The delays not only undercut anticipated cost savings, but also risk putting the department behind in reaching the 2017 goal to clean up its books, the IG said.

Lawmakers have already asked the Air Force for a briefing on the ECSS cancellation, according to an aide to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who is in line to become the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee next year.

-Sean Reilly, FederalTimes.com

Friday, November 23, 2012

Werfel: Gov't avoids $47B in overpayments

The federal government avoided making $47 billion in overpayments over the last three years. In addition, the governmentwide error rate dropped from a high 5.4 percent in Fiscal Year 2009 to 4.3 percent in FY2012.

Adding in the number of improper payments avoided during the same three-year period by the Department of Defense in commercial contracts, the overpayment savings rise to $70 billion and the governmentwide error rate sinks to 3.7 percent. Danny Werfel, the controller of the Office of Management and Budget, announced these figures Wednesday in a blog post on the agency's blog, OMBlog.

Werfel wrote that error rates dropped in major programs across the government, including Medicare Fee-for- Service, Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit and SNAP (Food Stamps). He added the Department of Labor is also working with states to reduce Unemployment Insurance improper payments.

- Michael O'Connell, FederalNewsRadio.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Homeland Security achieves new level in auditability

The Homeland Security Department’s decade-long struggle to integrate components and achieve clean books passed a major milestone with the release this month of DHS’ annual financial report, officials told Government Executive. For the first time, the department was given a “qualified audit opinion,” having submitted five statements of financial management for review.

The key area of improvement was auditing of general property, plant and equipment management, particularly in its Coast Guard organization, officials said.

Undersecretary for Management Rafael Borras praised DHS Chief Financial Officer Peggy Sherry for her “in-depth risk assessment of the issues,” and for working “closely with our component agencies to create mitigation plans” and for meeting “regularly with component CFOs to ensure adherence to the established milestones and remediation plans.” Other partners included DHS’ Office of the Chief Procurement Officer and the Office of the Chief Readiness Support Officer.

When the department was stood up in 2003, auditors faced 30 significant deficiency conditions, of which 18 were material weaknesses, Sherry explained, so progress required work with the Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, Congress, the Office of Management and Budget and GAO to implement the 2004 DHS Financial Accountability Act.

When the 2011 audit produced qualified opinions in two areas, Secretary Janet Napolitano pushed for execution of a “deeper dive” into all five statements in 2012. With billions in property for the whole department spread nationwide, Sherry added, it took major collaboration to audit them all at the same time.

“The full-scope audit opinion,” Sherry said, “is confirmation of DHS’ ongoing commitment to instituting sound financial practices to safeguard taxpayer dollars. We’ve provided reasonable assurance that internal controls over financial reporting as required by law are effective. With the exceptions of a few areas, we have good business practices in place to ensure our financial statements are accurate.”

DHS’ progress in general management reforms drew praise a year ago from Comptroller Danny Werfel, but its audit issues remain on the Government Accountability Office’s high-risk list.

-Charles S. Clark, GovExec.com

Microsoft Dynamics Now Meets Gov’t Security Requirements

Microsoft recently announced the availability of cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics business services designed to meet the security and functionality requirements of U.S. federal government agencies.

The services were designed to enable government organizations to collaborate, manage data and improve processes, while leveraging the potential flexibility and cost savings of a cloud-based delivery model hosted by Microsoft partner Layered Technologies Inc.

Intended to meet the National Institute of Standards and Technology security and control standards required of federal agencies for Federal Information Security Management Act compliance, the Layered Tech environment includes a private cloud with dedicated hardware and physical storage for the tightest security requirements, Microsoft said.

A set of Microsoft Dynamics services will be available on the new infrastructure, designed to allow government agencies to provide functions such as workforce management, task management, field inspection, intelligence gathering, call center interactions, financial management, grants management and emergency response.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Beef jerky, reality shows, beer: Coburn tells DoD to cut it all out

Beef jerky, a microbrewery and windmills are among the hundreds of items the Defense Department is not only spending money on, but producing each year.
 And Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wants the Pentagon to cut it out.  Coburn said Thursday, DoD will spend almost $68 billion on non-military goods and services over the next 10 years. Some recent examples include a smartphone app to help military members manage their caffeine intake and the sponsorship of a workshop by the Defense Advanced Research Projects  Agency called the 100 Year Starship project, which included a session called, "Did Jesus die for Klingons too?"
Coburn released a new report, called The Department of Everything, in an attempt to shine light on what he calls wasteful spending during a time of ever-tightening budgets.

Coburn identified five areas that he said had nothing to do with national security yet represent a significant chunk of the annual $600 billion-plus Pentagon budget:
  • Non-military research and development: $6 billion.
  • Education, specifically on schools on military bases: $10.7 billion.
  • Tuition assistance that mirrors a benefit from the Veterans Affairs Department: $4.5 billion.
  • Grocery stores on military bases run by the DoD: $9 billion.
  • More than 300,000 military members performing civilian jobs and numerous general officers: $37 billion.
Coburn also said the Pentagon spent $700 million on alternative energy research that was duplicative or unnecessary.

Coburn said every area across DoD must be reviewed, analyzed and decided if it is something that is core to the military's mission.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Baitman starts HHS commodity consolidation effort with HR systems

The Department of Health and Human Services soon will move its human resources systems to a federal shared service provider.

Frank Baitman, the HHS chief information officer, said the goal is for HHS to stop doing things they have little or no real expertise in, and focus on the mission-critical functions of the agency.

In fact, the decision to have the human resources system hosted and managed by someone else is one that will be made for several other commodity technology systems in the coming years.

HHS put its commodity IT through the PortfolioStat process earlier this year.

Baitman said because of the federated nature of the agency, his office has little insight into what the operating divisions bought and maintained.

Baitman said HHS will initially focus on enterprise services for email and collaboration, and the HR system, and eventually move toward using the cloud to improve interagency information sharing.

HHS expects the move to a shared service provider for HR systems to save it about 25 percent annually. Baitman said the migration could be done in mid-2014.

HHS also implemented Yammer, a Microsoft tool that creates a secure social network for an organization, a few weeks ago.

Baitman said HHS also is developing a mobile strategy that likely will include a way to implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) approach.

All of these steps Baitman is taking to modernize the agency's systems and networks will be supported by an upcoming enterprisewide cloud computing services contract.

To help manage this modernization, Baitman said a new HHSwide governance group so the programs or divisions considering cloud services can ensure their plans fit in with the broader plans.

He also is creating a vendor management organization to help manage and buy commodity IT services.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Oracle Federal Forum Session Highlights for Federal Financial Managers

6th Annual Oracle Federal Forum 
Wednesday, 14 November 2012
7:30 AM – 4:00 PM

Wardman Park Marriott
2660 Woodley Road NW
Washington, DC 20008

Forum Tracks
(Session 1 – 10:15 a.m., Session 2 – 11:25 a.m., Session 3 – 12:35 p.m.)

Financial, Budget and Resource Management

  • Oracle Financial Management Product Update
    • Oracle continues to be a leading provider of enterprise application solutions to the federal government. Cliff Godwin, Senior Vice President for Oracle E-Business Suite Development, and John Webb, Vice President for PeopleSoft Product Strategy, will provide a product update of these two applications solutions. They will also discuss benefits and directions that impact Oracle federal customers as these product solutions continue to evolve.

      Cliff Godwin, Senior Vice President, E-Business Suite Development, Oracle
      John Webb, Vice President for PeopleSoft Product Strategy, Oracle
  • Enterprise Performance Management and Business Intelligence Customer Success Stories
    • The requirement for federal agencies to translate layers of data into useful information has never been greater. The federal budget process is one example of this requirement; when setting budgets an agency needs to determine and justify the resources needed to deliver on programmatic goals and objectives. A number of federal agencies have implemented Oracle Enterprise Performance Management solutions to support the budget formulation, execution, and analysis phases of the spending cycle. This session will feature customers who have done just that and have achieved real value.

      Crissman Nichols, Budget Analyst for the United States Census Bureau, Budget Division, Systems and Reporting Staff
      Neeraj Sharma, Infrastructure Lead, Office of Finance and Accounting, Indian Health Service
  • Deriving Benefits from Shared Services
    • The federal government has adopted a “shared first” policy when it comes to implementing new financial management systems. As a number of agencies are evaluating how to upgrade or improve current systems they are examining how shared services can provide a positive return on investment for their agency. This session will share solutions from three agencies that have adopted a shared services approach and have achieved significant gains.

      Dennis Coleman, Chief Financial Officer, Office of the CFO, Office of Personnel Management
      Kristine Prael, Deputy Chief, Finance and Procurement Systems Division, U. S. Department of the Interior, Interior Business Center
      Paul E. Deuley, Director, ARC Division of Franchise Services, Department of the Treasury
Workshops and Afternoon Sessions: (These sessions all run from 1:45 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.)

Oracle E-Business Suite Federal Financials Development Update
  • Attend this session to hear the latest information on development's planned investment areas and regulatory changes we are tracking, including:
    • Governmentwide Treasury Account Symbol Adjusted Trial Balance System (GTAS)
    • Intra-Governmental Payment and Collections (IPAC)
    • Secure Payment System (SPS)
    • Payment Application Manager (PAM)
    • Payment Information Repository (PIR)
    • System for Award Management (SAM)

      Mike Barker, Director, Federal Programs, Oracle

PeopleSoft Federal Financials Development Update
  • Attend this session to hear the latest information on development's planned investment areas and regulatory changes we are tracking, including:
    • Governmentwide Treasury Account Symbol Adjusted Trial Balance System (GTAS)
    • Intra-Governmental Payment and Collections (IPAC)
    • Secure Payment System (SPS)
    • Payment Application Manager (PAM)
    • System for Award Management (SAM)
    • Payment Information Repository (PIR)
    • Do Not Pay Business Center
      This presentation will also include an overview of the new 9.2 general features and functionality that provide value for all markets.

      Terry Thomas, Director PeopleSoft Financials Product Management, Oracle  
View All Sessions Here

Register Here

Friday, November 02, 2012

For Federal CFOs, the Pressure is on

Do you feel like the frog being boiled? Only four years ago, it was cool to be in government again – but now the pot’s boiling on extra high. The heat continues to rise with the taxpayers’ distrust of the management and stewardship of their money; whether it’s anything from ballooning deficits to irksome conference spending – the federal CFO community is in the thick of things. And the view from the bunker is not pretty either, as we emerge from the turbulence of continuing resolutions, threats of government shutdowns, whilst still toiling away under the cloud of sequestration. And do not forget what we all did to make the execution of the Recovery Act a success with transparency in reporting and very little instances of fraud, waste, and abuse?

As we approach the presidential election and despite recent history and events, there has been somewhat of a hiatus from new management initiatives – but expect this to change quickly (no matter who wins the election) with a newly invigorated administration, some severe externalities hanging over us, and a backlog of legislative proposals aimed at improving how the government spends its money. The federal CFO community will continue to experience increasing pressure and demands to keep performing with ever eroding levels of resources. I see that these challenges are starting to drive an emerging agenda for the federal CFO to address and work on over the next handful of years. So, here are four of the bigger things I see on the agenda:

1. Maintain the measure of fiscal integrity;
2. Build a relentless focus on cost management;
3. Mitigate severe human capital risks; and
4. Find capital to invest in new business systems (or find someone else to run them).

-Owen Barwell, GovExec.com