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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Feds fail to implement fixes that could save billions

WASHINGTON - The next time you hear government officials insist they're doing all they can to save federal money or ensure safety, consider this: the U.S. Transportation Department has yet to complete more than 600 action items, some dating back to 2004, that were recommended by its internal watchdog to help protect taxpayers.

That eye-popping statistic is contained in a little-noticed letter that DOT Inspector General Calvin L. Scovell III sent to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform over the Christmas holidays.

The "open recommendations" -- as they are called in bureaucratic parlance -- are fixes identified by the inspector general to improve safety or prevent hundreds of millions of dollars of future waste, fraud and abuse that have not been fully implemented and documented, or have been outright rejected by federal agencies.

At the Transportation Department, which spends between $70 billion and $100 billion a year on highways, bridges, railroads and airports, there are lots of fixes lined up on the tarmac waiting for takeoff. And the backlog has grown by about a third since the spring of 2011 alone.

Some fixes have huge potential benefits. For instance, a recent audit identified more than $2 billion in DOT grant monies that were sitting on the books but had not been used. "These are idle funds that DOT agencies can use for other projects to improve transportation infrastructure and create jobs," Scovell's letter emphasized.

Transportation Department spokesman Bill Adams declined comment Wednesday, referring to the IG's letter that stated Transportation officials were working on some of the highest priority problems with a goal of implementing fixes in 2013.

The dynamic at the Transportation Department is being repeated all across government, even as Congress and the White House struggle to reach a deal to cut spending to avert the government from going over the "fiscal cliff" next Monday. In fact, inspectors general at various federal agencies have told Issa's committee about thousands of unresolved fixes since 2009 that could save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars over the next several years.

Congress created inspectors general at various federal agencies more than three decades ago to act as independent watchdogs to root out waste, fraud and abuse from government spending. The IGs and their staffs conduct hundreds of audits a year, acting as sirens for problems ranging from waste in the stimulus program to ethical lapses among Pentagon officials.

But as the size of federal spending has ballooned in an era of trillion-dollar annual deficits, the IGs' work hasn't always garnered the response it needs from top Cabinet agency officials, the White House or Congress.

For instance, there currently are vacancies at a half-dozen major federal agencies that don't have a Senate-confirmed inspector general, either because Congress hasn't approved or President Barack Obama hasn't nominated them. The vacancies include such big-spending agencies as the Pentagon and the Interior Department, according to the IGNet.gov Web site.

And the backlog of pending solutions is also growing at some agencies.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Secretary Geithner Sends Debt Limit Letter to Congress

Today, Secretary Geithner sent the following letter to Congress regarding the debt limit.
December 26, 2012
The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC  20510
Dear Mr. Leader:
I am writing to inform you that the statutory debt limit will be reached on December 31, 2012, and to notify you that the Treasury Department will shortly begin taking certain extraordinary measures authorized by law to temporarily postpone the date that the United States would otherwise default on its legal obligations. 
These extraordinary measures, which are explained in detail in an appendix​ to this letter, can create approximately $200 billion in headroom under the debt limit.  Under normal circumstances, that amount of headroom would last approximately two months.  However, given the significant uncertainty that now exists with regard to unresolved tax and spending policies for 2013, it is not possible to predict the effective duration of these measures.....

-Matt Anderson, U.S. Department of the Treasury

Thursday, December 20, 2012

OMB delaying budget passback guidance, creating uncertainty

The fiscal 2014 budget is on hold.

Agency officials across the government have not received budget passback documents and likely will not until the White House and Congress agree on deficit reduction steps or both parties give up and let sequestration take place. An Office of Management and Budget official confirmed in an email to Federal News Radio the administration "has held off on passbacks to agencies to determine if adjustments will be needed based on the current negotiations. No decisions have been made at this point regarding budget timing." OMB traditionally sends passback, or budget guidance, which includes both actual spending numbers and policy guidance for the current and upcoming fiscal year, right around Thanksgiving. But several long-time senior agency leaders said they can't remember a time when OMB held up the communications this long.

OMB did provide agencies with initial planning guidance in May, but nothing since departments submitted their spending requests to the White House in September.

The OMB official said they asked agencies for additional information and analysis after September to update the estimates in the Sequestration Transparency Act report. The administration is using the data to finalize calculations of the spending reductions that would be required. The request was of a technical nature. For example, OMB requested the sequestrable federal administrative expenses in otherwise exempt mandatory accounts.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

CGI Cloud takes Railroad Retirement Board to the cloud for $66M

CGI Federal Inc. has won a $21 million contract to transition and host the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board’s financial management systems in the CGI Momentum Community Cloud.

This award has one implementation year, one base year and nine option years, the company said.

Under the contract, GCI will convert the legacy financial management system to its community cloud, delivering end-to-end support, such as conversion, training, change management, hosting and maintenance.

- Mark Hoover, WashingtonTechnology.com

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

GAO: the Army payroll system is a mess

If you’ve been on Army active duty during the past couple of years, you might want to take another look at your pay stubs. The Government Accountability Office today released a report (GAO-13-28) that detailed major problems with the Army’s $47 billion annual military payroll accounts.

The agency found that the Army “is unable to track and collect data on pay errors for active duty soldiers that occur due to over payments, under payments, data entry errors and fraud,” according to a bipartisan statement issued jointly by Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Scott Brown, R-Mass., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., and Todd Platts, R-Pa.

GAO found a lot of errors, and said many “went undetected for lengthy periods of time, including some that were not detected for up to 2 years or until the soldier left the Army.”

-Bill McMichael, Delaware Online

Friday, December 07, 2012

Interior revamps business center

The Interior Department’s National Business Center has been restructured and is now the Interior Business Center, according to a Dec. 6 announcement.

Officials say the restructuring will allow the center to operate more efficiently. The shared-services provider offers business solutions to Interior and other federal agencies.

“The new, streamlined Interior Business Center focuses on delivering a core set of complementary business services in the areas of human resources, acquisition, financial management and indirect cost services,” said Rhea Suh, the department’s assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, in a statement.

Suh said Interior officials surveyed customers and employees, conducted strategic assessments, and met with focus groups to find ways to transform the center. The department is taking a phased, cost-sensitive approach to the transition.

- Mathew Weigelt, FCW.com