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Monday, January 28, 2013

Lawmakers call on President to fill widespread IG vacancies

House and Senate lawmakers have called on President Barack Obama to fill inspector general vacancies at six large agencies, including open spots at the departments of Homeland Security and State.

"The value of the inspectors general goes beyond dollars; these offices also help reveal and prosecute wrongdoing, and promote the integrity of government," Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee wrote in a Jan. 24 letter to the president. "They provide invaluable support to Congressional budgeting and oversight work. Inspectors General are an essential component of government oversight."

"Inspectors General occupy a unique role — tasked with 'speaking truth to power' and with dual reporting obligations to their agency head and to Congress," the letter stated. "Those unique pressures may be especially challenging for an acting inspector general, serving without the endorsement of presidential selection and Senate confirmation."

The letter also pointed to vacancies at the departments of Interior, Labor and State. The latter has not had a permanent leader since January 2008 — the longest vacancy among the 73 IG positions across the federal government, according to the Council on Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE).

In a separate letter, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee urged the president to appoint a permanent IG at State.

"During your entire first term as President, you did not nominate anyone to serve in this critical position," Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in the letter. "This failure evidences a clear disregard for the Inspector General Act and the will of Congress. It is particularly troubling given that, in addition to combating waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement, the State Department inspector general is required by the Foreign Service Act of 1980 to perform inspections of the department's bureaus and posts around the world."

-Jack Moore, FederalNewsRadio.com

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Today's GAO Publication

Financial Regulatory Reform: 
Regulators Have Faced Challenges Finalizing
Key Reforms and Unaddressed Areas Pose Potential Risks, 
GAO-13-195, January 23

Monday, January 21, 2013

GAO Cannot Audit Federal Government, Cites Department Of Defense Problems

WASHINGTON -- The Government Accountability Office said Thursday that it could not complete an audit of the federal government, pointing to serious problems with the Department of Defense.
Along with the Pentagon, the GAO cited the Department of Homeland Security as having problems so significant that it was impossible for investigators to audit it. The DHS got a qualified audit for fiscal year 2012, and is seeking an unqualified audit for 2013.
The report released by the GAO on Friday indicates serious accounting problems at two of the largest government agencies: the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Defense has a net cost of $799.1 billion to the federal budget, while the Department of Homeland Security has a net cost of $48.7 billion.
"The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) cannot render an opinion on the 2012 consolidated financial statements of the federal government because of widespread material internal control weaknesses, significant uncertainties, and other limitations," the agency said. "As was the case in 2011, the main obstacles to a GAO opinion on the accrual-based consolidated financial statements were: Serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense (DOD) that made its financial statements unauditable. The federal government’s inability to adequately account for and reconcile intragovernmental activity and balances between federal agencies. The federal government’s ineffective process for preparing the consolidated financial statements."
In the report, the GAO also said that the federal government could not reconcile transfers between federal agencies and had an ineffective process for preparing financial statements.
The report lists the Department of Defense as having the third-largest cost to the federal government, at 21 percent. That value is slightly behind the costs of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Social Security Administration, which both have high costs because they run the large social insurance programs Medicare and Social Security.

- Luke Johnson, Ryan Grim, HuffingtonPost.com

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thankless DOD Inspector General routinely ignored

What do you call someone with all of the authority to hold public officials accountable, but none of the power required to enforce anything? An inspector general.

At the office of the Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG), a roster of 63 unfinished cases reveals how Pentagon offices have ignored or not completed, sometimes for several years, IG recommendations to take corrective “actions” for various degrees of Pentagon mismanagement, poor accounting and other legal concerns.

According to the DOD IG’s latest semiannual report to Congress, at the end of fiscal 2012 the types of “actions pending” on IG audits ranged from updating Defense Department security clearance guidance, some of which dated as far back as 1987, to accurately tabulating overtime hours at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, cancelling poorly-planned wind turbine projects in Alaska, and determining the legality of using military surveillance assets to fight wildfires in the United States.

The list reveals how the inspector general is trying to make the Pentagon a somewhat more efficient $600 billion-a-year behemoth. It also is a microscope into bureaucratic minutiae preventing it from happening. At DOD, the IG does not publish full reports until the corrective actions are completed, so the public has no way of knowing exactly what actions have been taken as long as the case remains “pending.”

The topics of pending IG reports range widely from organizational management to combat. After one July 2011 audit of Marine Corps spending in 2008 on the global war on terror, the inspector general called for the Marines to update their “Financial Management Standard Operating Procedure Manual,” which was by then four years old. One year later, the Department of the Navy, which includes the Marine Corps, said it needed more time.  

-Kevin Baron, E-Ring, ForeignPolicy.com

Monday, January 14, 2013

Shared Services Strategy from OMB and Treasury Previewed at AGA’s Third Annual Federal Financial Systems Summit

Over 400 government financial professionals gathered at AGA’s Federal Financial Systems Summit in Washington last week to learn about and to discuss the near-term and future prospects of Federal financial management and systems in a budget constrained environment. The summit provided for an open dialogue between federal agency stakeholders, private-sector sponsors and key policymakers from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) through town hall-style sessions where participants were encouraged to engage each other and openly express their thoughts, ideas and concerns.

Danny Werfel, Controller, OMB and Richard Gregg, Fiscal Assistant Secretary, Treasury, set the tone at the event by declaring a renewed commitment to drive federal agencies seeking to modernize their financial management systems to utilize shared services, where possible. In alignment with OMB’s Office of Electronic Government “Shared First” strategy, OMB and Treasury will be issuing new guidance very soon, and coordinating with agencies to leverage shared services for their core financial systems modernization initiatives.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Commerce's CFO, CIO collaboration paying off across the board

The Commerce Department saved more than $200 million in administrative costs over the last two years.

A large portion of that is easily attributable to the collaboration between Scott Quehl, Commerce's chief financial officer, and Simon Szykman, Commerce's chief information officer, who have partnered their offices to root out those inefficiencies.

Quehl and Szykman have formed the type of relationship that is rarely seen among senior agency officials, who many times have competing priorities and viewpoints.

The two offices teamed to reduce spending on back-office funding for things such as computers where Commerce used to support several hundred contracts but worked together to create just one departmentwide vehicle that is saving the agency 35 percent off of the previous cost for computers.

Commerce saw its Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) score from its inspector general increase by 3.5 percent to 81.4 percent in 2011 as compared to 2010, according to the Office of Management and Budget's annual report to Congress.

Quehl said the decision to support Szykman's priorities around cyber was easy when viewed from a risk-management perspective.

One way Commerce ensures departmentwide buy-in is through its investment review board. Quehl and Szykman are co-chairmen of the body, which includes bureau-level decision makers from IT, program, acquisition and financial areas.

Szykman said the boards have evolved over the past three or four years in being more focused on strategy and risk.

Quehl said the department sets standards and expectations for how the bureaus should manage programs and holds each CIO, CFO and other senior decision makers accountable.

One way the CFO and CIO offices are helping the bureaus is through the creation of an enteprisewide program and risk management office.

Szykman said these "third-party" program managers offer an independent perspective on projects to help ensure they stay on track.

The two-year-old office is paying dividends. According to OMB's IT Dashboard, Commerce says 75 percent of all projects are meeting cost estimates and 65 percent are meeting schedule estimates.

The review board also has helped Commerce find and achieve administrative efficiencies.

Szykman said there is a strong CFO interest to advance the efficiency initiatives and move money to mission-critical areas.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Friday, January 04, 2013

AGA Federal Financial Systems Summit

Federal Financial Systems Summit

January 10, 2013 | 6 CPE Hours Available | *FREE

Grand Hyatt Washington, DC
1000 H Street, NW
AGA is hosting a complimentary one-day event that brings together Federal financial managers and private sector executives for the third year to discuss the near-term and future prospects of Federal financial management systems in a budget constrained environment.

Speakers include:
  • Daniel I. Werfel, Controller, Office of Federal Financial Management, Office of Management and Budget
  • Richard L. Gregg, Fiscal Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of the Treasury
  • Steven Van Roekel, U.S. Chief Information Officer, Office of Management and Budget
  • Norman Dong, Deputy Controller, Office of Federal Financial Management, Office of Management and Budget
  • Mark A. Reger, Deputy Fiscal Assistant Secretary, Accounting Policy, U.S. Department of the Treasury
  • Panelists representing various federal agencies.
The agenda will include:
  • Update and Outlook from OMB and Treasury
  • Town Hall on the Current and Future State of Federal Financial Management and Systems - Open forum discussion with the audience
  • Answering the Challenge – Shared Service Provider Perspectives
    • A look at the new paradigm from multiple perspectives: Providers (SSP, and commercial providers), Software Vendors, Customers, Auditors
  • Shared First: More than Just Financial Systems – Perspectives from the Federal Chief Information Officer of the United States

Register now 
* free for government professionals

Treasury jobs relocation on hold

The Treasury Department won’t start relocating hundreds of federal employees from Maryland to West Virginia until the end of 2019, according to news releases.
Treasury has put plans on hold to move 450 Financial Management Service employees based in Hyattsville, Md., to Parkersburg, W.Va., giving workers a six-year reprieve. Treasury sought to move the jobs in late 2013 as part of an effort to consolidate the department’s Financial Management Service and the Bureau of Public Debt into the Fiscal Service. Employees initially had until January 2015 to relocate or separate from the government.
The department this week announced the relocation won’t begin until Dec. 31, 2019. Affected jobs include those in accounting, information technology and some management and related support positions.
Maryland’s congressional delegation and the National Treasury Employees Union fought the plan to move employees to another state and negotiated for the delay. 

-Kellie Lunney, GovExec.com