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Friday, September 13, 2013

GSA plans to stop providing HR shared services

The General Services Administration is getting out of the human resources and payroll shared service provider business.

The decision came as part of the review by administrator Dan Tangherlini. He wants GSA to focus on its core missions: acquisition, real estate and some of the technology services, said Anne Rung, GSA's associate administrator in the Office of Governmentwide Policy.

She said HR services just don't fit into their plans anymore.

GSA's HR services provides payroll and other services to 40 agencies and about 30,000 employees, 18,000 of which are its own employees. GSA services mostly small agencies, with the exception of the Office of Personnel Management.

GSA's decision comes as the Obama administration is applying more pressure on agencies to share resources.

The Office of Management and Budget issued a shared services strategy in May 2012, setting a series of deadlines. It followed in March with a memo requiring agencies to consider federal shared service providers first when it's time to upgrade their financial management systems. And OMB created Uncle Sam's List (USL) to have one place to promote the availability of shared services.

OMB is planning to launch version 1.1 of USL in a few weeks that will include a simplified user interface and an easier way to promote existing services, said Peter Warren, who is leading the effort for OMB.

Scott Bernard, OMB's chief architect, said version 2 of Uncle Sam's List is expected to be ready in 2014 and will take into account the findings of a recent survey of acquisition, technology and financial management workers.

With GSA bowing out of HR shared services, including payroll, that leaves only the Interior Business Center (IBC), the Agriculture Department's National Finance Center (NFC) and the Treasury Department's HRConnect as civilian agency providers. But only the IBC and the NFC are payroll providers.

The fifth provider, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, serves only the Defense Department.

OMB's push for agencies to consolidate commodity IT or seriously consider a government shared services center for financial management are major reasons why there is a growing optimism and demand for shared services.

Another area where there is both a need and a desire for shared services is with geospatial information. Nearly every agency uses geospatial data and more than 30 are part of the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).

The Homeland Security Department also is looking to expand the cybersecurity line of business. With the recent award for continuous monitoring-as-a-service, Jeff Spicka, the project manager for the Information Systems Security Line of Business, said DHS is looking for more opportunities to set up cyber service providers.

Michael Casella, the chief financial officer at GSA, said agencies need policy help from OMB to solve the funding challenges.

A franchise fund lets providers charge up to four percent more than the cost of the service to pay for technology or other program upgrades. Without a franchise fund, shared service providers under law are prohibited from charging customer agencies anything more than the cost of the service.

Casella said another barrier is the cost of migrating to a shared service provider from legacy systems or switching from one to another.

OMB's deputy controller Norm Dong said the administration understands these funding and franchise fund challenges and encourages agencies to submit a budget proposal to set up a franchise fund.

At the same time, Dong said OMB is looking at policies or guidance for agencies around what recourse they have if the service provider isn't performing well.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

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