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Friday, May 30, 2014

Outdated DHS Financial Systems May Be Inhibiting Internal IT Controls, OIG Audit Says

In recent years, said a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) IT management report for the Fiscal Year 2013 DHS financial statement audit, “DHS’s financial system functionality may be inhibiting the agency’s ability to implement and maintain internal controls, notably IT applications controls supporting financial data processing and reporting at some components.”

“At most components,” OIG report, “the financial systems have not been substantially updated since being inherited from legacy agencies several years ago. Therefore, in FY 2013, we continued to evaluate and consider the impact of financial system functionality over financial reporting.”

In FY 2013, a total of 103 findings were issued, of which approximately 69 percent are repeated from last year.

According to the audit, approximately 35 percent of repeat findings were for IT deficiencies that management represented were corrected during FY 2013. The new findings in FY 2013 resulted both from additional IT systems and business processes within the scope of the audit this year and from control deficiencies identified in areas which were effective in previous years, and were noted at all DHS components.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) had the greatest number of new findings.

OIG reported that “many key DHS financial systems are not compliant with the financial management systems requirements of the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act of 1996 and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular Number A-127, Financial Management Systems, revised. DHS financial system functionality limitations add substantially to the department’s challenges of addressing systemic internal control weaknesses and limit the department’s ability to leverage IT systems to effectively and efficiently process and report financial data.”

With respect to DHS and its components’ financial systems’ IT controls, the audit “noted certain matters in the areas of security management, access controls, configuration management, segregation of duties and contingency planning.”

During the audit, “certain matters involving financial reporting internal controls (comments not related to IT) and other operational matters, including certain deficiencies in internal control” were discovered that are considered “to be significant deficiencies and material weaknesses,” and were communicated in writing to management and those charged with governance in KPMG’s Independent Auditors’ Report and in a separate letter to the Office of Inspector General and the DHS Chief Financial Officer.

-Anthony Kimery, HStoday.us

Treasury's Gregg to retire after 41 years in federal financial management

A long-time stalwart in the federal financial community decided to call it a career after 41 years in government.

The Treasury Department announced May 27 that Fiscal Assistant Secretary Richard Gregg is retiring at the end of June. Treasury said Dave Lebryk, currently the commissioner of the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, will take over for Gregg, and Sheryl Morrow, currently deputy assistant secretary for Fiscal Operations and Policy at Treasury, will succeed Lebryk as commissioner. The changes will be official as of June 30.

During his career, Gregg worked under 16 different Treasury secretaries and served for 10 years as the commissioner of the Bureau of the Public Debt.

Most recently, Gregg oversaw efforts to move Treasury into the electronic world. He led initiative for Treasury to stop issuing paper checks in 2013.

Gregg also was a big proponent of shared services for financial management. He played a key role in reinvigorating the program, which recently named new federal providers.

Over the course of the last few years, Lebryk has worked closely with Gregg on many priorities.
Lebryk has been with Treasury for more than 25 years, serving in several senior leadership positions, including the deputy assistant secretary for Fiscal Operations and Policy, and deputy director and acting Director of the Mint.

Morrow, who has more than 34 years with Treasury, will continue to unify the government's fiscal and debt operations under one central vision and leadership under the recently merged Fiscal Service. During her career, she held numerous positions assistant commissioner for payment management and chief disbursing officer at the Financial Management Service.

- Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Friday, May 23, 2014

Who is Shaun Donovan?

Shaun Donovan has served in President Barack Obama's cabinet almost since day one, as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The man tapped May 22 to head the Office of Management and Budget has not had a very high profile compared with other department heads, but he has developed a reputation in the administration as a fixer on high-priority tasks.
While leading HUD, Donovan's work has included chairing the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and co-leading the cross-agency priority goal of reducing the number of homeless veterans.
If confirmed by the Senate, Donovan will succeed OMB director Sylvia Matthews Burwell, who was nominated to take over as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

-Adam Mazmanian, FCW.com

Performance management and the DATA act

May 23, 2014 -- Jon Desenberg of the Performance Institute, Bethany Blakey of the Performance Improvement Council, and Hudson Hollister of the Data Transparency Coalition, join FEDtalk this week to discuss federal performance management.

They will also cover changes mandated by the DATA Act, and implications of the DATA Act for performance management.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Treasury official calls for quick Data Act demos

The three-year schedule to implement the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, a measure that puts federal financial data on a single, machine-readable standard and requires its publication to the public online, might be too ambitious, said Dick Gregg, fiscal assistant secretary of the Treasury and the executive in charge of implementing the law.

"It will be difficult and maybe impossible in some areas to hit all the timelines," Gregg said on May 20 at the Federal Financial Management Conference in Washington, D.C., before an audience of government accountants and financial managers who will be on the front lines of implementing the changes required under the Data Act.
The challenge is for Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget to come up with a standard for publishing financial data, then convert federal financial management systems to that standard. There was no money included in the law to finance the effort, but agencies will surely need some resources to implement changes.
"I'm not sure what the approach of OMB will be when agencies make requests," Gregg said. "There will be some costs. It's important to work together to figure out how to minimize the cost of doing this." One way is to leverage gains made in the Treasury's own internal goal of improving financial transparency through the management of the USASpending.gov website, which recently moved to Treasury from OMB as part of the fiscal 2014 budget.
The shift to a federal-first approach to agency financial management could help streamline the process, Gregg pointed out. "Shared services is a force multiplier," Gregg said, because consolidation of financial management at the four providers means that agencies will be able to outsource some of their compliance. "The sooner we can move more agencies into shared services, the easier it's going to be for them to implement the Data Act," Gregg said.
The financial management community will reap the benefits as well, Gregg said. The new emphasis on standardization means that chief financial officers can shift from systems implementation and operation to the more interesting and rewarding work of managing programs.
-Adam Mazmanian, FCW.com

DoD names Tillotson assistant deputy chief management officer

The Pentagon this week named Dave Tillotson the assistant deputy chief management officer, a key role that's been vacant since the retirement of Dave Wennergren last August.

Tillotson officially takes the job next Tuesday, and will also serve as the department's acting deputy chief management officer, according to a memo from deputy defense secretary Bob Work, which was obtained by Federal News Radio.

Tillotson currently serves as the Air Force's deputy chief management officer and director for business transformation.

-Jared Serbu, FederalNewsRadio.com

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Col. Patrick Burden takes the Army's financial ERP into a new phase

As project manager, Col. Patrick Burden oversees the operations of one of the military’s largest enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs, the General Fund Enterprise Business System. Designed to help the Army track finances, assets and accounting, the $1.8 billion program represents a significant step forward for Defense Department ERPs, particularly as the Pentagon drives toward audit-readiness. 

In a recent interview with Federal Times Senior Writer Amber Corrin, Col. Burden outlined GFEBS’ top goals, its evolution over time and where the program is headed as part of broader DoD financial management reform.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Whistleblower hotlines changing the way IGs respond to waste, fraud and abuse

As recently as a year ago, if a lower-priority report of waste, fraud or abuse arrived via the Defense Department's inspector general hotline, it could potentially sit in a processing queue for several months before receiving attention from investigators. But as of this March, the backlog is entirely gone, and even "priority three" cases are handled well within 30 days.

The department of Health and Human Services, which runs another of the government's busiest IG hotlines, has a similar story. A few years ago, the average processing time for incoming complaints was approximately six months. Today it's inside 30 days.

Federal officials who spoke to Federal News Radio as part of our special report, Trust Redefined: Reconnecting Government and Its Employees , said agencies, large and small, across government are improving their hotline programs, partially by embracing new technologies and partially through simple business process improvements — moving cases through the system more quickly and, in turn, more effectively meeting their core mission of allowing federal employees and members of the public to blow the whistle on fraud and threats to life and safety.

-Jared Serbu, FederalNewsRadio.com

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Air Force's progress raises DoD's confidence toward audit readiness

Air Force officials say the service is making up the most ground of any of the military services as part of the push to finally get the Defense Department to successfully close its financial books.

But government auditors say this entire Pentagon effort is at risk because of shortcomings in the services' technology systems.

Jamie Morin, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller, said he is more optimistic than ever before because the service put money and people behind the problem.

Morin said during a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that there is an increased likelihood that the Air Force will meet the 2017 deadline to have its financial statements fully auditable and the September deadline of being able to assert audit readiness for its schedule of budgetary activity.

This is a major change since last October when Morin told Senate Armed Services Committee members that the Air Force would struggle to meet the 2014 deadline, and 2017 wasn't going to be any easier.
But over the last six months, the Air Force has accomplished specific tasks one- by-one to meet the congressionally mandated deadlines.

Each of the services and DoD on the whole remain at different points in the process to achieve audit readiness. DoD is the only federal department that can't successfully account for its spending to meet third-party auditors requirements. The Marines Corps in fiscal 2012 received an unqualified opinion on its schedule of budgetary activity (SBA) — the first DoD service ever to receive that result.

Robert Hale, the out-going DoD comptroller, said he expects the Marines Corps to earn the same result for 2013.

While each of the services is at different points, the one common major challenge the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense all face is updating and integrating their technology software, specifically the enterprise resources planning (ERP) systems, to meet the audit readiness requirements.

Take the Air Force as one example. It's still using a system from 1968.

Morin said the Defense Enterprise Accounting Management System (DEAMS), is under development to replace that 40-year-old system.

He said the service received a positive assessment from the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center on DEAMS as currently deployed at more than six bases.

The Air Force plans to complete DEAMS deployment to all Air Mobility Command in the next couple of weeks and then more bases by Oct. 1. Morin said the Air Force also is on track to complete deployment Air Force-wide before the full financial statement audits begin.

The Army, on the other hand, is in better shape.

Robert Speer, the Army's acting assistant secretary for financial management and comptroller, said the general fund enterprise business system (GFEBs) is used by 53,000 service members and civilians at 200 locations worldwide.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the committee, said in no uncertain terms if the ERPs don't work, this effort is in real trouble. Coburn has asked both the IG and GAO to continue looking at DoD's ERP efforts.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Monday, May 12, 2014

Improving Financial Systems through Shared Services, OFIT Industry Day May 21st

Solicitation Number: RFI-FIT-14-0055
Agency: Department of the Treasury
Office: Bureau of the Public Debt (BPD)
Location: Bureau of the Fiscal Service

MB Memorandum M-13-08 directed all executive agencies to use, with limited exceptions, a shared service solution for future modernizations of core accounting or mixed systems. In implementing this policy, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is following a guiding principle of "Federal First" whereby executive agencies must consider one of the Federal Shared Services Providers (FSSP) designated by the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) as eligible to provide financial management shared services to other executive agencies.

On May 2, 2014, OMB and the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated four agencies as FSSPs. They are Department of Agriculture's National Finance Center; the Department of the Interior's, Interior Business Center, the Department of Transportation's Enterprise Services Center, and Treasury's Administrative Resource Center.
A copy of OMB M-13-08, "Improving Financial Systems through Shared Services," is located at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/memoranda/2013/m-13-08.pdf .

The Division of Procurement Services, on behalf of the Financial Innovation and Transformation (FIT), is conducting market research in the form of this RFI and an Industry Day event scheduled on May 21, 2014
The Government will hold an Industry Day event on May 21, 2014, starting at 8:15 a.m. ET, with sign-in starting at 7:45 a.m. ET at GSA Central Auditorium located at 1800 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006. There will be a general session followed by question/answer session. The general session will include background information on the implementation of OMB M-13-08, FIT's role in the implementation, current plan and associated challenges. Following the general session, each FSSP will provide background on their organization, current platform and customers, challenges, current contracting vehicles and potential needs/desires to improve financial management services offerings. 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Treasury begins shared services quest to educate, integrate

The Treasury Department's Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation is starting to put the bigger pieces of the shared services puzzle in place.

It started by approving four shared service providers — one new one and three current providers — on May 2. Now OFIT is on an education and data quest.

The office issued two requests for information to industry in the past few weeks, including one to begin telling industry about the role contractors will play in this governmentwide initiative.

One RFI , issued May 7, announced an industry day on May 21 where all four shared service providers — the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Transportation and Treasury — will present current capabilities and those they would like to have in the future.

OFIT also wants to gather market research on private sector solutions and capabilities that could be of assistance to OFIT (in its oversight role), the FSSPs (in their service provider role) and customers or prospective customers) in 11 different areas, including optimizing shared services, assisting in customer migrations and identifying alternative contract approaches such as share-in- savings or public-private partnerships.

Then on May 22, OFIT will host an agency day so potential customer agencies can learn about the shared services offerings and ask questions about the initiative.

The second RFI is focused on data management.

The April 18 RFI asks vendors for insights into "the development and implementation of a shared data transfer capability (e.g., enterprise bus) to facilitate the interaction and communication between mutually interacting software applications. Software applications may include financial systems, procurement systems, e-invoicing systems, inventory systems, or other mixed systems. These software applications may or may not be owned and operated by the federal government."

Responses to the RFI are due May 16.

The RFIs are more pieces to this financial management shared services puzzle.

Treasury, which is leading this administration effort, is trying to get data and information out to the agencies so they really get what's expected of them and what they can expect.

At the conference, audience members sought answers about how the initiative works, and the RFIs and several other document or data releases over the next two weeks are part of those answers.
Angerman says the OFIT will post those documents on its website.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Monday, May 05, 2014

USDA joins the ranks of the financial shared services providers

Agencies will continue to have four approved federal shared services providers to buy financial management services from. The only difference is the Agriculture Department replaces the General Services Administration.

The Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury Department today announced they recertified the departments of Interior, Treasury and Transportation and added USDA to be the support pylons of its shared services initiative.

By adding USDA, OMB and Treasury partly solve concerns over a lack of competition among providers, because they all offered Oracle as their back-end software. USDA offers SAP's federal financials.

USDA in 2013 continued deploying its Financial Management Modernization Initiative (FMMI), a new financial system that replaces USDA's legacy financial system, according to OMB's January 2014report to Congress on the benefits of E-Government initiatives. "FMMI is based upon a commercial, off-the-shelf resource planning product. FMMI is an advanced, Web-based, financial management system that provides general accounting, funds management, and financial-reporting capabilities that has been deployed to 28 of USDA's 29 administrative organizations."

GSA's decision to get out of the financial management services is no real surprise. The agency said it was getting out of the human resources services last summer, and several government and industry sources said financial management wasn't far behind.

But by GSA not receiving OMB and Treasury's approval, it means one less software package will be available for agencies to choose from (it offered CGI's Momentum), and it's unclear what will happen to the people running the Federal Integrated Solutions Center's External Services Branch or its 44 internal and external financial management customers.

OMB and Treasury's approval of the four providers should kick off a series of decisions that will underlie the financial management share services effort.

-Jason Miller, FederalNewsRadio.com

Friday, May 02, 2014

Obama to nominate long-time former fed to be OMB controller

President Barack Obama intends to nominate David Mader to be the controller of the Office of Management and Budget.

The White House announced the President's plans to tap Mader, a senior vice president for strategy and organization at Booz Allen Hamilton, to return to government. It was one of several management positions announced Thursday.

Mader would replace Danny Werfel, who served as controller of OMB for four years and left last fall to take over the IRS as acting commissioner.

The irony of Mader's potential nomination is he worked at the IRS for 32 years, rising to senior executive levels including acting deputy commissioner, acting deputy commissioner for modernization and chief information officer, assistant deputy commissioner and chief for management and finance before leaving government.

Since he retired in 2003, Mader worked at Booz Allen for most of his post government career.

Mader should be well known around OMB, which is one of his many Booz Allen clients. According to the company's website, Mader works with several agencies, including the Department of Treasury, Office of Personnel Management, the General Services Administration and the Government Accountability Office. He provides an assortment of consultant services, from organizational transformation to financial management to strategic community to performance management.

Mader's nomination is a bit of a departure for the White House in that it's choosing someone with decades of federal experience, though still from the ranks of a consultant. Typically, the administration has chosen senior OMB political appointees with limited or no real federal experience.