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Monday, July 21, 2014

Treasury Dept IT System Flagged for Security Issues

Serious tech troubles at the Treasury Department are so severe that they could disrupt accounting practices within a system that manages about $16.7 billion of federal debt.

The Government Accountability Office flagged at least 20 problems within the Bureau of the Fiscal Service’s tech system—all of which involve security management issues. Of the deficiencies GAO identified, 14 are brand new and six are problems that were detected in 2012 and were never corrected.
The auditors said the issues constitute a "significant deficiency" for financial reporting purposes. 

The weaknesses "increase the risk of unauthorized access, modification or disclosure of sensitive data and programs, which could result in the disruption of critical operations," Gary Engel, GAO director for financial management and assurance, wrote in an audit last week, NextGov first reported.
The Fiscal Service commissioner addressed the auditor’s findings and said the agency is currently taking actions to resolve the issues.
-Brianna Ehley, TheFiscalTimes.com
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The Federal Government Is Shrinking—Literally

The federal government is shrinking—by 10.2 million square feet, to be precise. That’s how much agency office and warehouse space was cut in 2013 under President Obama’s management initiative know as “Freezing the Federal Footprint,” according to the White House.
Beth Cobert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, announced the number on Thursday following an inventory at 24 agencies with chief financial officers that revealed “significant progress toward implementing” the three-year plans to reduce spending that then-Controller Danny Werfel called for in March 2013.

-Charles S. Clark, GovExec.com
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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

MACFADDEN TO HOST PANEL ON DHS SHARED SERVICES MIGRATION AT 2014 AGA PDT

Macfadden & Associates, Inc. (Macfadden) will be hosting a panel presentation at the Association of Government Accountants’ 2014 Professional Development Training in Orlando, Florida. The panel presentation, titled “Shared Services Migration – Perspectives from the Department of Homeland Security’s Progression toward Financial Shared Services Solutions,” will take place on Tuesday, July 15 – Day 3 of the conference, and will feature three members of the Department of Homeland Security’s executive leadership and a director from the Department of Treasury.

Macfadden’s panel is comprised of four speakers:
  1. Elizabeth Angerman, Director at Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation, Department of the Treasury
  2. Jeffrey Bobich, Director of Financial Management, Department of Homeland Security
  3. Captain Mark Rose, USCG Ret., Director of Financial Operations/Comptroller, U.S. Coast Guard
  4. George Asseng, Director of Financial Management, Transportation Security Administration

The panel will be moderated by Doug Davidson, Director of Financial Services at Macfadden.

This panel intends to provide perspectives and insights from DHS entities proceeding toward various shared service solutions. Discussion will include lessons learned through the planning, selection, and due diligence phases of shared services migration. This session will provide the audience with real-world and current experiences from agency implementations in progress.

The annual ADA PDT brings together the top officials in federal, state and local government, as well as from academia and the private sector, for three-and-a-half days of valuable training and networking. Attendees can earn up to 24 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours.

This is Macfadden’s first year hosting a panel, as well as its first year as a member of the AGA’s Corporate Partner Advisory Group.

Macfadden is an employee-owned, ISO 9001:2008 certified, international professional services corporation that applies integrated information technology solutions and program/project management expertise to help solve critical issues impacting the health, safety and security of the world around us.

Government made $100B in improper payments

WASHINGTON (AP) -- By its own estimate, the government made about $100 billion in payments last year to people who may not have been entitled to receive them -- tax credits to families that didn't qualify, unemployment benefits to people who had jobs and medical payments for treatments that might not have been necessary.

Congressional investigators say the figure could be even higher.

The Obama administration has reduced the amount of improper payments since they peaked in 2010. Still, estimates from federal agencies show that some are wasting big money at a time when Congress is squeezing agency budgets and looking to save more.

Some improper payments are the result of fraud, while others are unintentional, caused by clerical errors or mistakes in awarding benefits without proper verification.

In 2013, federal agencies made $97 billion in overpayments, according to agency estimates. Underpayments totaled $9 billion.

The amount of improper payments has steadily dropped since 2010, when it peaked at $121 billion.

The Obama administration has stepped up efforts to measure improper payments, identify the cause and develop plans to reduce them, said Beth Cobert, deputy director of the White House budget office. 

Agencies recovered more than $22 billion in overpayments last year.

-Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press/FederalNewsRadio.com
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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Shared service providers preparing for more, bigger agencies

Existing financial shared service providers will implement improvement plans starting this month to expand their capabilities and take on more customers.

The federal shared service providers (FSSP) improvement plan will expand the capability and capacity of providers to accommodate more and larger agencies, according to updated goals on Performance.gov.

This is just one step toward the Obama administration's cross-agency goal of expanding agency use of shared services and establishing clear guidance and evaluation for providers.

The Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury also plan to establish governmentwide principles for shared services governance by the end of August. There were no details on what the guidelines would include, but the report stated individual FSSPs and customers would implement their own principles to tailor to the broader regulations.

The guidelines would aid OMB and Treasury as they plan to expand their focus to the Human Resources Shared Services initiative and start the second rollout of those shared services in December.

OMB and Treasury already have succeeded in meeting past goals around financial management. The Performance.gov update stated they have reviewed financial management SSPs, established a governance group of CFOs and providers and sought input from industry on ways to avoid duplication within agency administration.

Now the Obama administration is monitoring agency transitions to shared services providers. Agency executive councils will finalize performance metrics and customer satisfaction surveys by November.
With these metrics, the administration will look at the number of migrations to shared services providers, the percentage of transitioned departments, customer satisfaction and the number of new services offered by providers. OMB and Treasury have not set target numbers for these metrics, but the report stated the two agencies will collect measures and surveys annually.

OMB and Treasury also outlined other goals in the report including the financial management agency advisory group would review their expansion in shared services to provide recommendations for further growth. The administration also plans to formally recognize OMB and Treasury as overseers for the shared services marketplace.

-Stephanie Wasko, FederalNewsRadio.com
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OMB and GSA developing unified measures to cut down on costs

The Office of Management Budget and the General Services Administration have created a plan to gather data and make progress toward cutting unnecessary spending and inefficiency.

Currently, OMB and GSA have trouble analyzing the efficiency of government agencies, something that makes agency cooperation difficult, according to a White House report released June 30.

OMB and GSA will create a unified data set from all agencies.

The plan revolves around agencies setting performance benchmarks, which the report expects to be completed by the end of July. The benchmarks, then, are assessed by OMB and GSA, which will compare the practices used by the most efficient agencies and share them with the others. Leadership teams from agencies then will meet with OMB and GSA to share their findings.

OMB and GSA are looking for efficiency indicators, measured in cost savings or reduced square footage of federal property, which can be traced back to benchmark related actions. OMB and GSA also are looking for increased service quality and shared services adoption among agencies.

Based on the findings, finance, human resources and IT working groups will come up with an action and implementation plan, which interagency management councils will analyze for effective strategies that could be shared. This all comprises the first phase of the plan. The second phase uses the results of the first to create a standard plan and metrics.

The benchmarks policy set by OMB and GSA is the latest in a series of actions implemented by the Obama administration to decrease waste, fraud and abuse. Since 2009, the administration has been trying to reform real estate policies and improper payments.

Under the Freeze the Footprint initiative, OMB required agencies to submit three-year Revised Real Property Cost Savings and Innovation Plans to more narrowly focus on how they can maintain their real estate footprint and include a prospective analysis of spending.

In 2010, agencies paid $125 billion in improper payments, whether by contractor fraud or paying more than $1 billion to dead people.

Congress passed a law requiring Treasury to create a "do not pay" list of fraudulent contractors and a tool to let death certificate data be shared more easily among agencies.

The improper payment rate has dropped to 3.54 percent in 2013 from 5.42 percent in 2009.

The Obama administration has set new cross-agency priority goals for managing government as part of its 2015 budget. Federal News Radio examines the eight areas identified by the White House in our special section 2014 Cross Agency Priority Goals.

-Ariel Levin-Waldmen, FederalNewsRadio.com
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